How did you get there?

27 03 2016

Today I was watching an art documentary … you know, as I like to do.

During said passive education I was presented with a painting, a collaboration no less, between Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens : specifically, ‘Hearing‘ (1617-18) in their ‘The Five Senses‘ series.

Hearing ; from Prado Museum in Madrid ; click on image for original source

Hearing ; from Prado Museum in Madrid ; click on image for original source

Look a bit closer at this little birdie …

cropped from above image

cropped from above image

Unless I’m very much mistaken, and I absorbed nothing from my Grandma’s copy of ‘Complete Book of Australian Birds‘, that is a sulfur-crested cockatoo. This raucous little feathered fellow is native to Australia and New Guinea.

So … this was painted in 1617-18.

Mmm … time for me to check my history.

The Dutch apparently were visiting Australia’s coast line (north-west) from 1606 – though most of these visits seem to have been accidents of incorrect navigation and quite a proportion perished.

It seems more likely that perhaps the bird was brought back instead from New Guinea – considering the Portuguese and Spanish were gadding about there from the mid 1500s.

Or perhaps they were traded by Indonesians in touch with New Guinea, who in turn were trading with the Dutch and others.

Oh. I was hoping for a strange story.
This isn’t strange but actually quite reasonable.
Best you go about your day.

No jewellery for you

24 01 2014

Have you heard this before: “I can’t give her/you/him jewellery for their birthday/xmas/awesomeness celebration; they’re a jeweller, they make it themselves, how could I possibly choose what to give them” ?

Or have you been the one to say it?

I admit it is a field fraught with danger … similar to being asked to select a bottle of wine for a gift to a wine blender or wine judge. Shudder. ‘Tis a task usually worth your avoidance.

Allow me to offer the potential gift-giver some thoughts if you find yourself willing to take on the risk of giving jewellery to someone who may be considered knowledgeable or a connoisseur of the genre:

  • it is not for the fainthearted, you do need to be aware of the recipient’s preferences (if you know them well enough to want to gift them jewellery, I’d suggest you’ve spent enough time to get a general feel of things in this department)
  • perhaps you can secretly request the help of family or friends
  • even better, the help of a maker-jeweller-friend of your recipient
  • I would err on the side of ‘the simpler the better’; the fussier the item, the higher the chance of a misstep
  • if you can be involved in the design, or even the construction, so much the better (I’ve written before about commissioning bespoke jewellery)
  • sentiment matters
  • consider involving the recipient – the receipt of the finished object won’t be a surprise this way; but your introduction of the idea and your desire to gift them something they love, the anticipation and involvement during the design or selection process may make up for that; and you’ll know the piece will be to their liking/loving
  • one idea I especially like is for said gift-giver to work with a maker who uses wax-casting, roll a little sausage of wax and shape it into a simple ring with your very own hands, so it has your very own fingerprints on it, and have it cast in the metal of choice (no polish, for heaven’s sake, no polish; and best a matt finish)

Oopsies, that last one there turned out to be more about my preferences. Dear me. How did that happen?

Amazing nature

12 06 2013

Is it just me, or does this look like a pair of cufflinks or earrings or lapel pins?

from my favourite facebook page; click on image for original source

from my favourite facebook page; click on image for original source

They’re actually Golden Wattle pollen grains. Beautiful. I wonder if all pollen grains are so gorgeous?

I love wattle flowers … they were everywhere in the area I grew up, and were the inspiration of the carving for my Gold Brooches from my second year at uni.

second year, 'gold' brooch

second year, ‘gold’ brooch

Dear Contemporary Jewellery …

6 05 2013

Zoe Brand writes a regular column ‘Brandlandia’ for a NZ jewellers newsletter ‘Overview’.

In this issue she wrote a love letter to Contemporary Jewellery (CJ):

I’ve been thinking lately, what is this thing that has become my life. I wanted to write it a quick note just to let it know how much it means to me. I though a love letter would be a lovely vehicle in which to express freely and informally my relationship with it, or what I more affectionately call it: CJ (aka contemporary jewellery).

