Monday 18 January – And end and a new beginning
Turns out wrapping up a blog series is just as hard as starting one!!
I have, however, been lucky enough to be selected for Handshake3 – the next instalment of this incredible professional development and exhibition programme. On 30 January Handshake3 participants will be gathering together for the next Handshake bootcamp and Masterclass with special guests Sofia Bjorkman (Platina Gallery, Sweden) and Hilde de Decker (jeweller and educator extraordinaire, Belgium). All participants are required to make a 7minute presentation introducing ourselves, our practices and reflecting on our experiences of Handshake to date. This is what I have been working on for the past few weeks, and don’t think I can say it any better here than what I have done there. To that end, click here to see my presentation slides, and here for the accompanying talking notes (including slide changes).
And of course Handshake3 also entails a blog!! You can continue to follow my Handshake adventures here.
Saturday 28 November, 2015 – Home straight
Final Handshake2 show opens at Pah Homestead in Auckland on Monday 14 December.
In the lead up to this, I’ve continued to work on my inner sole (inner soul?) pieces and really loving what’s been coming out…
With the exception of one piece they are all quite low tech, but they fill me with a sense of creative peace.
The final forms make me think of dead or dying trees, which hold so much memory of life. As do the materials from which they are constructed.
Some of these can be worn, but I question whether they need to be. It really appeals to me that the human body is already an integral part of these objects – through wear patterns, imprints and smell.
Piece 8 (numbering continued on from last blog)
I photographed this piece for my previous blog entry, but have now added a support structure
I have a large polystyrene board propped up against the wall in front of my workbench where I pin a combination of finished and unfinished works that I think hold potential – I continue to look up and mull over them waiting to see what they might inspire. Here is what it looks like right now.
Tentative Skype chat booked with Ruudt for Thursday 03 December. Been awhile since we’ve spoken, so very much looking forward to catching up then
Saturday 31 October, 2015 – Carrying on, carrying on
Spent today photographing recent outputs to feed into next conversation with Ruudt…
Sunday 04 October, 2015 – Back to the backs
Can’t beat Wellington on a good day!
Despite the glorious weather, still managed to spend some time back in the workshop to finish a couple of the backs from last months pieces…
And a few works in progress
And the current view from the bench…
Sunday 27 September, 2015 – Back in the hood
First weekend back in Wellington for a month, and very much looking forward to getting back into a routine again. A couple of things to knock off before the 30th (Handshake3 application, Schmuck application, piece for Trademe fundraising auction) then decks are clear leading up to final show at Pah Homestead in Auckland in December.
Monday 21 September, 2015 – David Clarke workshop
Just returned from 3-day workshop in Auckland with David Clarke – a boundary-pushing British silversmith. Much of his work is a reaction to the entrenched traditions of silversmithing. He approaches much of his work from a position of experiment and play. Turns out he also teaches at Konstfack University in Sweden – as does Ruudt Peters. The premise of the workshop was to give participants methods, tools, techniques for breaking through periods of creative ‘stuckness’. Some of the exercises were actually quite similar in nature to some of the creative processes I have been experimenting with over recent months with Ruudt, so really great to cement the value of these approaches.
We had a great crew of people attending the workshop, and as with so many of these events learned as much from each other as we did from ourselves.
The workshop was entitled ‘Feed Me’ and the only preparation we were required to do was to find and take an object somehow related to the table (eating, food preparation etc) that had some meaning for us and that we could tell as story about. We started off with a round table where we each talked about our object, followed by some very insightful and unexpected lines of questioning from David. His questions touched on our objects, ourselves and the driving forces behind our making. Pause for thought for all of us I think.
A very brief summary of the remaining exercises follows. Explore your object in as many ways as possible without using your eyes. Close your eyes and (i) draw your object based purely on touch, (ii) smell the object and draw what you smell, (ii) listen to your object and draw what you hear, (iii) taste your object and draw what you taste. Open your eyes. Draw your object in as many ways as you can without using your hands – be as inventive in your approaches as possible, use whatever you can find around you to help you in your quest. Use your object as a mark maker – be creative. Think about surface, content, form, working parts. Take as much information off the object as you can. Look at all the marks that you have made so far and pick your favourite three. Then pick your favourite one. Write about your selection. Pick one word that best represents what you like about your selection. Make three 3D objects based on your word and your mark. Pick your favourite. Repeat the exercise. Make 3 objects for the table (i) will hold 25ml of liquid and can pour, (ii) holds 50ml of liquid and can be lifted from the table to your mouth, (iii) holds 75ml of liquid and leaks.
See below for some of my results…
On the second day we met with David in groups of four – to have a chat about how we were getting on, and to ask any questions that we might have. My main interest was hearing his perspectives on the translation of a successful mock-up into something that might be ‘gallery ready’. I tend to get most excited about the creations that I have made quite quickly and spontaneously. The process of then trying to turn these into something more durable or wearable, or to remake them ‘properly’ without quick attachment solutions (eg, hot glue, masking tape) quickly destroys that fragile, unexpected beauty of unpremeditated action. Some of my favourite things from the exercises that we had been doing were my drawings – my eyes were closed so my brain couldn’t take over (something that Ruudt also talks about a lot). As soon as we started to try to work in 3D, then I could see my brain stepping in again – drawing me towards defaults of material choice, technique and form. David talked about letting each piece be what it is. Keep all your drawings and experiments. Keep making until you arrive at those that feel true to you. Who else is to say when a piece is finished? Does it matter that it can’t be worn? Does it matter that you can see the connections? It’s easy to tread the safe path of making work that meets the established criteria of what is good, or which meets the needs of more commercial imperatives. However, this is unlikely to be the path to true creative development. It takes confidence and courage to present something that might not meet these more established criteria, but is something that you truly believe in. And if I like my drawings then try to make in the same fashion.
