I first met Jeffrey DeLude at the Annapolis Book festival. The amazing literary agent/flower designer Laura Strachan made the introduction and we were soon all talking about Banksy, art, books, and jewelry (he owns Niland & Company Jewelers). I jumped on him and told him he had to come on the blog, and here he is! Thank you so much, Jeffrey!
So, how did you become a jeweler? Do you have a philosophy about the pieces you make, and if so, what is it?
I think I may have been a sculptor and Jeweler all my life. My mother was a art teacher and as children, my brother and I were constantly involved in art projects. My father was a naval officer and we moved a lot. Every new house brought blank walls that my mother encouraged us to fill. Some where along the line, paintings became mosaics, mosaics became collages, collages became multimedia wall hangings and after a while things didn't always fit on the wall. My first free standing sculptures were executed as representational bronzes, I still love the medium, its warmth and versatility is very pleasing. If your ever able to sit I would love to do a bronze of you.
My focus for the last 5 years has been on abstract pieces, primarily executed in stainless steel. My art is a part of my internal dialog. It is the continuation of a conversation sometimes with people long departed, sometimes in the moment, arguments, commentary, love letters, they are all there. To me art is communication. . As is the case with many artist my most difficult times are my most productive. The creation of art is cathartic, calming, helps me regain balance and find my center. Art, good art, is expression that people as a group can share in, and that helps them find a vocabulary to explain elements of the human condition.
You create exquisite custom jewelry. Do you ever think a person or choosing or wanting the wrong design? How is the whole process of creating for someone accomplished?
Jewelry is a form of wearable sculpture. People use it to punctuate important times of their life. We are all aware of the tradition of engagement rings but people employ the creation of jewelery as the physical manifestation of life events that most people do not realize. Jewelry is frequently commissioned as a push gift, a milestone for the birth of a child, anniversary's, christening, bat mitzvahs of course, but also when people finish chemo or have a bypass. People have jewelry made when, parents or children pass away, We make a fair amount of jewelry to celebrate divorces and retirements. Jewelry is art that we wear to express the emotion of virtually any important life event.
The process is simple, people usually come in with a story, my dog died, he was wonderful. Can you make his tag something I could wear day to day. Or I have stones my husband and I picked up in South America on our anniversary trip. I sketch ideas based on things they say, continuously refining the idea by asking questions, white gold, yellow gold, platinum, diamonds, no diamonds scale, I work to put their words into a picture. After the idea is agreed on and a deposit is put down, I create a wax model, sometimes by hand sometimes using CAD and a 3-d printer or milling machine. The model is then cast, using the lost wax process in the agreed upon material. After a considerable amount of finishing and polishing any stones that are needed to be set are set and the piece then goes through final polish. for the most part people make excellent choices, but as with any collaboration there are times I don't agree with their choices. I do my best to guide them. On rare occasions I turn down projects that I don't believe will have a good outcome.
You were really involved with the art scene, especially with Jeffrey Koons. Can you talk about how working with him made you reevaluate how you thought about what is art and what is not? And when you think something isn't art at all?
In the early 80s while I was still in school I worked at a foundry in Beacon NY called Tallix. With out knowing it I helped make works for some of the most successful contemporary artist of our time. Fank Stella, Jeffrey Koons and even a project for Willem De kooning. I wasn't there long, less than a year but the interaction helped shape my view of art. While Frank Stella was very involved with the production of his wall hangings using Styrofoam models and directing the placement of every steel or aluminum piece on a wall hanging, Jeffrey Koons showed up with a pink blowup beach bunny holding a green carrot and had no input what so ever with the exception of saying make it in stainless steel and presiding over the last thirty seconds of polishing. De kooning was in his 90s and he and his wife were having works created from sketches he had done 25-30 years prior. Most artist would have the foundry do only the work that was not feasible to be done by a single artist. Their belief was that Art required sacrifice, like Micheal Angelo becoming almost deformed while working the marble of a statue into shape, many artist felt that it was their actual physical labor that imparted the qualities that made a work "ART". I came to believe that it wasn't how hard you worked, it was your ability to make a observation on the commonality of the human experience. Art is the ability to create or perhaps just present an item or image almost any thing tangible that will help bring to conciseness a feeling or idea in the mind of the viewer. When it comes to art if a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody there to hear it, than not only was there no noise, but with out someone there, the tree did not even fall, may not even exist. Some neuro-scientist believe that ideas can not exist without words to convoy them. Art is that which expands our vocabulary of ideas without words.
Why is Banksy so freaking great?
Banksy is freaking great! He is great because his art brings to consciousness issues of modern society, it gives us a rallying point. He literally draws a line that helps define right and wrong, but he does it in a playful way that says "come on you know what's right" it allows for different points of view. Everything about it, its presentation, execution, how he promotes himself all work together to achieve his end.
What's obsessing you now and why?
I think the things that I obsess about now are some of the things we are all dealing with, privacy or the lack there of, this kind of expansion of society into every nook and cranny of our lives. With our electronic tethers there is no Waldon pond anymore. There are very few places that one can get away to and recharge without the outside world spilling in. A friend of mine, a freelance writer, recently took a month off from all electronic interaction. I was jealous. Smart phones and computers make our lives easier in so many ways but the 24/7 contact can knock you back on your heals. I obsess about love and beauty and just what they are. The older I get the more surprised I am by the answers to those questions. My current works are combinations of stainless Steel and aluminum, some with glass that help explore and expand the conversation of just how love and beauty are related in our brave new interconnected electronic world.
What question didn't I ask that I should have?
You didn't ask if I had read your books
Niland & Company Jewelers
79 Maryland Avenue