Karren Dale and Gemma Draper


About Karren    About Gemma

24 November 2015

Well it is almost our final show as part of handshake2.  I have enjoyed keeping busy with deadlines and having occasional social gatherings to get to know the wider jewellery community.  Personally in my life I have had a lot going on and found it hard at times to engage as much as I would have liked to, but have tried to put all the energy I had into my work.  For the final show I have made objects only.  I enjoyed removing the design parameter around wearability.  I still don’t know what I am?  Although I am still problem solving with jewellery sensibility even though the final outcome is not to be worn.  I have been thinking about how to make my objects become something and am working in with a friend to make stands etc for the objects to go with.  I haven’t been taking many images of my work and was hoping that over summer I might be able to find someone to help me photograph all the work I now have.  I use  a film camera usually so need someone who can help me with digital images.  I have been massively inspired by the work of Eva Hesse in the last few months and wonder if anything will show through in my own objects?  As an ode to the inspiration and a nod at the way I work, I have titled my body of work for the year “Awkward”.  I identified with the way Hesse struggled with her process and materials.  I think in her work there is a real tension between her incredible drive, her resolutions and some underlying awkwardness.

Still keeping the work back at some point of ‘simple’, I find myself increasingly anxious, on an edge.  I don’t know if this is good or bad but it seems to me to be the way I work.  Yesterday in the studio I tried to ‘push’ a work, which became almost impossible to save.  I had to bring it back and am wondering how it will be when I get into the studio today.

I feel things in my personal life have started to calm down and I am able to get enjoyment from being in the studio alone again.  I have seen some cool things this year, gigs, art shows, friends making magazines etc and have found it all really motivating.  I’m pleased there is more light and my son and I are getting along well.  Moving forward in spite of ones self.

I was asked to contribute to Auckland based mag, ‘Uniform’, for the #2 issue.  Here are my pages

29 October 2015

“The art of saying nothing”……Something to think about…really

Hidden Circle 2015


Paper, watercolour, gold pigment, plastic, steel, silver925, copper


Making and really thinking….plenty of pieces that may get edited out before the next show in December but have some sense of direction



24 August 2015

It’s been winter here in New Zealand and although I have kept making and working I have struggled to get to any real destination.  I have been taking big walks on days when the weather allows.


I have holed up in 1 room in my house that I am able to heat and enjoyed carrying on with my ideas of form and balance in the form of drawings.

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As the weather improves I find myself taking some time out to enjoy other things that don’t take up so much time in my head.

I went fishing…and caught a really big starfish…and then a really big Kahawai…Yum!

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Next show we have on is Avid in Wellington.  Looking forward to supporting Jude and being part of a Wellington institution as far as jewellery and object galleries go.

5 July 2015

I decide I am feeling sheepish about only sending 3 works for the Sydney show.  I decide that my paring things back just went too far.  Lesson learned.  To edit is good but next time don’t over edit.

1 July 2015

Gemma sends me a link to an article that I find useful to read as I have been feeling low and feeling low about making.


I found this interview of Agnes speaking and really related to her thoughts on ‘no ideas’ and the ability to ’empty the mind’ and ‘not taking credit for good work yourself but leaving it with inspiration’.

I haven’t stopped making I have just been very anxious as I have no idea what I am doing, why I am doing it or if it is very good.  I have been making paintings and drawings which seem to satisfy some sense of form and balance in my mind.

KD01 KD02 KD03 KD04 KD05 KD06


I came up with a title for a body of work I don’t have and may never make.


And make the occasional thing that could be jewellery

(excuse the phone quality images)

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I am very much looking forward to a Skype with my mentor Gemma tomorrow.  I have recently had to move house and studios so am hoping the Skype session will work.  Fingers crossed.  Onwards and upwards.

23 June 2015


No subscription

No understanding

No way to know

No way to figure it out

Crippled in the idea

Be yourself

Be the best you can be

Just be

It will never be enough

And you can never stop

Just be

It’s all you can do to be

And it’s all you can do to keep being.


