Jewelry or Textile ?

Diana Widman

When master goldsmith Charles Lewton-Brain invented fold forming, he pioneered a completely new way of rapidly moving metal into captivating three-dimensional shapes and textures, most originating from a single, manipulated sheet of metal shaped without the use of solder. Designers such as Diana Widman favor this technique of using sheet material, folding it, working it, and then unfolding it, eventually emulating fabric. A former printmaker and bookbinder, Widman uses fold forming, raising, chasing, and other techniques to transform precious metals into tactile jewelry with silky, draped textures.

“My first career was in printmaking and bookbinding, so I started making folded metal look like paper and fabric because I liked the textures,” notes Widman of her gold and silver wrinkly “linen” jewelry collection. “As opposed to working with ink and paper, metalsmithing is more critically scientific, dealing with fire and acid. When people look at my work, they often ask me if it’s metal clay. Fold forming requires a lot of formative metalworking skills, hammering and torch techniques, and some soldering, chasing, or repouss[accent e]. Basically, I use anything that makes a mark in the metal.”

Widman emphasizes the deliberate process of her designs, although the results may look haphazard. “People sometimes ask me how did I get the fabric so hard? I say thank you!” muses Widman. Working with 18K and 22K gold, sterling and fine silver, she manipulates a simple sheet of metal until it is “done,” then begins to design. “The process is a miracle. There is serenity in the process of fold forming; it can be very meditative and allows me to think in three dimensions.”

Although her work resembles scrunched and folded fabric, Widman tries not to make pieces that are fashion driven. “Fashion is such a temporary state. I pay attention to what my customers tell me they need or want to wear. I try to make things that are elegant for everyday and that women who love jewelry can wear all the time,” she says. “My customers are drawn to the silky feel of my designs and aren’t afraid of texture as a statement.”
When designing, she carefully finishes, sands, and polishes each piece, checking repeatedly for accidental bumps or burr marks. Part of the silkiness of her metal creations is a natural byproduct from the subtle quality of working the metal sheet. Her love of colored stones, such as rough Montana sapphires, garnets, chrysoprase, red Mexican opals, colored diamonds, and spinels, enhance her rings, earrings, pendants, and cuffs. “I call my fold-formed collection my linen series because linen gets wrinkly,” adds Widman. “While linen can be pressed, you can’t iron my jewelry!”