And finally a few take home messages…
- Create briefs for yourself
- Collide materials – don’t be too precious about the joins/where they meet
- Do want you want to do for you and for your own reasons
- DO NOT compare yourself to others!!!!!
- Trust yourself, rely on yourself, believe in yourself
- Do not trust your friends for a truly honest critique
- Flick between words, objects, images. Go deeper to to understand why you are doing what you are doing. If you can’t figure out what interests you in a piece, then focus on what doesn’t interest you/what isn’t important.
- Any questions you might have about your work for someone else, are actually questions for yourself. Only you hold the answers.
Monday 14 September, 2015 – Avid opening + southern adventures
Its been another very busy week!
Avid opening – Handshake 2 Mentors & Mentees exhibition opened at Avid Gallery, Wellington on Tuesday 08. A wonderful turnout at the opening, and the work looked great. Work of all the mentors was in the downstairs gallery, and work of the mentees upstairs.
Kelly McDonald and I were interviewed by a Fairfax reporter about our work in the show along with our Handshake experiences. Resulting article can be viewed here. And you can hear fellow handshaker Vanessa Arthur and her mentor David Neale being interviewed on RadioNZ here.
Southern adventures – A few months ago someone purchased my Principia dome wall piece from The National gallery in Christchurch. They asked that the next time I was in Christchurch that I join them for dinner and help to install the work. We were all very happy with the result!
The south island landscapes feed my soul, so what a great excuse to make a weekend of it and take a trip into the mountains.
Popped in to see Caroline Billing at The National contemporary jewellery gallery too. Currently sharing a drawer with Warwick Freeman and Peter Bauhuis …definitely worth a photo!!!
Monday 07 September, 2015 – Radiant Pavilion, Melbourne, Australia
Radiant Pavilion was a week long celebration of contemporary jewellery practice, in Melbourne Australia. Running from Tuesday 01 to Sunday 06 September, the event encompassed over 50 events from national and international artists.
I flew over to join the rest of my OCCUPATION: Artist studio mates to install our gentle occupation of the Crossley Street shop fronts and street-scapes. The fact that the prestigious contemporary jewellery gallery – Gallery Funaki – happens to also reside in Crossley Street was just a coincidence. Honest (cough cough).
I was also lucky enough to have work (my Principia constellation installation) selected for the Radiant Pavilion curated show Carousel involving eleven emerging artists – half from Australia and the rest from other countries around the world.
Too many great exhibitions, openings and events to report on here – but if you are interested check out the Radiant Pavilion website for a an overview.
The adventure began early for the Carousel installation – cost prohibitive to fly rock over separately, so took it along for the ride as my travel companion. Was sure I could never find a rock this good in Australia!
Some of the other Carousel artists included…
Occupy Crossley Street
Lots of great non-jewellery activities to keep us all busy too of course. Other exhibition highlights included David Bowie at ACMI, and a selection of works from Catherine the Great’s collection housed at the Hermitage – exhibited at the NGV.
Monday 24 August, 2015 – Making progress
Made some good progress over the last few days on one of the six brooch backs – some technical challenges, but getting there. Will save the pic for later.
And have completed my first drawn, photographic and written documentation… Nine to go.
Thursday 20 August, 2015 – Catching up with Ruudt
First Skype chat with Ruudt in nearly 3months yesterday (last time we spoke was 03 June). The space in between was my doing – I didn’t feel like I had enough to share by early July, and then Ruudt was away on holidays and running workshops. It was great to see and talk to him again.
As I suspected might be the case, Ruudt was a lot less interested in the some of the pieces that I thought were most successful (the Elizabethan ruff, the tribal neckpiece, the coloured inner-sole compositions, and the pendant pieces made from boiled inners and stiffened fabric). While he said they were ok, he thought that they were a bit too girlie (but I am a girl I protested), pretty, easy, jewellery-esque, flat (the inner-sole compositions) and ‘commercial’. It’s all relative I guess! However, despite my protestations I do think he has a point. And I’ve come this far down the rabbit hole – might as well go all the way!!!
We talked more about the pieces that in his view had the greatest potential – those where the source shoe material was a lot less obvious, and the forms illogical. These were the six pieces under the 05 July entry, the tall free-standing piece (last image under 02 August), and possibly the stack of pointes (also under 02 August). He was also interested in my experiment with boiling the suede inners around a metal structure (09 August), and my attempt to make the inner-sole compositions more three dimensional (last images under 09 August).
I’ve now got a bunch of things I’m going to set my mind to over the coming period…
- Put great backs on the six pieces from 05 July
- Take the tall free-standing piece – photograph it, draw it, write about it. Then put all this aside and remake. Take the remade object and repeat the process. Do this ten times.
- Put a back on the original tall free-standing piece
- Try to resolve the 3D inner-sole piece
- Explore the potential of the suede inners over the metal structures
[Note – I’m certainly not giving up on the former pieces. I still really like them and intend to see them through – just not right now. In fact it’s one of the things I’ve really enjoyed about this process – lots of little avenues to come back to. Right now though I’ve got some more serious digging to do]
Sunday 16 August, 2015 – Experimentation continues
Intended to start resolving some of my compositions into wearable pieces. Unfortunately some of the fabrics were a bit to floppy to give the structure I wanted. So I started experimenting with fabric stiffener.
