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Undercurrents of Intimacy

Undercurrents of Intimacy

Undercurrents of Intimacy

February/March 2016 issue of American Craft magazine
Mediums Jewelry
Joshua Kosker Bottom Feeder Brooch

Bottom Feeder brooch, 2014, rubber shoe sole, brass, copper, steel, 23k gold, thread, graphite, 4.25 x 3 x 1.5 in. Photo: Joshua Kosker

The pocked tangelo surface, skin-like in color and markings, begs to be touched. A faint, familiar smell of citrus hangs in the air. But, the viewer quickly realizes, the peel has undergone a transformation; it’s been applied as a veneer onto laser-cut plywood, then shaped into cubic forms. What was once organic is now geometric and refined, perching ambiguously between raw and manufactured.

Jeweler Joshua Kosker's Cubic Tangelo Necklace I is an utterly improbable object. “Since it cannot exist in reality, I had to invent it, for no other reason than being able to hold it in my hands,” he says.

The son of a theater actress and an antique dealer, Kosker grew up in an artistic household where creative reinvention was always encouraged. These days, the surprise second act makes an appearance in all of his work.

No stranger to dramatic twists and turns, Kosker lives life by changing plans. After studying studio art at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for a year, he left the program to play guitar for the Juliana Theory, a post-punk band that childhood friends had formed. The band had found itself suddenly short of a guitarist and asked Kosker to jump in and tour the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia, “for as long as people are willing to buy tickets.”

After four albums and seven years of touring, the group disbanded. Instead of continuing his music career, Kosker went back to finish school at IUP at the age of 27, pursuing a BFA with a focus on painting and graphic design, and a jewelry/ metals concentration, followed by an MFA in jewelry design and metalsmithing at Bowling Green State University, which he completed this past May.

Half-used items play an important role in Kosker’s jewelry, serving as reminders of how quickly life becomes personal history. “Worn shoe soles, with crud still on them, refer to some of the more interesting times of my life – for instance, all the traveling I have done with the band,” he explains. “I was a nomad of sorts, wandering from town to town, sleeping in strange beds, and relying on the hospitality of others. It’s all over now, but I still have good memories of it.” The Bottom Feeder brooch (2014) incorporates the sole of a shoe Kosker wore as a musician; it’s one of the few surviving physical traces of the band’s journey.

In his work, Kosker emphasizes the experience of touch. “There are undercurrents of intimacy and personal connection running through my entire body of work, not to mention issues of decay that need to be addressed right after I finish a piece.” Kosker solves the preservation problem by applying beeswax and orange-oil wood polish to his organic materials. Many coatings protect surfaces from deterioration while preserving the tactile experience.

Now living in western Pennsylvania, he continues to work with fruit peels in the Tangents series. His latest jewelry project, the [Re]embody series, uses soap – again tapping into the sense of smell. “Imagine carrying around a piece of green Lava soap in your breast pocket and you are getting close to what it’s like,” he says. Kosker’s half-used soaps are, again, a reminder of time spent.

“It’s not necessarily about what’s actually there, what’s visible. It’s about what’s not there anymore,” he says. “The memory of the time you lost – that’s what I want you to think about.”

A goldsmith, Brigitte Martin is the founding editor of Crafthaus, an online social network, and sits on the board of directors of the Society of North American Goldsmiths.