Agro, who co-curated a show of Calder’s jewelry at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2008, said the artist saw no separation between his sculptures and his more diminutive earrings or necklaces. “He saw invention in everything, that is what made him a genius,” she explains. “He applied his vision as a sculptor to almost anything. He saw people as functional forms in which to hang further dangles in order to create movement beyond our appendages.”
And each one of these works was unique. Calder received a number of offers to start mass-producing his jewelry, but he always declined. “Mass production makes me think of paintings of Martha Washington on the insides of candy boxes,” he once said. “Ought to make people get thin, but somehow it doesn’t work.”
Calder made each and every piece of jewelry by hand, eschewing traditional jewelers’ techniques like soldering or welding. Often, they were created with specific family members or friends in mind.
was famously photographed sporting a Calder brooch that spelled out her initials “OK”;
, a close friend, once received a chunky brass ring set with a multicolored fragment of porcelain.
Sometimes, however, his gifts were even less premeditated. “You were at a dinner party, if he liked you, he’d get up from the table, disappear into his studio, and half an hour later you left with a brooch or bracelet,” Agro says.