Stiffened and non-stiffened pieces – quite a difference!
These pieces when left to their own devices, dance and defy gravity together. A lovely translucency too…
Now that I have the structure that I wanted, perhaps a neckpiece? String made from ballet shoe laces…
These pieces combined some of the boiled suede inners, and some of the pre-formed then stiffened outers…
Sunday 09 August, 2015
Studio space in Trades Hall, Wellington. Love working here with the rest of the OCCUPATION: Artist crew.
Attempting to create order from chaos. Note: the Greek word ‘kosmos’ refers to jewellery, order AND the world/heavens. It all makes sense to me now!
Compositions from the boiled suede innersole liners…
Creating more material to work with. While I like the natural curls that happen from letting the pieces boil unfettered, I am keen to see what happens if I constrain them in a flat plane (to prevent the curl). The pieces in addition to shrinking, also harden considerably which creates some interesting potential.
In this piece I wrapped inners around a wire structure before boiling to see what would happen. A couple of the suede pieces came loose during the process. This one that remained is peeking around the corner…
Love the colour palette and compositions of these. I can possibly see a little of Sally Marsland‘s flat colour series, and maybe a little of David Neale‘s colour fold series (apologies for any offense caused from the comparisons), but a lot more …well… shoe!
I photographed this one against the background of one of my shoe landscapes (refer blog entry Friday 13 March). Very happy with the outcome.
And moving from 2D into 3D.
A bit easier to see from this angle (currently mocked up using foam blocks)
Do you see what I see? I suspect a good dose of imagination may be required, but the potential is there I am sure of it.
The three dimensionality is more easily seen from this angle…
Sunday 02 August, 2015
After all the craziness of the last few months, its been great to get back into the workshop again. Third Handshake show opens at Avid Gallery on 08 September. My intention is to show some of the same work that went to Sydney, which takes the pressure off somewhat. That gives me a good few months to get back into the making zone with the final Handshake show not until early December. I feel like I’m off to a good start. These are some of the results from the last few weeks…
A composition of what I feel are my three most successful works in progress (all made from ballet shoes)…
This one is made from the outer fabrics. It reminds me of an Elizabethan ruff. But worn and dirty. If you click on the image below (for a larger image) and look closely at the some of the calico pieces you can see some of the newspaper text showing through. Along with residues of other fabrics, glue and dirt.
This piece is made up of off cuts of inner soles threaded onto binding wire. Makes me think of some form of tribal adornment.
And there is something that appeals to me about this stack of ‘pointes’. I particularly love the newspaper image of the man and the woman peeking out of the top layer.
How did I get to here? Basically just sat down with a table full of shoes and deconstructed and constructed. My initial focus was on the inner soles. Every ballet shoe sole is made up of four key elements. The soft grey suede upper liner, a paper board layer, glued to a resin board, with a thick leather outer sole.
I did a bunch of experimenting to test the properties of the different materials and to see how they behaved when cut, sliced, bent, and boiled (the suede inners). Images of some of the results follow…
The below image shows what happens when you boil the suede uppers. I think I would have a got a more dramatic effect if I had boiled for longer. Will try that next.
I also attempted to make some form of construction from the cut up pieces. Was good to try, but I don’t love this piece. Feels a bit too controlled
Monday 20 July, 2015
I flew up to Auckland on Friday morning to install the work of our OCCUPATION: Artist crew (myself, Becky Bliss, Caroline Thomas, Kelly McDonald, Nadine Smith, Sarah Read, and Viv Atkinson) into Anna Miles Gallery.
Occupation: Artist is a Wellington-based group of contemporary jewellery-making warriors with a determination to create their art and get it out there. Occupy Anna is their guerrilla occupation of the premises of an Auckland art dealer whose view of art accommodates contemporary jewellery and object-making. Invading works press their noses against the glass, infest nooks and crannies, embed the fabric of the building, swing from the heights, and silently orbit the space. And those handbags and coats may not be what they seem…
Occupy Anna was one of a number of pop-up satellite shows installed to coincide with the opening of the Wunderruma exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery – which opened that same night.
The following fantastic installation images were taken by Samuel Harnett and have been used here by kind permission of Anna Miles.
Existing works installed in the gallery…
With a few discreet orbiting satellites…
And some glittering constellations…
Go to our OCCUPATION: Artist website to see the installed works of the rest of the group.
I also attended the opening of the Wunderruma show at the Auckland Art Gallery that evening. A wonderful event. The Auckland Art Gallery photographer, took lots of fantastic photos during the course of the evening. You can view these here.
The Jewellers of Greater Sandringham (Kristin D’Agostino, Sharon Fitness, Raewyn Walsh) published the latest hard copy edition of the Overview: Conversations about jewellery in Aotearoa, NZ magazine. Free to good homes at the Auckland Art Gallery.
This full page advert (a collaboration between Anna Miles and the Auckland Art Gallery) highlighting local must-visit galleries that showcase contemporary jewellery made innovative use of one of my brooches!
On the Saturday I spent a good part of the day hanging out with other jewellers checking out all the other satellite pop-up jewellery shows. Thanks yet again go to the Jewellers of Greater Sandringham for being the driving force behind making this happen. And check out their beautiful walking map!
I managed to get back to the Auckland Art Gallery late morning on the Sunday to have a more leisurely look around and to catch makers and Wunderruma curators Warwick Freeman and Karl Fritsch give a public tour of the show, in conversation with Director of the Dowse Art Museum, Courtenay Johnston.
