By Ana Stavarache
Jewelry comes in all shapes and sizes from different mediums to create beautiful pieces. Bianca Abreu takes glass jewelry to a new level through her color-changing kinetic pieces by connecting her background in wielding metal and experiences she learned as an intern at UrbanGlass. I had the chance to sit down and speak to her through a zoom call and ask her some questions from how she got her start to how quarantine has influenced her to what new works might be in the future. I can already say that from an hour of speaking to her, she is definitely going to make a change in the jewelry department.
Every artist has a start, something that sparked their interest in the path they are on. When asked what interested her in glass and jewelry, Bianca explained how getting interested in glass in the first place was just a way to expand her knowledge on more than just metal welding and sculpture installation, which was what she studied as an undergrad at Pratt institute. When a “trial kind of elective popped up” for UrbanGlass, she decided to take it and explore her interests in glass blowing. She went on describing how the first few things she was exposed to were the hot shop, cold shop, and casting, and “we did a few things as far as combining here and there.” Once she graduated from Pratt, she had a hard time finding work in the welding department but she says, “ (I) did get an internship at UrbanGlassand in that time it was in exchange for time at the studio so it left me the opportunity to experiment with other forms of glass that was there”. She started to experiment with the materials she had and naturally, she started overlapping her media of metal and glass knowledge. Eventually, she “came about this type of glass - color-changing glass - and knew it had to be worn. In my mind I had to put it on someone’s body.” From there, her work evolved through trial and error.
All artists have their niche that makes their work unique. For Bianca, not only is her color-changing glass new, so is her kinetic collection in which her jewelry actually moves! With glass being known to be so fragile and easy to break but jewelry in such a worn object that it has to be durable, Bianca explained how the borosilicate glass she uses is the sturdiest structurally, like an opal, when it is in a spherical shape. Although she was proud of her previous collections, it didn't feel like her aesthetic, so she started with a blank slate and then came the idea of kinetic jewelry.
“When it came down to the things that I would be interested in, I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to make it work, because it wound up being kinetic. I was like ‘oh what if it moved, could I make something move?!’ I started tinkering with pieces, ‘failed pieces of jewelry’ that I left on my jewelry bench and studying simple machines and the mechanisms of things, (wheels, spokes,bicycles, carnival rides, pulleys, and things like that) to try and give me some ideas and information on how I can execute them in a way that it would be durable.”
With Bianca’s new collection being kinetic and having spherical glass, I couldn’t help but wonder if science, such as light and astronomy, inspired her in some way to create the pieces the way she did. As an undergraduate at Pratt, she was interested in taking the science of light as a way to understand the play of light on various objects. Unfortunately, that class was only allowed for painting majors, and because she was a sculpture installation major, she ended up taking astronomy instead. In her astronomy class, she managed to learn a bit about the effects light has and her knowledge on color play and spectrum does influence the way she uses the color-changing glass. Even though she had a better understanding of light, her work resembling planets and axis, were a “happy accident” that seemed to work with her idea of kinetic pieces. When she sat down to create these pieces, her work naturally seemed to fit an astronomical look by the way the pieces fit together to move. She pointed out that the axis on her pieces are simply like how the universe works.
“Glass, optically, especially in that orb shape, kind of, it makes things look more amplified then it actually is so the bubbles I leave in within the surface of my glass or within the structure, when light shines through it, I do think it looks very spacey...I am kind of an astronomy lover from afar, I think it just naturally trickled it’s way into my work.”
Bianca is known for her unique use of color-changing glass, which she actually found/discovered accidentally and immediately knew she wanted to create some sort of art from it. She found a supplier where she got the different colors of glass and from there experimented with the different shapes it could make. Aside from shaping the orbs, she uses her college background of metal welding to solder the metal parts of the jewelry which required her to do some research, mainly for the kinetic collection. All the pieces she does are handmade by her and have a personal connection to her, especially since she likes to constantly explore and try new designs with these materials for new collections.
Now, as we are facing a pandemic, artists across the world have been forced to halt their jobs and work from home. For artists such as Bianca, who need to be in a studio to make glass and wield the metal to shape it, she has had to adapt and find new ways to be creative from home. One thing that stood out to me was that although she couldn’t make any new work unless it was from pre-made pieces that just needed to be assembled, she took up new creative hobbies during quarantine to stay in the art zone. She mentioned that she began to do friendship bracelets, perler bead designs, as well as other crafts. Being in quarantine made her realize she should take risks in her work and try to do the ideas she's been putting off which will help push her practice forward.