Jim Cotter’s jewely exhibition in Ireland
MINTURN – While most jewelers set stones in metal, Jim Cotter does the reverse – setting metal in stones. He creates jewelry from materials not normally associated with precious rings and bracelets – steel, concrete, cement, rocks and everyday objects.”(Cement) intrigues me. I like the notion of taking a material used to build massive and powerful architectural structures and breaking it down into a delicate, sensuous piece of jewelry,” Cotter said.Last month, Cotter shipped nearly a dozen pieces of his art to England, everything from contemporary cement rings and pendants, to metal-cast styrofoam cups and water bottles. In a few weeks Cotter will be crossing the ocean to reunite with his art. He’s headed to Kilkenny, Ireland, for an art exhibit at the National Craft Gallery titled “Wild Geese: The Irish in America.”
From famine to feast Cotter is among 20 contemporary American artists traveling to Ireland for the exhibit. Wild Geese was the name given to the hordes of young Irishmen who fled their country in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today it refers to the Irish communities living outside Ireland – some 80 million people worldwide who reside mainly in America. Some of the craftspeople that crossed the Atlantic to escape famine and war became the keepers of Irish culture, with the idea behind the exhibit being to essentially celebrate the Irish roots of major American artists.The small town in Iowa that Cotter grew up in had a large Irish population and Cotter himself has Irish roots, he said. After the exhibit, Cotter plans to travel around the countryside with friend and fellow artist Randy Milhoan for about 10 days. Milhoan and Cotter both have studios in Minturn.”I feel I owe it to myself to test the pubs there,” he said.Cotter’s involvement with the exhibit came about after he met the curator, Kevin O’Dywyer, at a conference. About a year ago, O’Dywyer invited Cotter to meet with the Irish Arts Council in Chicago.
“We had a meeting there and then I got a letter from them inviting me to come over, but telling me I better be on my best behavior,” Cotter joked.While there, Cotter will lead some sessions on what it takes to run a leading gallery in the United States.”(All the artists) will get up and give a talk about our work, who we are, what we do and how we survive,” he said.The curator was more interested in Cotter’s left-of-center work – alternative metals, concrete, cement and his wood sculptures. Things are changing fast in the jewelry world, Cotter said.
“As far as the materials used, it’s not your typical little old lady ring any longer, people are starting to accept it as an art form and want a one-of-a-kind piece instead of a branded mass produced piece. We’re still a ways away, but as Bob Dylan would say, the times they are a changin’.” Shovel and broomA fantastic sense of humor lies just under the surface with Cotter – an artist and gallery owner in Vail since 1970. Take one of Cotter’s latest wedding band sets. The woman’s ring is made from a wooden broom handle, with a cubic zirconia (manmade diamond) set in the middle. The men’s ring is made from a snow shovel handle – the inside of both of the rings is plated with gold.
“The whole piece is about the notion of roles and what’s expected in our society – someone has to run the snow shovel, someone has to run the broom.”Like the handle rings, the idea behind using concrete is trying to change people’s idea of perceived value. “I always go back to the saying you don’t buy a painting for how much paint is on it, you buy it for what it is. I have that same feeling about the things I make.”Making one-of-a-kind pieces has been Cotter’s M.O. for years, he said.”Having it be so unusual and different, and so few of them, it’s almost like an antique – they become valuable.”
The concrete jewelry has been selling well this winter in the galleries, Cotter said, mainly he thinks because of ads in Vail Beaver Creek Magazine featuring the concrete pieces. Because of the jewelry’s uniqueness, many people have searched out the rings and bracelets, said Estella Goodspeed, manager of J. Cotter gallery in Beaver Creek.”They’re unique, and that’s really what attracts people to it. (Our customers) love the fact that people notice the jewelery and ask them about it,” Goodspeed saidFor more information on Wild Geese: The Irish in America exhibit at the National Craft Gallery, check out http://www.ccoi.ie/Caramie Schnell can be reached for comment at email@example.com.