Loved seeing my piece (entitled Under Construction, 2012) on the wall with 3 Pegs (Tom Kreisler) and untitled photograph (Giovanni Intra)…
Monday 13 July, 2015
Just back from four days in Sydney. Primary purpose for trip was opening of the second Handshake exhibition at Stanley Street Gallery, and attendance at the Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia (JMGA) conference.
Front entrance to Stanley Street Gallery…
First room on entering the gallery…
Left hand wall as walking through to the courtyard (Renee Bevan and Tineke Janson work on the walls)…
Right hand wall as walking through to the courtyard (Kelly McDonald, Bex Yeats, Vanessa Arthur, Lisa Higgins, Karren Dale work on the walls/tables)
Giving an impromptu speech at the opening launch on behalf of the Handshakers…
Sunday 05 July, 2015
First day back in the workshop on Handshake related activities for awhile. Warmed myself up with a bunch of new compositions…
…and all together
Thursday 25 June, 2015
Testing some new found photography skills…
Thursday 18 June, 2015
Invites for Stanley Street Gallery now in circulation. If you will be in Sydney between Wednesday 08 July and Saturday 01 August, then be sure to go check it out.
Monday 01 June, 2015
Work for Stanley Street Gallery now finished and photographed…
Sunday 24 May, 2015
The last time we spoke (05 May) I talked to Ruudt about the pieces I might submit for the Handshake2 Stanley Street Gallery exhibition.
After an initial chat, and review of some of the options, Ruudt suggested I look at pairings.
I have come up with a preferred set of three. A few rough images below…
In getting to this point, I remade the back of this brooch – much tidier and now in oxidised silver.
I also made some decisions about this neckpiece – attachments now also made from oxidised silver.
Here they all are together…
I still need to finish the shoelace piece (currently hot glued together), and to put backs on the pair to the right. Have made good progress on the silver, white and black piece. Not had a chance to think about the grubby pink one yet…
Sunday 17 May, 2015
Principia III now installed in the window of Bowen Galleries, Ghuznee Street, Wellington.
Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica often referred to as the Principia, is a work in three books by Sir Isaac Newton, first published in 1687. The Principia states Newton’s laws of motion, Newton’s law of universal gravitation, and a derivation of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. Principia is regarded as one of the most important works in the history of science.
This installation of necklaces and brooches takes it name from Isaac Newton’s publication. Principia was first shown at Bowen Galleries in May 2014. An expanded collection (Principia II) was shown at The National gallery, Christchurch in September 2014. Principia III represents the third ‘book’.
Thursday 07 May, 2015
So Ruudt was a lot less excited about my most recent exploration (see blog post below) than I was. “Everything was going so great, and now the brain starts to take control again!” I found the conversation about this quite challenging, because I really felt that I was at the beginning of something exciting. However, I do see his point, have taken a deep breath and made peace with the process again. That line of enquiry isn’t going anywhere, and can wait for another day.
Sunday 03 May, 2015
I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams. – W. B. Yeats
A few days ago I went back to these guys.
The following pieces (all made from old ballet shoes) are the result of some ideas that have been growing around them..
Saturday 02 May, 2015
I have decided to let my brain off its leash for a bit. These discretely place numbers and the ghostly text, have been giving me cause for thought.
Friday 01 May, 2015 – Reflections on the shoe
In my last Skype chat with Ruudt, he said that next time we spoke he would like to hear more about the shoe. Why was I working with it, what did it mean to me, and (given how different this work is to much of that which has come before) were the pieces I was creating ‘really me’?
I have just emailed him with the following response…
Why the shoe?
- To experiment with new ways of getting into a work
- To pick a starting point not tied up with a pre-conceived concept
- To be open to the ideas that might come, but not to be driven/owned by them
- To be more free, more spontaneous and to embrace the beauty of the imperfection
- To be less structural, less rigid, less driven by technical solutions
- To work with materials that I was unfamiliar with, that had a history, and that didn’t lend themselves to clean, tidy, structural forms
- To take some risks
The trigger to work with the shoe was a foot injury sustained while in the Netherlands on my way to meet you, and subsequent advice from my podiatrist to throw out all my old shoes. Working with these old shoes seemed like as good a place as any to start.
What does the shoe represent?
- A journey – both physical and metaphysical
- The shoe provides protection for the foot from the ground, but is also a barrier. It prevents connection between the human body and the earth.
- Over time, the weight of the body (gravity) wears the shoe thin. The body/foot fighting to make that body-earth connection?
- Function vs fashion
- Can represent comfort – protection, cushioning, support
- Can represent pain – imposed (eg, foot binding) or self-imposed (eg, high heels, ballet shoes)
Worn out shoes represent:
- A slice of someone’s life. The wear patterns of a shoe reflect the body/foot of the wearer. Where they have been. The terrain that they have walked on.
- The shoe once discarded retains the imprint/essence of the body. Both physical (eg, wear patterns, imprint of the foot) and less tangible (eg, smell)
The old deconstructed, reconstructed shoe as jewellery abstracted?
- Jewellery is generally defined through relationship to the body. In many cases the connection is obvious – an object that is (or can be) directly appended to the body. However, while jewellery can be a tangible object, it can also take the form of an idea. My current materials (from old shoes) have been formed through prolonged and direct contact with the body (the foot). While the individual’s physical presence is no longer there, their imprints and their odour cling on. Body and object together forever. Jewellery?
Is this shoe work really me?
- I have loved using deconstruction of the shoes as a method of creative discovery.
- I love the frayed, torn, distressed, dirty materials, the textures, and I have even grown to like the smell.
