Tag Archives: Loraine Cooley

When Jewelry Isn’t “Just Jewelry”

Installation shot from Beyond Ornamental

Installation shot from Beyond Ornamental

I don’t wear jewelry, however, I will often see amazing jewelry come in to the gallery shop at Main Street Arts and I will try it on just to make sure. Wearing it isn’t for me, no matter how hard I try! (I do this all the time, just ask Sarah. I even did it today) However, the idea that I am drawn to it always sticks with me. I see many of the pieces as something to look at and think about, just like any other art form. That is the impetus for our current exhibition, Beyond Ornamental.

A sculptural necklace by Myung Urso and brooch by Loraine Cooley

A sculptural necklace by Myung Urso and brooch by Loraine Cooley

While jewelry is certainly meant to be worn, there are other aspects of this art form that are even more interesting to me. Thinking about the craft of jewelry making, I have such an appreciation for the often minute details that must be considered. The forming of links for chains, cutting shapes out of metal, shaping and polishing stones, threading beads into ornate patterns… These are things that the average person may not consider when they look at handcrafted jewelry, but that is what makes one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces different from their mass-produced counterparts. These things were all made by the hands of the maker in their studio and they are special for that reason.

"Domentzia Collar" by Ashley Landon-Halabuda

“Domentzia Collar” by Ashley Landon-Halabuda

Jewelry often transcends being strictly functional and becomes an art object in its own right—a painting, a sculpture. There may be some kind of narrative or meaningful symbolism behind the work. Loraine Cooley often uses the shape of a boat as a symbol to represent the journey each of us takes throughout our lives. Some pieces may have very specific titles that make you recall historical people or  events. Ashley Landon-Halabuda titled one of her more ornate pieces in the show, Domentzia Collar, referencing an Empress from the Byzantine Empire.

"Brown Coil Zulu Necklace" by Katie Nare

“Brown Coil Zulu Necklace” by Katie Nare

The materials may be chosen for very specific reasons, as with Myung Urso who uses Asian inks—among many other materials—as a way to connect to her birthplace of South Korea where she learned the techniques of Korean calligraphy. The patterns could reference those found in another culture, as in the work of Katie Nare. Her passion for travel is a way for her to celebrate the diversity of the human experience.

Ulterior Triple Band Double Finger Ring by Brittany Rea

Ulterior Triple Band Double Finger Ring by Brittany Rea

Sometimes, jewelry can be about the experience of actually wearing it. The work of Brittany Rea is sculptural and interacts with the body in ways that won’t let you forget that you are wearing jewelry. Other times, it can be strictly about whats happening on or in between the surface(s), as with Heather Bivens‘ enamel glass work where lifelike insects seem to rest on the neck of the wearer, causing a second glance from passersby.

Brown Recluse

Brown Recluse Necklace by Heather Bivens (will get second glances for sure)

All of this is to say that jewelry isn’t “just jewelry”, it is another way to communicate ideas through artwork. So, whether you are an avid jewelry collector or if you are like me and you’re contemplating buying brooches to frame and add to your art collection, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to this exhibition before it closes.


Beyond Ornamental features work by 6 jewelry artists from our region. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. Beyond Ornamental runs through August 16, 2019.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Loraine Cooley

Hi, I’m Loraine Cooley and I’m honored to be included in the Main Street Arts exhibit Beyond Ornamental.

Me at my studio bench

Me at my studio bench

At the age of 13, I began my journey as an artist at my father’s knee so to speak. My dad decided to teach himself how to create jewelry in his basement workshop and invited me to join him in his discovery of the metal fabrication process. That was over 40 years ago. Since then, some of the things that have contributed to who I am and my recent artwork are: a BFA from The School for American Crafts at RIT, extensive travel around the world, pursuing a degree in the Art Education Program at Nazareth College and engaging in several classes and workshops in all areas of art. I also continue to enjoy teaching and learning from my students at the Memorial Art Gallery where I’ve taught since 1987.

In my studio, creative chaos abounds!

Creative atmosphere

Creative atmosphere

Creative chaos

Creative chaos

Work in progress...

Work in progress…

For me the boat shape is a predominant theme in my one-of-a-kind pieces. I regard the boat as a symbol of the journey each of us takes throughout our lives. Below is my triptych sculpture:

PHASES: Birth  Chaos  Rest

PHASES: Birth Chaos Rest

Here are more boat themed pieces:

"Journey" Necklace

“Journey I” Necklace

"Journey II" Neckpiece

“Journey II” Neckpiece

"River" Neckpiece

“River” Neckpiece

"Sunboat" Necklace

“Sunboat” Necklace

I am currently working on a series of Lapel pins loosely based on the windows and doors that I photographed several years ago while in Italy.

"Archway" Lapel Pin

“Archway” Lapel Pin

"Guilin" Lapel Pin

“Guilin” Lapel Pin

"Tuscan Arch" Lapel Pin

“Tuscan Arch” Lapel Pin

Each piece that I make is born of an idea. I think big and make small. The act of transforming the idea into a 3 dimensional form is an ongoing challenge. The end results stem from sketching, experimentation, trial, failure, refinement and finally, with hope and experience, success. My work starts with raw materials ie: metal sheet and/or wire or materials such as slate, bone, fossils, stones or shell. I use several metalsmithing techniques to transform these materials into something unique and personal.

Here are some of the tools that I use to manipulate and transform the raw materials that I use in my pieces.

Studio tools

Studio tools

Future projects include a series of necklaces based on the 4 seasons and also a large (for me) sculptural boat made of parts and pieces from my studio scrap box.

To follow me as I continue on my journey of discovery, please visit my web site: www.lorainecooley.com


Loraine Cooley is one of 6 artists featured in the fine jewelry exhibition Beyond Ornamental at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. Beyond Ornamental runs through August 16, 2019.