Dearest CJ
Thanks for being the reason I jump out of bed in the morning!
Thanks for being the reason that I look for the edge and want to push past it.
Thanks for being the reason that I have so many BFF’s!
Thanks for being the reason I am I hardly content by just ‘pretty’ things.
Thanks for being the reason I am, who I am.
So much love, now and forever

As she writes, she also “asked some of my good friends to drop a line to their lovers.

This was my love letter … it took less than a minute to write and I was genuinely surprised by the content.

Dearest Contemporary Jewellery
You know of the deep admiration I hold for you.
In your rare quieter guise, I adore and relate to you.

I want to hold you close, be near you, be reflected in you.
But your wilder side is bewildering to me.

I wish I could like it more.
I wish I could be like it more.
I have tried. I am yet to succeed.
Can I not be brought into the fold until I am more like you?
Your uncertain lover


For more love letters see the latest ‘Overview’ newsletter #12.

Thoughts on ‘contemporary jewellery’

20 07 2012

‘What is contemporary jewellery?’. It’s a question that’s been bothering me for years and years. Many writers have considered the same topic, though I’m more interested in why I would use the term ‘contemporary jewellery’ and how I would consider defining it for my own use.

Using my recent visit to ‘Unexpected Pleasures‘ at the NGV, I’ve been giving it more thought.

Unfortunately I don’t have a cogent theory to offer, just a few thoughts. I have done no reading on the topic – as I find that in reading other people’s thoughts my own thoughts can easily get lost. I wanted to find my own expression and ideas before engaging with the thoughts of others on this topic.

So, I’ve been thinking that makers may use the term ‘contemporary jewellery‘ to:

  • differentiate from ‘high street’ jewellery – the mass-produced kind; and of course to differentiate from jewellery made in previous eras (vintage or antique etc), as the root of the word ‘contemporary‘ means of ‘the present time’
  • indicate a degree of critical engagement in the ideation and making process;
  • (often) suggest that there is a complex conceptual context for the work that may be sensed but not always fully understood upon superficial view;
  • identify as an individual maker, not a ‘brand’; perhaps even to identify as more of an ‘artist’ than jewellers are usually perceived as
  • permit a kind of freedom in, or perhaps justify, the use of all manner of materials;
  • separate from the … erm, how to delicately put this … jewellery made with minimal skill-sets;
  • separate from traditional, perhaps ‘conservative’, goldsmithing; though of course the majority of makers acknowledge their place in the historic lineage (and mine that tradition for resources and ideas).

Many makers of ‘contemporary’ jewellery like to challenge established conventions in jewellery – in terms of wearability (consider Lisa Walker), materials (I especially remember a ‘ring’ made of bread and jam) and ugliness (consider Karl Fritsch).

This is where I think my view of what I do differs from the hard-line (if I may use that term?) contemporary world. While I don’t devalue the place of this kind of making, I find I rarely connect or understand those kinds of pieces. Such differences are utterly essential in a vital making community. And I think I’d like to be part of a different stream of contemporary jewellery.

I’ve noticed those in the ‘challenging’ stream sometimes demean makers who choose to work more ‘conservatively’ … I’ve seen many a sneer at some of the less outrageous jewellers’ work. This is a shame – there is more than enough room for all of our approaches!

I feel like I’m at makers anonymous (MakeAnon???) … Hi, my name is Karen. I like to make jewellery. I like to make objects. I like to get crafty with traditional ‘women’s work’ (embroidery, knitting, crochet). While I appreciate crazy pieces, I make contemporary jewellery which is of a more restrained quiet nature. I prefer classic influences. I am not a fan of realistic figurative representation. …. I could go on….

What would you add to the list of ‘contemporary jewellery’ above?

Thoughts for ‘Final Frontier’

22 08 2011

Recently I wrote about an opportunity to be part of an upcoming exhibition ‘Final Frontier‘. So many ideas played around in my mind about what I could make for such a show … there were so many science fiction movies to be inspired by…

The first idea, which was immediate upon reading the brief, was to make a piece inspired by movie ‘Code 46‘. This is more a speculative kind of science fiction, not so much with the crazy graphics and special effects etc.

