'Behind the Brooch' Reveals Secret Charms

Tara Locklear, 'Remington 1982' - TARA LOCKLEAR
Tara Locklear
Tara Locklear, 'Remington 1982'

Artist/designer Lorena Angulo’s book Behind the Brooch isn’t a how-to, although Angulo teaches as an adjunct in the Metals Department at the Southwest School of Art and is a repeat instructor at Say Sí. She’s a well-known designer of original pieces of jewelry, also, though Behind the Brooch isn’t a catalog of her own body of work. Instead, Angulo presents images of brooches from 128 jewelry makers. Not just brooches, either, but the backs of brooches; the pins, fastenings, tiny latches, the filigrees that allow light to pass through and the sly elements that communicate design solely between wearer and maker.

This is very niche. This meticulous focusing-in, rather than making for a dull reading experience, makes flipping through this book a hypnotic experience. In her introduction, the author describes her search for back-of-brooch images as a “quest,” and her dedication comes from a heartfelt place:

“Talking with other artists,” she writes, “I knew I needed to do something about this.” I like her urgency. Glory for the under-appreciated details! Brigitte Martin, who edits Crafthaus, an online art magazine, ups the emotional stakes, effusing: “Oh, the things I saw on the backside of brooches that made my nerdy goldsmith heart sing with joy.”

With the exception of these two short introductions, Angulo does very little writing in this book. The text is provided via pocket artist statements, many no longer than a tweet. It’s hundreds of images of the backs of brooches with artist context. You can flip to any page and find something that, even if it doesn’t suit your taste, reveals something tiny but important.

Not all brooch B-sides are intrinsically fascinating to the uninitiated; to my eye, some were just pins, the elegance of how they are affixed or integrated more understandable to crafters. But amid the quotidian appears the poetic. Spanish craft artist Montserrat Lacomba, for example, uses text as a design element, front to back. She explains that “sometimes written words are sent to me that I do not understand. Intrigued by their shapes and their meanings, I transform and capture them in my brooches so their trip along unknown paths continues.” American crafter Abigail Heuss writes of the rear as “a secret, powerful, open place. It is a locket that never closes, to be worn over the heart.” One of her backs has a red keyhole shape cut into the fastening metal, its negative space opening into a visceral red backing.

This large-format, coffee-table-ready book feels like a sit-down with a charming, obsessive friend who cannot wait to show you a specialty scrapbook of beautiful things. Or maybe more like combing through the backlog of somebody’s Pinterest, the kind of thing one finds oneself sucked into, scanning then relishing entry after entry.

Behind the Brooch: A Closer Look at Backs, Catches, and Pin Stems

by Lorena Angulo
Schiffer Publishing | $34.99 | 176 pp

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