- I love the dirty, pale colour palettes of some of the materials. They have a dream-like quality to them.
- I love the hidden secrets (newspaper and text, stamped numbers, the pen marks made by the hand of the shoe-maker)
- I love the contradictions – the rusty tacks (nails) in the soles of the shoes that point up towards the foot.
- I love the signs left in the materials that hint at how they were constructed – loose threads, holes left by tacks and needles, rust marks, glue residue
- I have had numerous mini-breakthroughs through the course of the project where I have created something that I have felt a strong ‘heart’ connection with
- Wanting to challenge myself, and in the spirit of Handshake I have put these to the side and continued to push and play. This has also been really good, as it has taken me to exciting new places that I otherwise might never have gone
- I could never have ‘thought’ my way into any of these pieces. I only came to them through the process of doing for the sake of doing.
- While some are ‘jewellery’, many are not. This doesn’t matter to me.
- The breakthroughs have often taken the form of photography and object, and have some sort of poetic association for me. My ultimate aim is to transcend the shoe itself. Even if the piece still reads of a shoe, I want it to suggest something bigger. Something poetic. Something mysterious. Perhaps hint at a story.
- Over the last month or so, my focus has been to try to take some of my recent constructions and resolve them as jewellery. While some feel successful, often the process of trying to turn them into jewellery to suck the life out of them.
- Over the last couple of days, I have gone back to some of my favourites to give my brain more of a look in. A light touch – to see what paths this might open up for me. Remaining open to jewellery solutions, but not to be driven by them.
Sunday 26 April, 2015
Some more ‘compositions’…
Adding metal to the mix…
And a few more attempts at resolving pieces into ‘jewellery’…
This piece is made from old ballet slippers and ties…
Happy with this final result. Will probably remake in silver now that I know what I want to do …and put a pin on it. And take a better photo!
Sunday 24 April, 2015
Starting point for this session was these curled paper pieces, made up of close-up images of some of my shoe materials. The shapes were silhouettes some of my earlier shoe sculpture pieces. I wanted to try recreating them out of something more durable.
I went for aluminium as also nice and light. First step was to attempt to transfer the image on. Best I could come up with using home based techniques was decal transfer. Looked promising, but as soon as I started to saw out the shapes, the decal started to peel.
I cut my losses and peeled all the decal off again so that I was back to the bare metal and forged ahead regardless. First curving the metal…
Right at the beginning of the process (after first applying the decal), I had also painted the back of the aluminium sheet white. While the decal images were now gone, I still liked the contrast of the white and metal.
Friday 17 April, 2015
The back still needs some work. I would like to try to make a pin attachment that follows the circular line of the main structure (instead of two pins that run across in parallel). Not going to clean it up until I am confident that I have resolved it to my satisfaction. Looking forward to catching up with Ruudt tonight…
Sunday 12 April, 2015
Saturday 11 April, 2015
Feeling quite excited by these…
Monday 06 April, 2015
Note: clicking on any of the below images will open them up in a larger size
Spent much of the rest of the day dissecting shoes trying to find more interesting bits. Eventually went back to the ballet shoes. No shortage of material there. The less ‘shoe-like’ the better.
Rearranging pieces to combinations that appeal
Sunday 05 April, 2015
Make a shoe sculpture…
Unintentionally leave in sun. Watch it curl
Take images of close up surfaces and transfer onto metal (thin malleable aluminium).
Hot glue a bunch of inner sole/inner sole scraps together
Turn one of them into something wearable
Take punched holes from inner-sole…
Turn into ‘pearl’ necklace. Photograph next to another piece made from random scraps of long thin bits of fabric collected from deconstructed shoes.
Glue a whole lot of shoelaces together…
Photograph on a tall person
Sunday 22 March, 2015
A quick photo dump to capture recent process. I have started to collect bits of old shoes that I find on the street. This shoe was a few metres away from my doorstep one morning. I left it there for a day and a night, in case someone came back to claim it. No-one did.
In my last Skype with Ruudt we talked a lot about layers and layering. Initially in terms of work development, but sudden awareness of the layers (moving and still images, and text) that were building up on our respective screens as we talked, result in a swap of pictures.
We Skyped on the Wednesday night, and on the Thursday and Friday I had a couple of ‘shoe’ focused days in the workshop…
Step 1: Make a shoe from bits of old shoe. I tried to add other elements, but didn’t like the effect. The end product felt a bit too literal/obvious/forced. Also not solid/balanced enough to stand up on its own.
Step 2: Make a wire frame and sew bits of old shoe to the outside. Again felt too literal. I could also see it was going to be quite labour intensive, where I was wanting to work more quickly/freely. This was as far as I got.
Step 3: I made a wire frame replica. While still very literal, I liked the simplicity of it.
Instead of adding a whole lot of layers, I have gone and stripped them all away.
Step 4: A friend gave me his shoe, but didn’t want me to cut it up in case he found its pair. I made a wire frame shoe to complete the pair instead.
Step 5: I photographed the wire frame shoes onto enlarged photos of the black and white close-ups of some of my shoe parts. I liked the effect, and the fact that the wire shoes were ‘walking’ on landscapes made up of photographs of old shoe parts. Some interesting ideas here I think.
Step 6: I added a wire loop to the man shoe and photographed myself wearing it. If the shoe fits, wear it!
Step 7: I quickly and randomly glued bits of shoe-paper (inner soles) together – front and back image below.
Step 8: I scrunched up some of my close-up imagery and hot-glued them to random bits of old shoe.
Step 9: I photographed my ‘collection’ onto the enlarged black and white photos.
