‘Schmuck’ @ RMIT Gallery – part 4

26 06 2009

No, I’m not tired of this exhibition yet!

When I first visited, I left with the impression that there were a lot of textile pieces – either wholly made of fabric or thread, or jewellery with such components. I decided to visit again and conduct an objective survey – to look at materials and form.

image from 'Handwerk & Design' media images

Tota Reciclodas (Argentina); image from 'Handwerk & Design' media images

And the results are:

  • 60 jewellers
  • 212 pieces of jewellery
  • 117 brooches – this is by far the most popular form
  • 55 necklaces
  • 16 rings and 16 bracelets
  • only 5 earrings – why is this not a popular form?

In terms of materials:

  • only half of the jewellers have used metals as their predominant material
  • there are 8 jewellers for whom textiles is the focal material – which was interesting to me, given my initial impression; however these pieces are generally much more colourful and larger than the other works, so perhaps it was their sheer visual impact that influenced my view
  • there are few pieces with gems – which could be argued as a quite traditional element in jewellery
  • 2 jewellers have used mother of pearl – which to my mind is probably over-representative of the use of that material in the whole jewellery community
  • there is quite a bit of wood, which is not an uncommon material in my experience; and lots of plastics and ‘collected’ objects

After this, my questions are:

(1) Why so few earrings and rings / so many brooches?

Is it in some part because earrings are limited by weight and size, and have a potentially more awkward position on the body? Perhaps brooches are more adaptable to communicating ideas – it is tempting to suggest that brooches are ‘easy’, in that an idea or creation can be put together and a pin simply put on the back in order to attach to the body … I recall being warned during my degree to integrate the pin or brooch into the piece, and not just ‘slap’ a pin on the back as an afterthought. I’m certainly not implying that is happening here at all, but the clear dominance brooch format is interesting.

If I think about my own work, I realise that most of my pieces are brooches too. However I am hesitant to extrapolate from my work to the general community, as many of my brooches were specifically referencing textiles and therefore being attached to the clothes on the torso made more sense than being hung around the neck or off the ears. I wonder if it is similar for other makers?

On the ring question: personally, I fling my hand around when I talk, so if I make rings then they need to be very sturdy; and not all of my ideas do well as ‘sturdy’. I imagine it may be similar for others, especially those exploring materials that need to be treated with care.

Further, I have considered recent exhibitions I’ve enjoyed and notice they are also largely brooches and necklaces. On a practical note as a maker you can be sure anyone can wear your brooch, however not everyone will be able to wear your earrings or have fingers the size of rings you make – perhaps it is that simple.

(2) Where have the gems gone? Are gems and ‘contemporary jewellery’ incompatible?

(3) Why is metal not more popular? Again, is this traditional versus contemporary?

My previous stories on ‘Schmuck 2009‘ can be found by using the Search facility, or the category cloud, in the right column. ‘Schmuck 2009‘ is at RMIT Gallery until 18th July 2009.



One response

30 06 2009
David Neale

re the earring problem:
Pinnochio as Jewellery:
There is a kind of jewellery isnt really jewellery. Its sculpture about jewellery. It is disconnected from the body, from wearing, from its nominal purpose. Its ‘body’ is the vitrine, the whitespace and the photograph.
As jewells, they are dreams. Beautiful dreams. I enjoy these dreams, but after many years of crazy-ugly-beautiful brooches, well, Im waking up.
If we consider wearability more attentively, it limits the possiblities of what we can dream up in our “jewellery”, so… we prefer the dream.
( is there a co-relation b/w this and fashion- where voluptuous models are never used- why this distain for the body?)
Im sure this has been discussed at length elsewhere by more learned folk than me! But now, I want my jewellery to be loved, to be worn.
pinnochio wants to be a real boy!

As for earrings; they are tricky twins! they are double-trouble!
the constraints are tighter and duplicate.
AND in ref. to the above, they are intensely involved with the body(!)

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