If I could be a song I would be


31 May 2015

As we have a show coming up that we have been working towards, it was time to do some decision making.  I email Gemma with a selection of works that I like and feel are cohesive.  Gemma agrees, even though I haven’t given her much time…so discussion was minimal but I think as a group these work and I am happy with them and Gemma reminds me that…

“even if it would not bring you a bag of inmediate certitude with it,
is more about feeling tuned with the works, about feeling proud of being brave in a sweet uncanny quiet way…”
Here is the group I have decided to send for the upcoming Sydney show.
DSC_0437 DSC_0438 DSC_0443

15 May 2015

A little self help was in order…getting a grip on existential depression

14 May 2015

Today in the shower I have an honest moment with myself and realise part of my current frustration with my making comes from the rules I have put on myself.  Why don’t you try ‘such and such’ material?  No I work predominantly with found objects.  Why don’t you make larger works to try out different scales?  No I like to work small, that is what attracted me to jewellery in the first place.  I have been fighting against myself and against my materials.  I have been struggling to try something new….struggling ‘morally’ with the idea of buying materials.  Today I decide to go into town and buy a new material and work with it for the day.  I am excited for the first time in a while.  I also tell myself I can go to the library.  No staring blank in the studio but allowing myself out and feeling something new.

After a trip into town I have some new materials to play with

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I try some things out in an empty room

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It felt really good to have a play around with some materials that were clean and easy to use.

10 May 2015

I wake up thinking it is more important to have questions rather than answers.  This week I need to have more time at my work bench….more time and more time making….as opposed to sitting around reading, walking around thinking and lying around wondering why I can’t sleep.

9 May 2015

I discover Martin Creed who seems as reluctant as myself, in explaining his work.  I find this reassuring and remember my motto in my head, “there are no rules”, phew….

Some words by Martin Creed…taken from his website


I don’t know what I want to say

I don’t know what I want to say, but, to try to say something, I think I want to try to think. I want to try to see what I think. I think trying is a big part of it, I think thinking is a big part of it, and I think wanting is a big part of it, but saying it is difficult, and I find saying trying and nearly always wanting. I want what I want to say to go without saying.

Martin Creed, 2001

Also I appreciate this quote from painter Alex Katz that his mother said to him, “either you are an artist or you are a phoney”, better work harder to avoid the latter…..

Gemma sends me this video which I look back at again and again

I am feeling good about the work I have started to make but feel that making the work takes so long and I get frustrated by not being able to do as much as I would like.  I find my paintings satisfy this need in my process.

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13 April 2015

I find myself increasingly less likely to want to make “real jewellery”, in the studio.  I find using the term “real”, as in indicating to myself that I can’t or don’t make it, exceptionally confusing.  I find myself constantly trying to define what I do, where I fit in, how I make.  The term FAKE pops up more than I would like in an average day.  I get really sidetracked by thoughts and find it difficult to sit still and make.  I am constantly doing something, but is it jewellery?  Is it art?  Or am I completely bat shit crazy and merely using this world to self help?  Self medicate against an inability to train and be successful at something…proper…properly…good…well done…..Yet I sometimes get the deepest satisfaction from coming up with ideas or making simple marquettes in the studio.  When I push the works to be “wearable”, “gallery good”, “a consistent idea”, I am likely to make a try hard piece of uninteresting nothing.  The clumsiness and the dynamic instantaneous realisations from trials, often completed in a flurry of a few minutes, tend to be the works I go to bed thinking happily about.  To “push” these works just confuses me.  Which part?  The material?  The time trial? The wearability?  The image of the work?  The shape?  I have been stuck in this question since I started making contemporary jewellery.  For 3 years in my training I was encouraged to move past this stump.  I feel like it is a hurdle I can’t cross.  I see other people make work and confront all of the above questions and then push through and become aware of themselves and the practice and who they are within the context of what they make.  I seem to have digressed and know myself even less.  Some trials from my studio morning.  I love the colour palette and the simplicity of the attachments that make them wearable in the most tentative of ways.

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Also here is completed “Memory of a blueberry necklace” drawing, after it dried from being in the rain.  I am happy with this.


8 April 2015

Another blueberry necklace trial…I liked what initially happened but then I also thought that it was to a certain extent predictable after my previous trials….so I put it out in the rain to see what would happen….I am not sure that was a good idea but at the same time, there is some detail which I really love….hmmmm…waiting…..

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2 April 2015

How do you say I love everything but nothing?

How do you describe what it is to stop

Stand still


See nothing but sometimes imagine something?

In an effort to reduce thought

To slow down

Let someone else imagine


Trial something

To get out of habit.

No one can tell you who you are

In a lifetime of everything and nothing,

All at the same…hyper speed….time.

You need to be

For yourself, but mostly for others

Fuck the system

You have one life and one chance.

Everything is nothing

Therefore, you can be whatever you want.


Nothing is quantifiable.

And everything is too hard

….Just…..And only sometimes.

Imagine your life with no one else in it

Then carefully place them back

1 person at a time

1 memory at a time

When someone asks what your work is about

It is ok to say I don’t know.

I don’t know

And I am trying to be ok.