This whole last exercise (Step 7 and 8) was very fast – at the end of the day, when I felt like I was running out of steam and almost out of frustration. However, I found the resulting models quite interesting – especially when photographed on the black and white shoe ‘landscapes’
Sunday 15 March, 2015
Popped over to the Dowse Art Museum yesterday to see The Bold and the Beautiful exhibition. Pretty excited to see this little guy hanging out in such good company!
Friday 13 March, 2015 (Part II)
Where angels fear to tread
Since my last Skype with Ruudt, I have been almost fully occupied with Ben Lignel and Peter Bauhuis workshops, HS fundraising activities, working some extra days and weekends at MPI as a result of the Queensland Fruit Fly response in Auckland, and catching up on general life stuff that couldn’t be put off any longer. Things are starting to settle back down again now though, and this week I have managed to have a couple of productive days in the workshop. I started off trying to make some more shoe constructions, with remaining bits of my material. After a few hours of not really getting far, I deconstructed more shoes in the hope of uncovering new materials/components that might inspire. While a few bits and pieces came to the surface, I made no real progress worth sharing.
The warm day, the slightly musty aroma of old shoes/other peoples feet, and my ongoing musing over the relationship (or not) between what I am doing and jewellery sent me mind-wandering down this path… Jewellery is generally defined by it’s relationship to the body. In many cases the connection is obvious – an object that is (or can be) directly appended to the body. Sometimes this object is tangible, in other instances it may take the form of an idea. My current materials have all been formed through prolonged and direct contact with the body (the foot). While the individual’s physical presence is no longer there, their imprints and their odour cling on. Body and object together forever. Jewellery? I also had a bit of a play with the idea of physically highlighting elements of my existing pieces that I felt might be worth drawing attention to. All my efforts felt a bit forced, so I took a slightly different tack through photography. Some of the resulting images I did like.
This was followed by a brief foray into overlaying photographs with text and text spacers (some loose logic behind the shape and positioning)
However, my real break-through came this afternoon, when some of the textures and surfaces that I was looking at reminded me of some of the images from this wonderful book called This is Mars, published by the Aperture Foundation. All the black and white images in the book (see a few below) are of the surface of the planet Mars, taken by a camera known as HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment). This camera orbited Mars at a distance of between 250-350km. Each image represents a distance of 6km wide. Since sending back its first image in 2006, the HiRISE camera has taken more than 29,000 images, covering a mere 1.8% of the planet’s surface.
The first images at the beginning of today’s post are black and white close-ups of the soles and other parts of some of my shoes – in my view looking more like other worldly landscapes than many of the images in above book. The title of this post, “Where angels fear to tread” is a quotation from the English poet Alexander Pope’s An essay on criticism, 1709. The full quote is prefaced by the words “Where fools rush in…“. According to this website the phrase has come to mean that “the rash or inexperienced will attempt things that wiser people are more cautious of“. Noted!
Friday 13 March, 2015 (Part I)
In my last Skype with Ruudt I presented my translated ballet shoes. Ruudt liked them, going as far as calling them ‘poetic’. Given that Ruudt has challenged me to find a more ‘poetic way’, I felt quite chuffed by his response. We also discussed the pieces that I posted up on the blog on the 10th February. Ruudt said he also found them really interesting, and was curious to understand what it was that I loved about them so much. Also how I was feeling about making pieces that were such a deviation from my normal style and aesthetic. I found it quite hard to articulate this, other than to explain the feeling of peace in my gut when I looked at them. I also talked about the worn, distressed nature of the materials, the pale, pastel colour palette, the torn and frayed edges, the intriguing details (holes, rusted bent tacks, cracks and crevices, stitching, the patchy layering of fabric and fabric residues). All through natural wear and tear caused by the human body. We agreed that the least successful were the pieces that combined the more rigid structures – experiments to see what would happen if I attempted to combine some of my more traditional forms with my new. And also a response to the idea of a shoe providing elements of cushioning, protection and support – and an attempt to abstract some of these ideas into a new form. The more tent-like structure, worked better, and I said that I would look at other ways of making these more architectural forms but in a more subtle way – perhaps using less visible internal frames, or using the shoe materials themselves. I also introduced Ruudt to the work of Kim Pieters – a NZ artist whose work I like immensely. The first pieces of hers that I came across (a number of years ago) were her paintings on constructions of old recycled gib, exhibited at Bowen Galleries – pale greys, blues and pinks, scattered with tiny, fragile, dream-like scratchings.
She popped into my mind again recently as I was working away with my old shoes. Searching for some images and information to pass on to Ruudt, I stumbled on an article on Pieters most recent show at the Adam Art Gallery called What is a Life? The article begins with a quote from Michael Ondaatje in his novel In the Skin of a Lion – “Trust me, this will take time but there is order there, very faint, very human”. Some of the language that used to describe Pieters work also stood out for me. “The human breath between things”, “the precious and the fragile in the mundane”, ‘the biological fermentation of things”, “the surfaces feature pock marks where they have been ripped from their prior attachments”, “the industrial shifts into a human dream space, a screen upon which the ghostly remnants still drift”. These words resonated very strongly for me, both in relation to Pieters work, but also in the way I feel about some of my shoe constructions. If I could convey some of that same feeling/sense to others, then that would start to feel like success. I shared this article with Ruudt – highlighting some of the sentences I wanted to draw his attention to. In addition to the content, Ruudt also made an interesting connection between fragments of highlighted text, and the fragments of text that I had translated from my ballet shoes (both visually and contextually). He suggested I look at different ways to work with or feed off fragments of text, and/or directly highlighting elements of the actual pieces.