In this future world, most people have no knowledge of their biological parents. To avoid genetically-related individuals creating unhealthy babies together, couples wanting to marry or engage in reproductive sex need to be tested. The text at the start of the film explains it as follows:

code 46
article 1

any human being who shares the same nuclear gene set as another human being is deemed to be genetically identical.
the relationship of one are the relations of all.

due to IVF, DI embryo splitting and cloning techniques it is necessary to prevent any accidental or deliberate genetically incestuous reproduction.


i. all prospective parents should be genetically screened before conception. if they have 100%, 50% or 25% genetic identity, they are not permitted to conceive

ii. if the pregnancy is unplanned, the foetus must be screened, any pregnancy resulting from 100%, 50%, or 25% genetically related parents must be terminated immediately

iii. if the parents were ignorant of their genetic relationship then medical intervention is authorised to prevent any further breach of code 46

I thought of making a portable kind of self-identifier containing the specific DNA information that could be compared to another’s to test the degree of genetic relation. The obvious shape is that of the double-helix for the DNA … the below image is taken from the film:

from film 'Code 46'; at 59m50s

Naturally I had ideas of including a thin panel of my woven paper and fine silver … somewhere, somehow … and that it would be ideal as a long pendant.

I had lots of ideas … but they just didn’t want to chrystallise. I think was got in the way was that I really wanted to understand the DNA structure accurately, and in trying to research it online I found the text wasn’t really ‘for dummies’; so I felt I had components of understanding, but found it hard to put it all together into a cohesive picture. Therefore, couldn’t feel I had the design ‘right’.

Other films that also came to mind were: Gattaca, Aeon Flux, Metropolis, the original Tron … and even some of the old-school Star Trek; my friend suggested Blade Runner (which I’m sure I’ve seen but cannot remember, so it’s now on the ‘to-watch’ list).

What is your favourite science fiction film and what would you make to reference it?? It’s cool thought-play for a lazy few hours…

Show me the dates Melbourne Museum!

11 04 2011

In putting together the next calendar post (for May 2011) I went looking for the dates of the Tutankhamun exhibition, the ‘blockbuster’ at the Melbourne Museum.

Well, here is a lesson in how NOT to provide the public with information about your exhibition – don’t bother putting the exhibition dates clearly anywhere on your websites/pages.

The opening month of April is relatively clear (some pages even clarify it was the 8th April 2011), but the closing dates were elusive.

I had to do an internet search to find the dates, and ended up getting the information from the National Geographic site. Update (25th April): ie. 6th November 2011.

Why on earth make it so damn hard!?

I can be generous and agree with my friend’s suggestion that it may be due to organisers keeping the end date reasonably flexible in case more demand requires the exhibition to be open for longer (or make it financially feasible to offer more time).

Though the sceptic in me would perhaps suggest it is to create an uncertainty about the end date, so people feel they need to buy tickets now (ie. more money).

It reminds me of a good article I read in a newspaper a few weeks ago about the ‘blockbuster’: “Big Bucks and the Boy King” – makes for interesting reading and critical thinking and wondering what may be settled for an ‘art exhibition’ in the near future.

Update (19th April, 9pm AEST): I’ve checked all the pages linked to in my story, and there is still no end dates; and unfortunately the comments left on the exhibition page indicate that a proportion of visitors are walking away quite disappointed

Update (25th April, 10pm AEST): the only reference I could see to an end date on the exhibition page were the following replies by museum staff to general public queries:

  • Tickets are being sold in two separate lots. The first one is for tickets from 8 April to July 17. The second one will be for tickets from July 18 to November.
  • it is anticipated that the exhibition will be at Melbourne Museum until November 2011

I’ve even checked out their Facebook page and the end-date on the exhibition ‘event’ there is actually 10th July 2011 – not right at all!

The more I think of this, the less I’m convinced the non-disclosure of an end-date is nothing but deliberate to accelerate ticket sales. There is no way an exhibition of this nature and size would, for the sheer matter of logistics and insurance, NOT have an end date already determined. Then why not publicise it?

Update (29th September): now I’m not sure when this happened, but while I was tinkering around I have since found that the exhibition is now open until 4th December 2011. Also, I’ve since found that the National Geographic site I refer to above no longer exists – weird?