Hurtling towards the end of my MA, its time to start pulling everything together as concisely as possible in a final proposal. So here goes…Read More
One of my aims before completing my MA in considering my future career was to explore possibilities within my practice in a socially engaged and participatory context. As part of this research I volunteered with Craftspace and their Making Together residency, which is a year-long programme of inter-generational making based workshops taking place at Birmingham Settlement, a community centre in Aston.Read More
Beginning semester three and commencing on my Final Major Project on my Masters is quite daunting. Not just in maintaining the pace from semester one and two but also in realising it will be over in a flash, I will no longer be able to hide behind the mantle of being a student and my work potentially could be put to test in the real world. I start by looking back over my progress, ups and downs through the first two semesters.Read More
Munich Jewellery Week is a yearly event which hosts numerous pop-up contemporary jewellery exhibitions, talks and performances over the city from worldwide exhibitors and runs in parallel to the traditional Handwerk & Design Fair, and its prestigious exhibitions, Schmuck and Talente. Over Munich Jewellery Week (MJW) 2018, I viewed 25 shows and on average walked over 20,000 steps a day and enjoyed many a Kaffee und kuchen! There are too many exhibitions to sum up in one blog post, so I have focussed in on my key learning experiences.Read More
During my first semester on my MA at the School of Jewellery, I have scoped out my direction and identified a clear focus to my work. Entering semester 2, it’s now time to explore this in much greater detail, contextualising and finding a place for my practice to grow within the real world. At the start of this enquiry we are encouraged to consider the following questions; How do I communicate my ideas? How do I find or draw in an audience? And what is experienced by the user? On a recent trip visiting my family and whilst walking around the desolate landscape of Dungeness, I was left thinking, not about the questions above but about the lack of control the maker has once their product has left their hands and becomes somebody else’s responsibility or property.
Dungeness National Nature Reserve is a headland on the coast of Kent. It’s an eerie place, and like no other with a vast expanse of shingle, plants that look like they have landed from foreign lands, dotted with decomposing wreckages of the sea, evidence of an odd working fisherman and a juxtaposition collection of dwellings to include old railway carriages and containers. All within the shadow of a nuclear power station. The aesthetic of the landscape, coupled with the natural light have long been a draw for artists, the most famous is probably Derek Jarman (1942-1994).
Jarman, was primarily a film director, his former house Prospect Cottage and shingle garden continues to attract many visitors. The modest timber cottage is adorned to one side with lines from John Donne’s‘ poem, The Sun Rising.
Utilising the unique environment of Dungeness, Jarman curated his garden with sculptures, driftwood and pebbles amongst hardy endemic plants. The garden isn’t perhaps what it once was, but over 20 years since his passing, his art is still alive and his legacy continues. In researching further on this relationship between the artist and audience, I am reading the book, which accompanied the exhibition, Maker Wearer Viewer: Contemporary narrative European jewellery, and curated by Jack Cunningham. Here I learn more on the triangular relationship between the maker the wearer and the viewer.
‘A strong motivational factor in the production of contemporary narrative jewellery would suggest that makers invite or seek a response to their work. However, the narrative object can be ambiguous in its communicative character. It relies on the viewer’s subjective interpretation. A dialogue is consequently established between the maker, the originator of the artefacts statement, the wearer, the vehicle by which the work is seen, and the viewer, the audience who thereafter engages with the work. For the wearer, the person on whom the artefact is physically carried, there exists a certain authority to re-interpret the object. The potential to make his or her own personal statement is therefore significant, it enables the wearer to become part of this process of communication with a wider audience, a part of the history of the piece. A triangular relationship is therefore formed between: maker, wearer and viewer.’
The above quote is taken from Cunningham’s assay Contemporary Narrative European Jewellery, Why narrative Why European? I was also taken with Professor Elizabeth Moignard’s assay, Narrative and Memory, specifically her quote below discussing the potential fluidity, perhaps as time passes, or the further the artefact geographically moves from the artists hands, but how the viewers interpretation can and will change.
‘Whatever the maker though he or she meant by the artefact is one component in what becomes a network of intentions and readings generated by the wearer and the viewers; all the work in the exhibition has that starting point, and a large part of its fascination is that its meaning cannot remain static. What may start with the maker as a brave emotional exposure, or a discussion of a treasured theme, or an act of provocation, or a joke, soon acquires archaeological deposits of other thoughts about it.’
I have handled many antiques, some were loved and cherished, but some were also discarded as waste. This preservation of art or objects and the social history they imbue is really important to me. But not every custodian feels the same obligation, and this I have limited control over. When I appraise an antique and it bares all the signs of being witness to personal historical markers, it’s so frustrating when there are no clues to decipher them. This is something along with my ethical considerations I would like to reconsider as my responsibility as a maker when thinking beyond the initial exhibiting or sale of my work and further than the metaphorical interpretation by the viewer.
