Faces of UAB: Rebecca Bach, Ph.D.

What is the most rewarding part of your work at UAB?

facesWatching my students discover that they are scholars and writers. It is always exciting to see students move from a position where they unquestioningly accept an authority's words to one where they can generate well-founded opinions of their own. I also love seeing students start to believe they can use language powerfully and beautifully.

How did you begin making jewelry?

My high school had a fully equipped jewelry studio, and I learned to use the tools. I liked making jewelry because I could give it as gifts and because I like fashion and design. Today I make earrings, necklaces, and brooches.

Why paper clips?

I have always loved industrial design—perhaps because I am from Manhattan—and paper clips are miniature classics of industrial design. I find them inherently beautiful with their curves and angles. I love office supplies because they are so often connected with paper, the material aspect of books, my favorite objects.

Where do you get your clips?

I find them at office supply stores and paper stores all over the country. It is weird and interesting that stores in different neighborhoods and cities have different kinds of paper clips.

What inspires your pieces?

Looking at the clips and playing with them in my studio are the main sources of my designs. I also look at a lot of art and design in museums, galleries, and the media. Ideas often come to me in my dreams or when I am thinking about something entirely different, and then I can't wait to go into my studio and start playing.

  • Hometown:
    New York City
  • How Long at UAB:
    14 years
  • Number of Pieces Made Each Year:
    200 or more
  • On Display:
    At Naked Art Gallery and Artwalk

How long does it take to design and create a piece of jewelry?

It can take a long time, even years, to design a piece. I have had some clips for that long, thinking that they would never make it into a piece of jewelry. Then I will have a sudden inspiration, and something new happens. This process has happened so many times—it resembles the writing process for me—that I have learned to trust it. Sometimes I have to take a clip apart in order to make it into something. That usually involves me seeing it in a completely new way, seeing its components as well as the clip as a whole.

Creating a new piece once I have a design is quicker. Sometimes it can take only 15 minutes to make a pair of earrings, but often I will take the earrings apart as I make them, and remake them until they are exactly right. I love color and shape, and I want the beads and stones and metal that I use to look perfect together.

Has your jewelry-making impacted your work at UAB?

When I started teaching, I would tell my students that if they put a colored or interesting paper clip on their papers, I would keep it. At that point, I just liked colorful clips. I wasn’t doing anything with them; I just kept them in a box to look at sometimes. But I stopped telling students that because they were starting to look for paper clips to give me, and I did not want them to feel they needed to do that. However, perhaps six years ago, two different students gave me papers with triangular plastic clips—one was orange and the other red. I loved the look of those clips, and instead of putting them in my box of clips, I put them in my jewelry box, where I kept a few tools and some beads and findings. I thought that those clips would look great as earrings, but I could not figure out how to hang them. Quite a while after that, I had an idea that I could use a crimp with a loop to hold a plastic cord looped through the clips. I hung those triangular clips that way and started wearing them, and even though they were very primitive compared to the paper-clip jewelry I now make, people commented on them a lot and seemed to like them. That’s how I got started making this kind of jewelry. So it was UAB that made an impact on my jewelry-making—not the other way around.