Hurtling towards the end of my Masters studies, its time to start pulling everything together as concisely as possible in a final proposal. So here goes…
How can I realise the conceptual from the chronicles in the contents of a jewellery box? Unlocking the biography embedded in sentimental jewellery, historically and currently to inform the development of unique 21st century narrative jewellery.
My career working in the auction industry left me fascinated with the dialogue and provenance that frequently surrounds our most valued belongings. I often felt extremely privileged as clients would share intimate family stories and memories with me, but this also highlighted how often these tales are not written down, recorded or passed on. This experience has been fundamental in driving my motivation firstly in returning to university to study for my Masters, but also in forming the foundation of my research enquiry.
Through the first semester, I discovered the world of narrative jewellers. As I started to dig a little deeper, I was introduced to the work of Mah Rana. Specifically, the ongoing public participation project Meanings and Attachments (Rana 2002). In researching Rana, and the sentimental works of Lin Cheung and Laura Potter, it really started to open up ideas around the wider function of jewellery, and how I could innovatively utilise my auction and historical background within the sphere of contemporary jewellery. In being exposed to the work of Bettina Speckner and her nostalgic enamel artefacts, I started to understand the importance of the audience being able to reflect their own narrative as well as the significance of developing my own individual artistic identity and visual language. This first module set the scaffolding to my research, iterative learning, documentation and ethical strategies. Documenting and reflecting through my blog in particular became and will continue to be a central element to my practice. My ethical approach, is one of transparency, building on this existing framework, I plan to continue to record materials and processes as they become a part of my practice.
My point of departure in my studio practice began with drawing, layering and echoing iconic vintage cartouche shapes, developing this into 3D with the aim to evoke a sense of history through texture and decoration. I quickly took to enamel which provided the historic qualities as well as image and photographic applications I identified with. Key markers in this module were understanding that I needed to have a connection with the material, not just in using personal family archives instead of found artefacts but also investing my time in hand processes. In researching Jayne Wallace and her Personhood project, a more in-depth dialogue and interaction came to the forefront of my practice. As well as informing the emergence of my Specialist Research Enquiry, I began applying the idea that personal memory and recall isn’t always linear and that inaccuracies can creep in and take root. Using interchangeable magnetic connections, I began disrupting and mixing power memories or prompts, consciously playing with the basis of our sentimental connections.
Moving forward into semester 2, I began to understand my potential professional placement and what I wanted to achieve moving forward beyond the Masters. During this second semester, my studio practice gravitated towards a more hands on approach, mainly researching and developing through 3D led processes enabling a deeper understanding of my materials. Undertaking a literature review of narrative jewellery, to include key texts for example by Elizabeth Goring and Jack Cunningham have aided in further defining and extending my field knowledge. Researching artists such as John Grayson and Michael Landy enabled me to begin to distil my historical and industry knowledge in positioning my own practice whilst also introducing themes on memory and contemporary art. Returning to handling historic objects through attending auction viewings or visits to the London Silver Vaults as a primary research method has also opened up ideas surrounding heritage engagement.
Through my Final Major Project, I intend to build on this research, contextualising my own practice and extending my knowledge of heritage engagement, participatory projects, curation and ways in which to mediate audience and wider industry engagement. Examples include Mah Rana, Navigating History, A First Class Ticket for Worthing (2004) and the national initiative Musumaker that coupled creative and craft resources with museum collections and heritage houses.
My Specialist Research Enquiry, where I gathered primary data through interviewing participants about their jewellery collections has had an ongoing conceptual influence on my studio work. Principally by unfolding from my original research question which was immersed in the narrative, I am now questioning if everything I make needs to be wearable and in considering sentimental jewellery, I am now confronting what is more pivotal, the physical object or preserving the imbued memory. Feeding these insights into my studio practice I have continued to work with simple geometric forms that outwardly do not appear to be wearable, nestling and homing them amongst my own jewellery collection. Narratives represented through stripped down imagery that now occupy an identical size and shape. Each memory becoming equal to the next, but also modular and interchangeable ready for the viewer or wearer to rearrange into a new wearable narrative.
I have divided my Final Major Project into two collections with my focus being on producing refined and resolved objects. Firstly the Unwearable Wearables, an installation collection, consisting of a series of brooches alongside families of components. I have broken this collection down into three themes, Wrap, Nestle and Control, based on the individual intervention in enabling the wearing of the new narrative. What’s Your Story?, will then be a collection with more commercial potential, focussed on vitreous enamel with laser and decal image transfer.
Documentation and pricing of my final collection with cumulate in an ‘auction’ catalogue. Alongside my sketchbook and technical notebook, my blog utilising video and photography will continue to evidence my studio practice, research, critical engagement and contextual work. I need to be ready and prepared to fully utilise my Masters as a future springboard by applying for opportunities, competitions and networking within the correct professional positioning to raise my profile.