1 April 2015

I had been suggested by a post to look up shadow works by Roseanne Bartley, after my work below had been seen.  It’s always super weird when you see someone else’s work and you have pretty much exactly copied it unintentionally.  Here is a link to the work that Roseanne has done.


Without the internet I would have no idea that this artist had produced these works before I started but I am left with the responsibility of now having the awareness.  All artists at some point or another resemble anthers work but I really feel that these works are perhaps too similar for me to continue with them.  I might have a think about that as I also think that if I push the idea I might get somewhere else entirely….maybe more abstract…..hmmmmm

31 March 2015 P1010790 I still need to nut out technical issues with my work.  After a massive week of failures, broken solder joins and rubbish brooch backs, I made a piece I could say I was happy with. Rubber, 925 Silver….phew….now I can stop eating so much out of makers anxiety…… Some other finished works that I have made and feel are finished.


“White middle class punks”

Silver 925


Fine silver

Found textile

Stainless steel pin P1010796 P1010799 Brooch pin

Gaffa tape

Silver 925

Copper P1010800 Necklace




Thread P1010803 29 March 2015

There is a roughness

There is a naivety

I am


I am



Poetic in nature..in the object

A stillness

A quiet

Almost a begging to be pondered

Please wait

Please see the subtle nuances the materials inherently possess

Retain…I try to…

I want to look after my materials

Some need to change

Others don’t

It is important not to overwork the objects

It is important to go with gut instinct.

Rely on the experiments done previously

To be able to move forward.

There is no outcome…

No end in sight.

To be worn

To be sold

To be finished

None of these provide the catalyst for my work…

They are considered but they are not determining.

18 March 2015

Detail of a blueberry necklace….made this time with frozen blueberries as suggested by my friend Jhana, sweet suggestion as I got more of the saturated colour I was hoping for…although I still kinda like the strained almost invisible imprints from the fresh blueberries below…..I might try fresh again in a different way as well…..hmmmm P1010771 Also I made this work called “Thinking of Kruger”…trying to embrace the jeweller inside me and make something tangible so all my studio days are not just daydream sessions. P1050260 Photo taken by my good friend Simon Cummings…chur

I was feeling deeply inspired by Daniel Kruger


Keep looking

Keep making

10 March 2015

First result from “Memory of a blueberry necklace”…..phone camera image unnamed I really like the result…how the blueberries bled out to leave a stain almost like a watercolour.  The blueberry necklace remainder is actually pretty cool also…will take some photos to post up.  Back to making some actual work now 🙂

17 February 2015

From February 7-11 we had jewel camp and a masterclass with Benjamin Lignel whom had  come all the way from Paris!  It was very exciting and inspiring.  All the handshakers came together and we had a pin swap fundraising event and a dinner together.  The entire time was a challenge in my head about my practice and how to get the most of of having a wonderful mentor.  I tried to engage the best I could which can be a struggle for my flaky brain.  I got a lot out of the masterclass and it reminded me of why I chose Gemma and to keep looking, reading, thinking and making.  During the week my brain melted with thinking and I got some great advice from Kobi to not ask so many questions and to make more than think about it.  Then re-reading Gemma’s website I found this….“He that makes, becomes material” Making is a river. Making is a dance. Quote taken from gemmadraper.com.  I have chosen to embrace my questions, (which there are many), and have found some key words to marry my work with. uncertainty balance form weight imperfections ambiguity nervous tension perception scrounging gleaning surface elevating materials construction drilling holes Benjamin Lignel was a fantastic teacher and very easy to listen to and a great sense of humour…phew…not nearly as scary as I thought….actually not scary at all…just a person who seemingly loves what he does.  Feel really pleased to have been able to take part in the masterclass. On Thursday 18 February I am driving down south to Dunedin.  I am hoping to do quite a few studio and gallery visits.  I will update the blog when I get back with photos of the trip. 1st stop….Kobi Bosshard and his wife Patricia in Middlemarch. Amazing!  Can’t wait…….

15 February 2015

Idea#1…Blueberry necklace  F1000022 I want the necklace to eventually bleed out it’s juice to leave a memory of a necklace only….. P1010748 And now I wait…. P1010750

14 February 2015

It’s difficult sometimes to find your way and imagine your own voice when other people have come before and expressed so eloquently what you hoped to maybe say….. Kobi Bosshard-Description of a greenstone pebble

97d33f96df44d5614b56729deb0bf498 12 February 2015

26 January 2015

My good friend Simon emailed me with this video clip to watch.  I thought it was very interesting.  It is about becoming a successful artist and finding out what that might mean to you….

