Artist Laura Cesari has worked with a variety of media throughout her education and career. She’s explored electronics and fashion and has studied with well-known quilt and bead artists. Her latest endeavor is translating the universe into gorgeous jewelry. Her collection of astronomy-inspired necklaces immediately caught my attention over in the Makers Market, so I decided I needed to learn more about Laura’s background, inspiration, and work combing the universe and beading.
How did you get started in jewelry making?
I started making beaded jewelry as a teenager. I worked in a local bead shop, and sold my jewelry designs at rock concerts. In college, I had the good fortune of studying decorative arts with radical bead artist Liza Lou, which opened for me the philosophy that beadwork is a fine art form. I’ve used craft materials and hardware materials in my artwork ever since then.
What is your favorite thing about the jewelry-making process?
I love the details in beadwork: each bead seems like a tiny work of art in itself. I like that the result is a wearable piece of art. The best gallery is the human body!
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Decorative and ornamental arts are a major source of inspiration for me. I love that art can show up in everyday places, like in clothing, jewelry, rugs, furniture, etc. Decorative arts are subtle, and always focused on beautifying the world (unlike the arena of fine art, where the concept of beauty is considered a “trend” — going in and out of style, taking turns with the grotesque and the disturbing).
I also draw a lot of inspiration from the materials I use. The idea for making the astrometry necklaces came about while I was looking at stone beads, and thinking they looked like miniature planets. I had a sudden need to look through my bead collection and found I had a decent enough selection of “planets” to make a solar system.
Then, I wondered if it would be possible or practical to use actual astrometric data with the planet beads, so I started looking up the distances between planets, and the distances of planetary orbits, and it turned out that many of the numbers translated very well into bead arrangements.
The distance between planets can be demonstrated in a linear string, or the orbit distances of neighboring planets can be used to create multi-strand necklaces, with the planets “orbiting” around the wearer’s neck.
The inspiration for using actual data was likely based on my experiences teaching courses on information design, where we explore the art of displaying data. Beadwork seemed like a familiar and accessible way to communicate the abstract concepts of astrometric space and distance.
Almost all ancient and modern cultures create cosmograms, visual representations of the universe as we know it. Perhaps even more ancient is the use of decorative beads to symbolize prayers or sacred numbers. The astrometry necklaces serve as decorative cosmograms, wearable maps of our universe using the sacred numbers of our solar system.
Why do you focus on astronomy, and what do you hope to share with people by basing your work on astronomy?
Perspective. A consumer culture makes it so easy to have a crisis of perspective about what we feel we should have and be. Considering perspective is one of the most valuable meditation tools we have.
When I look at the vastness of space, it reminds me that I’m a very small part of a much larger existence, that there are an infinite number of people, things, and possibilities out there.
What’s your favorite craft tool and why?
Needlenose pliers are essential for making beaded necklaces and working with wire. They provide a serious boost to dexterity for any small-scale task.
What’s the one thing people must know about you and your work?
I devote my energy to making the universe beautiful. The universe deserves it!
Laura’s shop in the Maker’s Market
Laura’s commercial work
Laura’s Fire Skirt Tutorial that was presented at Maker Faire Bay Area 2007
Laura’s Glow Bead Kit, available in the Maker Shed