On the Coffee Table: Calder Jewelry

At the moment, I don’t actually have a coffee table. Oh sure, I have a table beside the couch. But it’s more a normal height for a table, and rather small. It’s good for holding breakfast and the most recent magazine, but not really the thing for propping up ones feet and settling in with a beautiful book with lots of photos.

But someday…someday I want a coffee table. Because I already have the books. The books that deserve a place of their own. The books that I don’t want to put on a shelf, because I want to live with them every day. The books that make even the smallest moment special, as you sit down and are transported to a place where things are quieter, more relaxed, and more beautiful. Not because they are fiction, but because they are simply the most wonderful distillations of real life. The best bits of reality, the ones which simply make one stop……..oh, so lovely….

I was stunned to learn recently that a few of my friends did not know who Alexander Calder was. I was lucky enough to live here when I was young and a major exhibit of his work came to town. It was either at the Walker or the MIA, I’m not sure which. And one of my most indelible memories is of seeing his circus in Chicago when I was about twelve.

For me, Calder was simply one of the most memorable artistic influences of my childhood. Calder showed me what being an artist could be. His work showed me that you don’t have to choose between elegance and joy, humor and refinement. To look at his work now, I think that he was and is a muse for anyone who ever wished to make their own things, using simple materials, and making everything around them an expression of who they are.

It was years before I realized that he had created jewelry and at the time information was scarce and photos were few and far between. My appetite was whetted when I found The Intimate World of Alexander Calder at the Library which contains jewelry as well as housewares and things given as gifts to family and friends. I have checked that book out many, many times over the years. But it was never enough, and I always hated to give it back. I wanted to live with it, to let it lie open on the coffee table and simply page through it, absorbing it as I went about my day. And although it is a heavy book, I was always happy to carry it home the next time. And then, one day this past winter, I saw this.

Sometimes the universe sends things your way that are so lovely that you hadn’t even dared to ask for them. I have have had this book for about three months now, and to put it simply, I cannot find the words

Click on the photos for larger images. And then imagine them in 9″x12″. And if you feel a surge of excitement at that imagining, go buy the book. Really. There’s so much more to see, and it’s that good. No I’m not getting a cent for this. It’s just a rare and beautiful thing and I hope others will get as much from it as I am.

edited to add: for a review of an earlier book which includes Calder’s jewelry as well as other lesser known works, see here.

Leave a comment


  1. I’ve been dreaming about this book myself. I’m so happy to know it’s as fab as I would imagine. I’ve also been dreaming about owning a Calder mobile or stabile since I was a teenager. I’ve thought about getting a wanna be (cos goodness knows I can’t afford the real deal) but don’t really have anywhere to hang or put one and in reality, it’s the real deal I desire. I’ll have to put this on my wish list and save up. In the meantime I’ll live vicariously through you. Lucky!

  2. hey! i just bought 2 books and where thinking to include this one..which is already in my wish list!! so how good is it? love calder’s art work!

  3. l & d,

    Oh, yes, this was so worth saving up for! There are so many photos, and they’re huge, sometimes larger than life. I imagine it’s the next best thing to being able to hold the pieces in one’s own hands. 🙂

  4. Evelyn

     /  June 18, 2008

    Can’t wait to get the book!! The exhibition is coming to Philly this summer, and I’m beside myself. http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/309.html

  5. oh, yes! I have dreams of seeing the exhibit, and I’ve never been to Philly. We’ll see….

    Even if I don’t make it to the exhibit, I’m SO happy to have the book. I’m not sure I can think of a jewelry book that I think has better photography…so wonderful!

    Thanks for stopping by!


  6. ok…kait…
    you have some GREAT stuff on your tumblelog!!

    i’m loving the recycled paper cuffs! (a friend of mine in school actually made a corset/breastplate with this same technique…it was awesome! she also made “beads”–rolled from layered pieces of triangular cut paper…)

  7. t-
    I LOVE using tumblr! I highly recommend tumblelogs for everyone. It’s super easy to post links directly from interesting stuff on the net, and it’s a nice visual record of things that I’m finding inspiring. I like checking the archive to see where my head’s been at 🙂

    Let me know if you decide to get one, ’cause they have a great ‘following’ feature that lets you easily see what others are looking at too.


  8. Janine Smith

     /  March 20, 2017

    Thanks for your input. I’ve been looking at Alexander Calders’ work for a few weeks as influence for future jewellerywork projects at college. I wasn’t aware I already have some pieces that are clearly done with his style.

  1. The Intimate World of Alexander Calder « tether
  2. alexander calder bird brooches | an eclectic eccentric

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