With Jewelry: Meeting Lions & Dragons

Published: 28.08.2021
matt lambert
Edited by:
Edited at:
Edited on:
Mando Bee. (Left): BUBBL3GUM_BiiTCH. Steel, Sterling Silver, Acrylic Plastic, Rubber, Stickers, Glitter, Spray Paint, 2020. (Right): L0$T_C0$M0N4UT. Brass, Nickel, Sterling Silver, Acrylic Plastic, Rubber, Stickers, Glitter, Spray Paint, 2021. Photo Credit: Artist.
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Mando Bee. (Left): BUBBL3GUM_BiiTCH. Steel, Sterling Silver, Acrylic Plastic, Rubber, Stickers, Glitter, Spray Paint, 2020. (Right): L0$T_C0$M0N4UT. Brass, Nickel, Sterling Silver, Acrylic Plastic, Rubber, Stickers, Glitter, Spray Paint, 2021. Photo Credit: Artist.

© By the author. Read Copyright.

Jewelry is a menace to thinking in neat and tidy ways. I was invited to write a mini-series about some of the possibilities and potentials of how jewelry can function with, and illustrate, larger, often poetic ways of thinking. The pieces are in conversation with each other. After all, I think of them as tools, rather than end products. An invitation for us to dance in possibility – in a realm beyond the binary right and wrong.

This is the third article of Klimt02's With Jewelry series. Not manifestos but prompts and dialogue springboards whose intention is to enrich, engage or entangle with larger ideas, rather than to resolve.
During Roman times and extending into medieval times, cartographers would use the inscription HIC SVNT LEONES to mark areas of unexplored territories on maps, the Latin phrase translates to mean “Here are Lions”. During medieval times, distant and unexplored lands on the edges of maps were marked by drawings of dragons, sea serpents, and other ominous-looking fictional animals. (1)

I am drawn to jewelry for its ability to inhabit so many spaces. It dances between, on, and around conversations of art, design, craft, and fashion to name a few large categories. It is in this slipperiness that jewelry easily avoids institutions, pushed into another box, another terrain. Jewelry becomes the other. It is hard to pin jewelry down on a map, let alone rest in one space to have enough time to build a border wall around itself. This is why jewelry is an ideal partner to queerness. Always in motion, shifting as it is worn by one person and then another, picking up and dropping meanings as it travels times and spaces –jewelry rejects binaries becoming a tool to imagine with direct interaction to our bodies.

Only the imagination can get us out of the bind of the eternal present, inventing or hypothesizing or pretending or discovering a way that reason can follow into the infinity of options, a clue through the labyrinths of choice, a golden string, the story, leading us to the freedom that is properly human, the freedom open to those whose minds can accept unreality. (2)

Some may consider the weakness of jewelry is its difficulty in being defined, however this is its strength. It is this quality that allows jewelry to relate to our own bodies, and the state of flux that they inhabit... This fluidity is the threat of a flood, a fear of questioning the institutions that keep jewelry out. Jewelry is a discourse of the body, a body, bodies that could be yours or mine or someone else’s. A body must breathe. The presence of the body pushes the institution to check its own pulse. It asks us to consider the other.

Kalkidan Hoex. (Left): Collection : TheNEWtribe (Ancestor faces), 2020. Silver, crafted Rings. Photographer: Mitch van schijndel & Daniela Petrovic.
(Right) Poster: NEWtribe hero’s, 2019. Digital drawing, photoshop, unwearable objects in a fantasy context. Credits: Kalkidan Hoex.

Jewelries flexibility and resistance to solidified categorization creates an opportunity for its makers and wearers to create spaces of desire, of dreams and of realizations that do not exist in our current world. (3) Jewelry brings questions to the structures which are assumed and allows for individuality in a world of assimilations. Jewelry is a marker of difference, a way to ask "yes and?’ or ‘what if?“… "The slightest breach of the agreed-upon system of represented knowledge allows for everyone’s flights of fancy to enter the argument, and that is as it should be but so rarely is.” (4)

Jenny Edlund. Libido Series, 2008. Silver. Images Printed on Aluminum. Photographer: Morgan Norman.
Image on left from the collection of the Swedish National Museum. Necklace at the right part of the Röhsska Museet collection.

The opportunity to befriend the lions and dragons in unknown spaces is what jewelry is. we fear unknown creatures. Jewelry as cartographer allows exploration of new spaces and a remapping and redefinition of possible spaces in ones already thought known. Jewelry connects us on levels of humanness to realize the common ground we stand on. It is these processes done over and over which become entangled and messy. They are a way of relating and expressing how we actually live – messy, intersectional, constantly being redefined. Jewelry parallels exactly this. Its biggest weakness is its greatest strength. This is the power of jewelry, to relate to bodies, to tell our stories and share our histories.

(1) Caitlin Dempsey et al., “The Map Myth of Here Be Dragons,” GIS Lounge, October 21, 2012,
(2) Ursula K. Le Guin, “Some Thoughts On Narrative,” in Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places (New York, NY: Grove Press, 2006), pp. 37-45, 45.
(3) Lauren Kalman and matt lambert, “Desire Paths,” Desire Paths (Ashville, NC: Center for Craft, 2021).
(4) Irit Rogoff, Terra Infirma: Geography's Visual Culture (Routledge, 2000), 92.
(5) matt lambert, “Recognizing Ground: Where Indigenous and Queer Practices Meet,” Norwegian Crafts, December 17, 2018,

> Special thanks to Aaron Decker for editing this writing.

About the author

matt lambert
is a non-binary, trans, multidisciplinary collaborator and co-conspirator currently living in Stockholm Sweden as a Ph.D. student between Konstfack and HDK Valand. They hold a MA in Critical Craft Studies from Warren Wilson College and an MFA in Metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art.