2 January 2015

I don’t have a new year resolution as such but I do have a lot of goals for this year.  I would love more than anything to meet my mentor, Gemma.  I don’t know how I would make this work….but I want to have it as a goal.  I also want to get to know my work more…maybe myself?  I want to be healthier….and in turn happier?  Sleep better…..Draw more…..Take better photos of my works…although I do expect to still update this blog with phone pics for quick document purposes……I want to stop crossing my fingers and start taking more solid bets on my work…2015 the year where I want to have more fun Photo on 21-10-14 at 1.55 pm 28 December 2014

unnamed-1 unnamed unnamed-2 unnamed-3 unnamed-4 unnamed-5 26 October 2014

I went to an art opening on the weekend where I was fortunate to meet another jeweller, Kobi Bosshard.  What a fantastic artist with a straight talking mouth.  I enjoyed our discussion immensely and he really made me think about a lot of ideas that I am sure will make their way into my work.  We talked about all sorts of artists and works that we liked, almost all of it relating to Dunedin where Kobi is most connected to geographically.  Kobi lives in Middlemarch which is an hour or so away from Dunedin but it is the community he has most been involved with in partnership with his wife Patricia, for the last 30 years or so.  I have a strong connection to Dunedin as I moved there when I was 17 and it is the most important city to me for all sorts of personal reasons.  It made me realise that when you are open to learning and suggestions, everyone you meet can be a mentor of sorts.  It made me reflect on my times in study and how I never got anything very concrete from those years as I was too defensive, too unprepared to listen.  I spent almost $60, 000 in student loan money on trying to get an education when I wasn’t ready to even hear the words that people generously had collated for my ears.  An expensive life lesson but it made me realise that I have come to a point in my life where I am not so defensive and not so angry and more ready to accept the words and advice of those around me.  What a fantastic lesson….onwards and upwards.

October 22 2014

Another great Skype with my awesome mentor.  Feel super pleased to have such a great listening mentor who has suggestions I am happy to follow through with.  A while back Gemma linked me to this and I want to post it now.  It is amazing because of the way he works in the footage but also for the sensitivity of the people protecting his work.

After a Skype today I popped into town to pick up my film with shadow jewellery work.  Here are some of the images with some happy accidents due to the nature of using film. F1000014 F1000017 F1000019 F1000021 F1000022 F1000023 F1000029 F1000030 Other suggestions from Gemma include looking at Richard Tuttle.  Swoon.  New fav.  Here is a quote :

“There’s a side of things where you can just make yourself crazy following some idea of what perfection is, but at a certain moment you remember play- that this is supposed to be fun. And I always have this phrase- ‘If it ain’t fun, it’s not alive’- to get a sense to draw back.”
I have some other leads to follow up on……but feeling so connected to my mentor and the process today.  The project is feeling really worthwhile and I am happy to feel change.

15 October 2014

Sometimes if I get too wound up about making jewellery or objects, I paint…or draw….or write….anything to help me try to find whatever it is I am looking for in my work. P1010482 P1010499 P1010503 6 October 2014 

My ideas are always jumping around and I never know which way to go.  Just keep making…or at least doing something that feels right.

27 September 2014 P1010416   7 September 2014

Gemma sends me an email with some ideas for me to explore and includes in it an artist to look at. Munari and his useless machines are something I have not seen before. http://the189.com/design/bruno-munari-the-man-and-his-useless-machines/ I love them and also really respond to his collage pieces, here is a favourite. CRI_246599-1 I am finding it difficult to know when to do enough to a piece or when to keep it simple and what it is that I am looking for.  These simple but eloquent collages inspire me to keep going with finding a subtle way to say what I need to with my work, strange but great compositions.

6 September 2014 Karren's pics 001 Karren's pics 014 Karren's pics 011 Karren's pics 012 Karren's pics 037 Karren's pics 045 Karren's pics 047 Karren's pics 048 Karren's pics 070 Habits…Neuron pathways…Over and over and over again