When not using traditional precious metals and hallmarking isn’t an option, it’s easy to overlook just using a maker’s mark, or a signature. In my view, the box for a jewel isn’t just packaging and shouldn’t be an afterthought but perhaps a hint to future audiences as to the provenance.
I am left thinking how can I interrupt or disrupt this usual cycle between the maker, viewer and wearer.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a research day at the School of Jewellery. With Lin Cheung as the keynote speaker and further talks form Elizabeth Turrell, John Grayson, Stephen Bottomley and Jivan Astfalck – it was a fantastic opportunity to hear first-hand from experienced practitioners and specifically, artists working with sentimentality, narratives, enamel and historic objects. I hoped it would open up some ideas around potential future research avenues within academia and the wider crafts field.
After reading so much about Lin Cheung’s work, it was a real pleasure to hear her speak, her relationship and investment with her materials are subtle but beautiful. I loved that she talked about how she always notices what jewellery people wear, and not just the bold statement pieces, but those small everyday sentimental tokens. This is something I find myself doing, I will remember the finest details of somebody’s jewellery, but completely overlook what colour top they have on. When I notice somebody’s jewellery, it can feel almost intrusive, like witnessing a glimmer of a private moment. All of Cheung’s work carries this air of sensitivity, I was particularly taken with the risk and commitment of Pinpoint, a small tattoo resembling the pin that holds a textile token of a baby’s clothing, onto a billet page which documented the admission of the child to the Foundling Hospital. The quote below of Cheung describing Pinpoint is taken from the artists website.
‘The pin is witness to a small but poignant intervention, performed by the departing mother as she pins a token to her baby’s clothing followed by the Foundling Hospital diligently attaching each textile token onto a billet page as a means of identifying the child with its mother. Small, unassuming and ordinary, the pin is crucial in maintaining identity, belonging, cataloguing and recording what would become the child’s past as he or she assumes a new life.
My creative response has been an emotional one, playing with notions of permanence and impermanence, commitment and abandonment and emotional attachment and loss. Whilst the act of pinning is secure, it can be easily undone – temporary – it makes me think of the mother leaving a last, hopeful gesture for her baby that one day, she may claim back her child.
The vast majority of foundlings were never reunited with their parents. Inspired by their stories, I have tattooed a small pin on my body – a pin that cannot be undone.’
Reflecting back to my own practice, my mind also moved onto the use and display of the historic or archival materials in Cheung’s work. Similarly, John Grayson’s talk discussed the role of craft making as a framework for looking at and handling historical objects – in Grayson’s enquiry this is focussed on Bilston Enamels. I am in awe of Grayson’s craftsmanship, particularly after seeing his work in person at Made in the Middle. The balance of wit and sophistication, and the ability to make historic references within his work whilst enveloping and maintaining modernity. In reference to his PHD studies Grayson discussed how; Historic objects provide a rich source of primary data; That craftspeople have distinct skills suited to assessing historic objects, providing a fresh perspective of how things were made valuable to curators, conservators and historians; To effectively undertake a historic object analysis, it requires the implementation of a rigorous and transparent method.
Before this, I hadn’t really considered my balance of auction background and contemporary jewellery perspective as being unique. I have battled with myself since the start of my MA in how I can best implement my historical knowledge and auction experience to the best advantage within my studio practice. Both industries, relatively speaking are small, like most of my previous peers were, many graduates of art and design and practice-led degrees migrate into the auction world. As Grayson discussed, this gives rise to an in-depth understanding of how objects were made and constructed, for me specialising in antique silver, this was a critical skill in dating pieces, identifying fakes, repairs and alterations. I wonder if I need to adapt a different tact, don my auctioneers hat and create my own mediating lens by cataloguing, detailing the condition, listing the provenance and photograph my own work in progress. Following due diligence, just as I would have done with an object that had come in for auction. This also opens ups questions regarding how industries could better share information and work in partnership.
In considering the use of historical objects and archives not directly in my work, but as an entity to work in response to, I have also been paying close attention to the display of archival material within either a historic or contemporary context and exhibition. On a recent trip to the Design Museum, London, I viewed the exhibition Ferrari: Under the Skin. Focussing on the company post WWII and centering around the design process, with in-depth insights into their historical manufacturing processes, archival memorabilia and sketches – it really placed and opened up what was previously a luxury red sports car in a new context for me. I particularly liked their series of racing helmets worn by drivers of the past 70 years – the marriage of design, technological developments and personal stories.
What I took away from the Ferrari exhibition, is to start considering not just where I would like to display my work, but how it is curated. The use of a title, a statement perhaps, or the original archive materials and photographs could be powerful tools to attract a wider audience, but also in leading your viewer to a deeper contextual understanding from the maker’s perspective.