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David Bielander

Cardboard Crown, 2015

Look closely at this work from MAD's collection to learn how jewelry can be a form of communication. Explore how art jewelers engage with materials in new and unexpected ways and create your own work of jewelry art from everyday materials in this object lesson for all ages.

Currently included in the exhibition 45 Stories in Jewelry: 1947 to NowDavid Bielander's Cardboard Crown challenges our assumptions about the value of jewelry.


Take a close look at the crown and describe it in as much detail is possible.

  • What do you notice about its shape and its color?
  • What material is it made of?
  • How do you think the artist put it together?
  • Have you ever seen (or even made) a similar object? Where?


  • Who might create—or wear—a crown like this? Please explain your answer. 
  • Would you expect to see this sort of work exhibited in a museum? Why or why not?

In contrast to its appearance and its title, Cardboard Crown  is not made out of cardboard. Its materials  are pure gold. To make it, David Bielander, a highly skilled craft jeweler, manipulated gold in a way that suggests corrugated cardboard cut into a zig-zag strip, bent into a circle, and fixed together with staples.

  • How does this information change your perception of the piece?
  • What do you think the artist wanted to say with this work?


Bielander’s work is rooted in studio craft practice. Studio craft artists  often explore new, unconventional, or everyday materials and forms of expression that go beyond traditional ideas associated with their medium of choice. One question raised by this approach is that of value and preciousness. Consider your own ideas about jewelry and the role it has played in society over the ages:

  • Who typically wears jewelry?
  • What are some things a piece of jewelry could communicate?
  • What makes a piece of jewelry precious? Both in terms of monetary value and in terms of its personal meaning to an individual?
  • What associations come to mind when you think of gold as a material?

Describing his approach to art-making, David Bielander has said: “I aim to walk that fine line between making something simple enough that one unavoidably recognizes, that simultaneously requires a fair conscious effort to get beyond the obvious, and at the same time to be abstract enough that it allows a shift to happen, that the piece becomes something altogether new when it unpredictably connects with you.”

  • What do you think he meant by this statement?
  • Humor is an important aspect of studio craft. Do you think Bielander intended to amuse the viewer with his cardboard crown? Explain your answer.


In a reversal of Bielander’s process, brainstorm ways to manipulate a humble material, like cardboard, wood, plastic, or aluminum foil and turn it into a precious piece of wearable art.

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