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Industrial jewelry style

I clicked through to Bryan Johnson’s website (,
and there is a category called “industrial”. I am not familiar with
this as a “style”, and would be interested in more

Beth in SC

After reading the descriptions on Mr Johnson’s site…I think he has
simply given his style of creation a name…

if you look at his web, you can see that his take on it is simply
making jewelry that looks like machinery, squared up wire, settings
that look like they are lathe made, with very consistent widths and
depths, or using other common machine production items such as the
barbed wire item, it’s all copies of other processes that have
been done and is relatively boring and pathetic to the viewer after
the initial thrill has worn off, unless it is approached in an
unusual way, with an original slant, which accounts for about 1% of
it. I have seen some interesting stlyes of this genre in
european jewelry though. dp

    I clicked through to Bryan Johnson's website
(, and there is a category called "industrial".
 I am not familiar with this as a "style", and would be interested
in more 

Hi Beth in SC. With regard to your question in the Jan. 10, Orchid
of my website’s industrial gallery
) inquiring as to what an industrial style of jewellery is, I will do
my best to explain my efforts. However, I would like to preface this
by saying that it is more than a little scary to find myself as the
spokesperson for industrial culture to a group of jewellers many of
whom have decades more experience and pertinent education than
myself. I certainly do not consider myself an authority on industrial
culture. However, since you have asked, I will do my best and hope
that it sparks some positive discussion.

Rather than run out and do the obvious web search to quote
authorities on industrial jewellery, I would rather present my
opinion within the historical context of my personal experiences of
industrial culture. That is, how I interacted with industrial culture
in past effects how I relate to it today as a jeweller. It is worth
while considering industrial culture as a whole before addressing
industrial jewellery directly.

My first brushes with industrial culture were as a kid in the late
1970’s and early 1980’s. It was not through art or jewellery, but
through the music of “alternative” bands such as Kraftwerk, Brian
Eno, and Throbbing Gristle that I got my first glimpses of industrial
culture. This was “experimental music” that used a lot of machine
noises, synthesized sounds, and repeating sound loops. The best
visual images I had at that time were those of H. R. Giger
( which was more surrealism than industrial
art. However, I still think that his anthropomorphic machinery has a
relevance to industrial art today.

In the early 1980’s I saw a Skinny Puppy show at the Winnipeg Art
Gallery and that was it. I was amazed by these first purely
industrial images. Their stage was decorated with all sorts of
industrial detritus. The d�cor ranged from car parts, to pipe, sheet
metal, mesh, and even skulls. Loops of old black & white pesticide
commercials featuring flies being gassed were projected onto a screen
behind the musicians. It was a carefully honed monument to urban
decay which is still emulated 20 years later.

In the late 1980’s I discovered the RE/Search Press. Their
publication entitled The Industrial Culture Handbook gave me my first
formal introduction to industrial culture. To this day the
performance artist / robot maker Mark Pauline is a personal hero of
mine. The Industrial Culture Handbook is a great read - particularly
if you are a performance artist. However, it certainly does not
address the jewellery of industrial culture. RE/Search Press had some
ideas on personal decoration in it’s book Modern Primitives
( which popularized
body piercing and modification. By way of a warning, the book Modern
Primitives contains images which some might find disturbing, and are
definitely not appropriate for work or viewing by children. However,
by 2004 the trend of body piercing has pretty much crested and is now
in recession. The jewellery of body modification is interesting and
evolving to the point of becoming surgical implants. However body
modification jewellery is a fairly specialized market. Where does
that leave a jeweller who just wants to work in conventional precious
metals and gem stones?

To me as a jeweller, the most workable basics of industrial design
lie simply in the shapes, patterns and textures found in industry;
squares, circles, wire mesh, and the like. I like the look of
architectural framing, so I am particularly drawn to things that look
like I-beams. I tend to make a lot of square pieces when designing
for industrial.

I have recently gotten into pmc and have great hopes for it being
able to pick up some of the textures I associate with industry using
pmc. To be specific, I would give my eye teeth to be able to do a
good corrosive texture in my home studio.

Another approach I have used quite successfully is to include actual
pieces of machines in my jewellery. It is amazing what interesting
and occasionally quite beautiful things can be found lurking inside a
broken piece of machinery. I have also seen where other jewellers
have made miniature machine parts (such as propellers and the like)
that work quite nicely. The only image I currently have to show of
this is also the piece where I learned how to solder electrical
components onto silver - so please excuse the sloppy soldering. :slight_smile:

Industry provides us with a wealth of icons that have a strong
emotional impact. However, using the icons of industry can be tricky
if you are doing anything more complex than simple pins and pendants.
For instance, a pin using just the bio hazard symbol is simple and
effective. Making a ring incorporating the icons of smoking chimneys
and gears can be a lot more difficult.

The more minimalist kinds of designs seem to sell particularly well

  • often because they are affordable as well. One of my best sellers
    is just a piece of 2mm x 3.5mm rectangle wire with a 2.5mm stone set
    in one end done up as either pendant, earrings, or finger ring.
    Despite the dismissive comments from some members of this list, I
    find that items in my industrial section are amongst my best sellers.
    In fact, my industrial gallery is pretty thoroughly picked over after
    Christmas and I have to remake about half of that section.

So since you ask Beth, there is my two cents worth. Thanks for
taking the time to check out my site and ask about it. I am not the
first person to make these sorts of designs, and I certainly won’t be
the last. However, with any luck it will precipitate some
constructive discussion of industrial design.

By the way, for those of you who live in Winnipeg, Canada, I am
producing an industrial music night on January 17th

Bryan Johnson

I’m a little disturbed at your calling ammonites “dinosaurs”.
Dinosaurs were vertebrates - reptiles, possibly warm-blooded,
feathered and furred, but reptilian. Ammonites were molluscs -
related to squid, nautiluses, clams, and snails. They did indeed
live at about the same time in history, but calling an ammonite a
dinosaur is like looking at a modern clam and calling it a