Interview: John Ready Jewels Milwaukee's Riverwalk

Jun. 9, 2009
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On June 4 at the Mason Street Bump Out on Milwaukee's Riverwalk, the sculpture "The Round Ring" waited to be dedicated.  Gallery Director at UW- LaCrosse and sculptor John Ready created this enormous ring retrofitted with bowling balls, lamp parts, and reclaimed objects surrounded in a bezel of steel to resemble precious stones. Representing only one out of approximately 60 pieces, these sculptures titled "River Gems" were installed the previous week to adorn the city's Riverwalk from Wisconsin Avenue to Cherry Street. Other "gems" include Ready's necklace for the vintage boathouses on the bridges and three tiered baubles constructed of individual beads for numerous lampposts along the walkway. A selection of ten, yet to be determined, will  eventually become permanent installations in Milwaukee, while Tory Folliard features related pieces from the Ready in her gallery. After that special ceremony, Ready discusses the inspiration for these jewels that will grace the city's river until October 2010.

Q: What was your inspiration for the jewels on the Riverwalk?
A: I was going to school to be a jeweler and worked for a while in jewelry. But then I moved into graduate school.I received my MFA at Stoneybrook University [New York] in sculpture. Now I play with scale. Scale is very interesting and attractive. You magnify something beyond what is tiny.

Q: How did you decide on bowling balls for this large ring?

A: I knew when I came to Milwaukee with my cousin when I was young that we always went bowling. Bowling's important, a part of Milwaukee. But as you're working with jewelry, it's interesting to find the parts that mimic the pieces in actual jewelry⎯Like bowling bowls for pearls or gems one would use in an actual ring.

Q: When did you begin making these sculptures for the Riverwalk?
A: I started about one year ago, all the beads for the lampposts, and the necklaces. They're all recycled materials⎯pots, pans, serving trays, lamps parts, graniteware, even lawnmower tires. There are also some Mel Mac dishes in funky colorsmy work space is an old barn, with cats and people constantly drifting in and out because we live on an old farm.

Q: Where did you find your recyclables for these "gems?"
A: I mostly find parts at Goodwill and Salvation Armyonce a week on my way to work I usually stop.

Q: And now that this project is finished?
A: I'm glad to have the project finished. This was my first big urban project. Usually I deal with geometry and monochromatic color schemes and work with trees, in a very rural setting. They [all the 60 sculptures] are all stable and substantial, hand crafted, and actually screwed to what they were placed on. It 's OK that they'll age. I think they become, must become more beautifulthey become like a composite piece.


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