Jewellery Practice as a Site for Enquiry #1

9 08 2010

Last Friday [6th August 2010] I attended the RMIT Seminar ‘Jewellery Practice as a Site for Enquiry‘ … well, I made it until lunch time and then had to go home exhausted (I’ve been fighting a stubborn flu for weeks and it just won’t go away). I am disappointed that I missed the afternoon sessions, as there were speakers I wanted to hear; though I very much enjoyed the morning speakers and their topics.

There were lots of people there; I’m rubbish at estimating crowd size, but the Kaleide Theatre was pretty full, so maybe around 200 (can anyone confirm or advise?). So there certainly is audience for such gatherings in Melbourne.

The speakers I saw were:

Then “Rapid Fire Papers”, which I really enjoyed, by:

I’ll write about my thoughts in a few posts… first, the key-note speakers.

1. Christina Tatiana Miller & Susie Ganch

Both jewellers and educators, Christina and Susie run the Radical Jewellery Makeover (RJM; blog) projects, and have a strong view about the contribution each person can make to making the world a better place: saying a number of times that ‘everyone can contribute in their own way‘. Their presentation was very polished and well measured, and quite interesting.

To set the scene for their work, they discussed projects that inspire them and also share their values of recycling, careful material management, community bonding, and social justice through making/craft: bead project, empty bowl and knitting nation.

The mining industry and it’s toxicity and associated dangers for the environment and human health was then raised.  The most interesting part for me was that, in a parallel to many facets of life in recent times (eg. food, clothing), there is a desire to trace materials to their source; however this is incredibly difficult for metals, especially when being reused.

They then spoke of their RJM project – which takes donated jewellery, precious and costume, and hold workshops where jewellers/students remake into new pieces over a few days; the new pieces are then exhibited and available for purchase by the donors (who have credit vouchers based on the value of their original donation) and others. First, the donated pieces are thoroughly sorted, valued and disassembled for reuse. Then made into new pieces under a developing set of rules about future reuse – mixed metals are not encouraged (to ensure purity and possibility of meltdown in the future), prongs are favoured (for easy unsetting), screws and rivets preferred (again, for purity and taking apart).

I have a bit of a problem with the word ‘sustainable’, as it is somewhat of a catch-phrase for the lazy that has lost its original meaning in its overuse – but that’s not what I found here, and in fact though I was expecting it, I don’t remember actually hearing the word used. What I did see was great passion about creating a better world through everyday actions, and fighting for larger actions to be taken by larger entities (ie. companies and governments) to do their best to carry their responsibility in the same manner.

What has stayed with me from this presentation is an awareness of my own practice (when I do make!) – I tend to buy new sheet when I need it, instead of reaching for the scrap bin, or remelting and rolling out scrap; and I don’t think about whether the piece I am making will be easy to remodel in the future, made in such a way that it is simple to mine it for its components if needed … two relatively small things (though of course there are more) all jewellers can do to set up a ‘sustainable’ (in its best definition) practice.

Another interesting point is the great waste of resources that ‘costume jewellery’ presents – made of poor metals (mixed metals with low melting points) and plastics, its value measured only in its fashion-ability (yes, I made that word up), and so it is quickly used and thrown into landfill. I’d love to see the costume jewellery industry radically reigned in and eventually ceased … but how, it’s not a realistic hope is it?

The presentation closed with a quote from Claire Pentecost, who wrote ‘Taste Re-Makers‘ for RJM: The more we learn about our world the more we realize that our system of production and consumption is practically and socially untenable. Changing this system is a vast creative project being addressed now by countless artists who have decided that the world we want is something we are going to have to make. No one invested in the status quo is going to do it. To actually live an authentic life richly experienced requires that we create social arenas to remake our own subjectivities.

Lastly, I loved the brooch Susie wore on the day – I think it’s the one in the top right corner of the image on their blog here (detail below).

cropped from workshop media; click on image to link through to original source; copyright belongs to RJM

I’d be interested to know what others took away from this session.

More on the other speakers shortly.

Update (9th August): after writing the posts in this series (a few to be published over the coming week) today I read Melissa Cameron’s first installment of her impression of the seminar; I liked many of her comments!



4 responses

9 08 2010
RMIT Seminar thoughts, or “notes without scandal” | Melissa Cameron – Jewellist at Large

[…] events particularly well, I recommend that if you didn’t attend, you might read the posts at Melbourne Jeweller on the topic. She gives more detail on speakers and a more rounded view of what […]

10 08 2010
Jewellery Practice as a Site for Enquiry #2 « Melbourne Jeweller

[…] Jewellery Practice as a Site for Enquiry #2 10 08 2010 Second in the posts on last Friday’s RMIT Seminar ‘Jewellery Practice as a Site for Enquiry‘ (previous post here). […]

18 08 2010
Jewellery Practice as a Site for Enquiry #3 « Melbourne Jeweller

[…] on last Friday’s RMIT Seminar ‘Jewellery Practice as a Site for Enquiry‘ (see #1 and #2) – the Rapid Fire Paper: eight papers in about half an hour … some were five […]

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‘Once More, with Love’ @ Northcity4 « Melbourne Jeweller

[…] you haven’t had a look at Ethical Metalsmiths, do take some time. I remember seeing two of the founders at a conference, and distinctly remember the advice of making jewellery in such a way that it would be easier to […]

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