Sunday 22 February, 2015
Reflections on Peter Bauhuis workshop (Sat 14 – Wed 18 Feb)
Peter Bauhuis is a German jeweller, object maker, and teacher based in Munich and Florence.
On learning that Peter was travelling to Melbourne, Australia for the launch of his show Armillaria at Gallery Funaki, Fran Allison (Programme Leader Jewellery, Manakau School of Visual Arts), sought and gained funding from Creative New Zealand to bring him over the Tasman to New Zealand to hold a workshop for his fans here. Yay Fran! There were 15 of us on the workshop. During our time together we developed a series of works through individual and group exercises, created a history for them, and installed them for exhibition at Objectspace in a ‘museum of curiosities’ like format. The only preparation we were required to do in advance of the workshop, was to find and bring along a strange object wrapped up or hidden in a bag/box (don’t let anyone else see!). A list of the specific exercises (which we largely did working in groups of three) follows:
- Pass your secret strange objects on to the next group.
- Each take one of the objects your group has been given and (without showing the the object to anyone else) describe it in writing. Don’t use any identifying words such as ‘handle’, ‘wheel’, ‘screw’ etc. Pass your descriptions on to the next group.
- Take the written descriptions and each draw the object as you understand it. Pass your drawings on to the next group.
- Take either the drawing or the writing or both and make the three objects as you understand them. Pass these new objects onto the next group.
- Each person in each group to look at the collection of objects they have been given and describe the purpose and function of each. Everyone to present their interpretations of the objects to the wider group (much hilarity ensues!!). Compare to the original objects (more hilarity!!). Pass the objects onto the next group.
- Take the three objects your group has just been given and pretend you have just discovered them. In your group of three, develop a story around the history and relationship of these objects.
- Each person to make a new addition to the existing collection. Option to work alongside and discuss with the others in your group as you develop your piece.
- Find and document any on-line evidence that helps lend ‘truth’ to your collection of (now 6) pieces and their associated history.
- Find a way to present your objects and their history to an audience.
- Do a mock installation of the work, before transporting it to Objectspace and exhibiting it for real.
I had a lot of fun working with my scientific colleagues Dr Mrs Lucy Pierpoint and Emertius Professor Sharon Fitness. Through our investigations we made some remarkable discoveries. These discoveries led to the unveiling of the mysteries behind, and the connections between the ancient civilisation of Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle. We also came to the shocking realisation that the Australian TV series ‘The Days of Our Lives’ was not a harmless soap opera, but rather Atlantian propaganda. We discuss our work through interviews in the following documentary [click on image below].
Our finds were also presented at Objectspace, Auckland (19 – 28 February) along with other members of our umbrella organisation – the Foundation of Unfathomable and Notable Discoveries (F.O.U.N.D.).
A full list of the members of F.O.U.N.D including their field of scientific expertise follows:
- Professor Amelia Pascoe (Elusivology) PhD, MBChD, Psy.D
- Senior Research Fellow Andrea Daly (Constructology) PhD
- Dr Becky Bliss (Invisibiology) MA, Dip. VC, PhD (Hons)
- Ms Caroline Griffin (Audiologist) BVSAud
- Caroline Thomas (Imposterist) BSc
- Dr Dorothy Delatour (Machinistology) WBC (1st class honours), ITJ
- Dr Kristin D’Agostino Briologist with University of Cleveland Hopkins
- Professor Lisa Higgins (Contrastologist)
- Dr Mrs Lucy Pierpoint (Garbologist) PhD, BA, BSc, BVA
- Raewyn Walsh, Product Development, MBA (Nothingology), HB
- Rhiannon Leddra Master of Vagueness
- Senior Research Fellow Ross Malcolm (Rambology)
- Sarah Read (Serendipidist)
- Emeritus Professor Sharon Fitness (Wobbology)
- Shelley Norton, MBA (Plasticology)
Friday 13 February, 2015
Reflections on Benjamin Lignel masterclass (Sun 08 – Wed 11 Feb)
Benjamin Lignel is (among other things) a writer, curator, art historian, designer and jewellery-maker. Based in France he is the editor of Art Jewelry Forum and a member of Think Tank: A European Initiative for the Crafts. From Sunday 08 – Wednesday 11 February, Ben led the HS2 mentees in a masterclass designed to challenge and get us thinking about research, development, exhibition and curatorial elements of our respective practices.
At the end of the workshop, we were asked to summarise our experiences… I found the whole workshop with each of the 4 key components, invaluable and inspirational. The workshop was pitched in a way that we could use the exercises and feed our learning directly back into our practice. Benjamin was an excellent presenter and actively encouraged group discussion, meaning that we also learned a lot from each other. He was very patient and gave his full attention to each and every participant. His own insights were directly on the mark and demonstrated his extensive knowledge of the field and beyond. He has a great sense of humour, and was very approachable. Each day fed directly into the next, making the workshop as a whole feel very cohesive. Each of the topics were incredibly helpful for my practice, albeit in different ways. Day 1 – Hunting and Gathering. I am really curious about the creative process and love to explore different ways into a work. However, one of the things I have often found challenging, is articulating a guiding ‘question’. The first days group discussions about research, questions, enquiries and practical exercises to get us to think about and test what it was that we were doing and wanting to do was spot on. I worked with some of my recent shoe constructions asking myself questions about their relationship to the body, intended function, and the importance (or not) of wearability.
