Local artist spices up contest|[5/16/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2005

It’s not usual for an artist to strive to create something ugly.

But that’s exactly what Vicksburg’s Jann Ferris set out to do, and she said it was a release from the sometimes daunting task of creating symmetrical, perfect strands of beads.

“It was the same fun and freedom that you hear dramatic actresses and actors say they feel when they play a bad guy – you don’t have to worry about living up to your own high expectations,” Ferris said.

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Her sister-in-law, Martha Ferris, stumbled upon the “ugly jewelry” contest in an art journal. The Web site, www.landofodds.com, was calling for submissions.

The “competition with a twist” is described online as an arena for budding and established beadwork and jewelry designers to strut their stuff – to show how adept they are at creating ugly-necklace-pieces-of-art.

The sponsor is The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts in Nashville.

Jann Ferris is widely known for her jewelry and her prize-winning works in other media, including textiles and painting. The challenge was to be creative in coming up with something undesirable.

“I thought about it and it seemed kind of silly at first,” Jann Ferris said. “I read the requirements and about the prize. Jewelry makers are constantly having to buy supplies. They were giving $993 worth of jewelry supplies (for first place) – that made it worth it.”

Ferris is one of 10 semi-finalists picked from 33 entries by a panel of five judges. Voting to decide the finalist and runners-up began Tuesday and will go through July 15 on the Web site.

The judges reviewed how well each submission met and then violated a set of 10 jewelry design principles.

Ferris came up with her theme while driving around Vicksburg in her car, she said.

“One day the theme of the Cajun condiment collar came to me, and you had to write a poem,” she said. “When I started writing the poem, the ideas started coming so fast. It was a different approach – it was light and funny.”

Ferris, from New Orleans, decided to collect Cajun spices and condiments and write a poem to describe her theme.

“I wrote in a New Orleans dialect – I captured the speech and feel of… street dialect. It’s a fun way to speak and write. The poem explained (the necklace) and put it in context,” she said.

A picture of the tangled, weighted down Cajun necklace appears on the Web site, along with the entries of nine other semi-finalists.

She used her husband, former state Sen. Grey Ferris, as her model. To capture the Cajun theme and contest requirements, Jann Ferris said she flashed sprinkles of Tabasco on the white undershirt her husband wore as the necklace’s background.

“It never would have occurred to me that this could be such a release and relief from my day-to-day creativity,” she said. “I had to be mindful of breaking the rules of jewelry-making – how it hangs, making sure everything fits property – with this, it didn’t matter. If it pulls you forward, so be it. I was supposed to break the rules.”

Visitors to the Web site may view the necklaces, read the artists’ poems and vote thumbs up or thumbs down.