2 August 2014 P1010347 Thinking about ideas…and how to turn drawings into something tangible……object or action?…..

29 July 2014 F1000003 There is always something to do but not always something to say

22 July 2014

It’s hard to know what to write to try and include people who might read this, to have an understanding of what a conversation between two people entails. I found today after our skype session, I feel more relaxed about the project and the ideas have more room to grow. Gemma talks about “giving me the permission to use this opportunity to explore what I want to say, what my questions might be.” I feel a huge opportunity has opened up for me and I feel within a structure outlined somewhat by this project but mostly by the parameters that Gemma and I discuss. I make the decision I want my work to be less introspective and more inclusive and this feeds back into 2 shows I have done in the past. I had a solo show in 2011 entitled, ‘A conversation with composition’. I had made jewellery works which were on a table that was 1 and a half metres in height, some had to tip toe to be able to see the work. The table was 2 metres long and only 600mm deep which meant that your view and your body were in close proximity to others. I was interested in how people interacted with that work but mostly with each other as strangers eyes met across the table to engage with a smallish object, in a small space. P1050338 P1050364 P1050411 This was the starting point of my interest in exploring social interaction within an art context. The jewellery works and myself were merely the catalyst for something entirely unplanned to happen. Last year I had another show, a collaborative project with a local architect, Trace Murdoch. The show came to fruition and manifested from talking about providing space to be able to guide peoples view but also to give them a comfortable and interesting space to do so. The show became Mind Wandering Eyes, myself once again only being the start point, so the reference for the title being somewhere along the lines of ‘wandering through my thoughts.’ In some ways the images and the works became secondary to the space, which was a maze with 9 alcoves, and the interesting part was how people discovered the space and interacted within the hallways and alcoves. TM17 TM8A TM7 TM10 TM5 Photos taken by Paul McCredie This is something I enjoy exploring and it seems to provide room for me to make in tandem with an idea and the installation/space.   This space can be used for people to start interacting in an environment in a way they may not normally think of in relation to gallery shows, especially within a jewellery context.  I have an idea I have been thinking of and discussed with Gemma which i’m not sure about mentioning yet , but as a response I got this incredibly amazing poem sent to me by Gemma later in the day.

It Was Alive, Though Differently


It had a secret name
which in later years came to mean
I will continue to stand here.
It had a food mouth
and a shrieking mouth.
Popular wisdom indicated
that Its hands could heat stones
and that a man could cook
meat on those stones.
That being said,
It had a poverty hand
and a riches hand.
They were
the same hand.
A little ways above the hands
the mouths spoke together
but for two
different reasons,
like the music was behaving
but the orchestra was broken.
Even in less
benevolent moments,
It was known to use Its own
body as a tent and as the gifts
inside of the tent.
Early people said It had a mother hand
and a father hand, and that together
they made a clapping sound.
Its hands delivered the children
from madness.
The hands saw the riverbank sliding
into the river
to make
a more shallow river.
They scooped the mud up.
The hands were giving thanks.
The hands smelled like exodus.
The hands were the law.
One hand grew older, and the other
hand younger.
They said, fairly often,
We’d like to try that again.
Both were restless
and wanted rest.
One hand said, I will go where you go,
while the other hand continued
on alone.
Hannah Gamble, “It Was Alive, Though Differently” from Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast, published by Fence Books. Copyright © 2012 by Hannah Gamble.  Reprinted by permission of Hannah Gamble. Source: Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast (Fence Books, 2012)

I am blown away by things that Gemma does or says that resonate so clear and loud with me and the way I think.

29 June 2014

I take my lead from the material. snowday Snow day 1st few drops of snow P1010277

  karren blog 1karren blog 2

P1010251 D1000010Feeling inspired……thought a lot about what making means to me today and what I want from my work.  In the past it was very easy for me to think negative and to stop trying so I wouldn’t let anyone…or maybe just the idea down….Today I didn’t have any of those thoughts….I just enjoyed thinking about process and what it means to me….A great day…another lucky, golden moment….19 June 201424 June 2014

Gemma and I have now had our 1st skype.  It was so cool to hear Gemma’s voice and make a start on the conversation.  Gemma says “she is here to make the trip with me, dance with me, play with me.”  This makes me feel very privileged and lucky to have someone there for me and my practice.  I threw a million little snippets out, which is actually something I want to work on…in 1 sentence I say I want the freedom to make lots and lots of quick intuitive pieces and in the next I am saying I want to make less work and focus on it being good.  Always a contradiction with me…part of my confusion.  Gemma and I are going to skype back in a week or so and at this stage are looking toward the November show at Toi Poneke and what I am wanting to show.  I had an idea that now I think is flawed in the sense that it doesn’t really work but still ok for me as a start point…..Also I am making some $40  works for fundraising efforts and find these liberating and intuitive, quick pieces.  I keep thinking about making a body of work, but that isn’t really how I work….but maybe that could be the idea that could finally move my work?  27 April 2014

Gemma introduces herself in an email and makes the connection through a great song http://youtu.be/HldHtBxNK6k Photo image :Karren Dale I want to make something good

2 thoughts on “Karren Dale and Gemma Draper”

  1. hilda gascard says:

    Hi Karren, I love your blog a lot. Have you seen on Fingers’ website Roseanne Bartley’s “shadow images”? They are similar to yours. Mariah Tuttle had a show where she hang a brooch on the wall and people’s shadow were casted on the wall. Quite intriguing.

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