Day 2 – Unpacking, repacking. Having spent some time reflecting on our personal intentions with our work the day before, the exercises on Day 2 to get ‘cold readings’ from those less familiar with our works was incredibly insightful. The associated discussions with our ‘cold reader’ to understand how they came to their personal interpretations, including their thoughts on options for further developing the work, opened many interesting doors for further exploration. For these exercises I paired up first with Renee, then with Raewyn. Through working with Renee it became apparent how different a reading you get from looking at one work on its own, compared to as a collection – creating significant implications for decisions on how the work is ultimately displayed. Raewyn after looking at my ballet shoes and text, suggested I read Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being” – about a woman writer who discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox containing the diary of a Japanese tennager. Upon reading the diary she becomes drawn into the mystery of the girls fate. I’m reading this now.
Day 3 – Curation & Exhibition (en solitaire). Pushing the ways that I think about installing my work is something that I am specifically seeking through participation in Handshake2. Having to pick a work (or series of works) and really think about ways in which to best present it, to give a target audience the intended experience was very helpful, and I learnt as much from listening to the thought processes and ideas generated by others in the group for their own works. I focused on my ballet shoes/text. As I don’t fully understand the work myself yet, defining my intended audience and articulating the experience that I want them to have of the work was a little challenging. However, I did come away from the session with a much stronger sense of ways in which to frame my thoughts around both exhibition and installation – for when I (and the work) is ready.
Day 4 – Curation and Exhibition (working for others). I partnered up with Kelly for this exercise, where we had to develop a curatorial pitch for a show in an assigned gallery. Kelly and I worked with Gallery S O in London. We cheated a little, in that we decided that we would be curating an exhibition of our own works. I chose to base my contribution to the show around a piece I made while still studying at Whitireia – a large sewn leather piece – which I love, but that as yet has not had a public viewing. One of the stand out things we took away from this day was how much you can actually achieve in a very short time if you set your mind to it, and how much easier things are with two heads as opposed to one. It was also really interesting to see how works which were actually quite different from each other (mine and Kelly’s) could be elevated in new and unexpected ways when in combination. We had a lot of fun with this exercise, bounced off each other really well, and by the end of the day felt very inspired to turn this fictional 2-person show into reality!
Thursday 12 February, 2015
Reflections on Jewelcamp2 (Sat 07 Feb)
Jewelcamp1 was held at the beginning of the Handshake2 programme back in April 2013. In this first full gathering of the HS2 mentees, we got to meet each other, learn a little bit about each others practices, and what it was that we were all hoping to get out of the programme. This second gathering (Saturday 07 February) was a chance to report back on how things were going for us all, developments in our practice, challenges, our reflections on the blog, and goals for 2015. We were each to do this through a 7minute presentation. You can see mine here. Guest attendees included Ben Lignel, Justine Olsen (curator Decorative Art & Design, Te Papa), artists Gabby O’Connor and Vivien Atkinson, and ex-Handshakers Sarah Read and Neke Moa. At the end of each presentation there were 3minutes for questions. The key observation made in response to my talk was the very different approach, style and aesthetic that I was exploring through Handshake as compared to my previous work. People were curious as to how I was able to balance/juggle these different ways of working, and whether this recent work represented a permanent shift, a side exploration, or something that I wanted to eventually merge with my other work. In reply, I talked about being very open as to where things end up, of liking the idea of being able to work in different ways (I don’t want to make it easy for people to label, or put in a box the type of work that I produce), and the appeal of being able to take some of this freer, less ‘precise’ approach and applying it to my more ‘ideas-based’ practice. I also talked about the brain-juggle that I already do through having a creative arts practice and (paid) logic-based work (I work part-time as a business analyst), and how I already have to switch my brain into quite different modes to accommodate each of these. While there are both pros and cons associated with this, overall I feel like the constant working of both left and right-brain muscles is advantageous to both activities. I hope that the same might be true for these different facets of my creative practice. Another question was around how directional Ruudt is in terms of our mentor-mentee relationship. I talked about the pattern that we have settled into, whereby we schedule an approx. monthly Skype. In between times, I work away in the background, letting Ruudt know when I had posted something up on the blog. Ruudt will often come back with a question, or a brief observation which generally proves very useful in terms of broadening my perspectives/approaches to things. Where I have a specific question, I may send a direct email with a bit of an explanation as to where my question has come from, including my thoughts around possible answers/resolutions. Ruudt may then come back with more questions or where he has a strong opinion on something he will state this. Our Skype chats are a more of a two-way discussion, around where I am at, my thoughts on next steps, and any observations or suggestions he might have. This seems to work really well for both of us.
Wednesday 11 February, 2015
Tuesday 10 February, 2015
Just about to head off to Day 3 of Masterclass with Benjamin Lignel. Having a fantastic time, and much to consider and digest. Will report back on reflections in upcoming posts, but quickly throwing up some recent mock-ups in preparation for my chat with Ruudt tonight. All 3D compositions made from bits of old deconstructed shoe. Not great photos – taken very quickly last night and this morning with a point-and-shoot, but something at least. I’m loving the frayed colours and textures and residues and dirt. Also the spontaneity that can result from working with low-tech (stitching, hot-glue, masking tape) solutions. The resulting pieces are quite beautiful to me.
Friday 06 February, 2015
Order and Chaos…
Source of image here
Wednesday 04 February, 2015
Part I – Secret messages
It appeals to me that dancers from the Royal New Zealand Ballet have been performing with these little snippets of stories tucked so close to their feet. I also love the winding journey that these shoes have taken – starting with the craftsperson in Thailand, then manipulated/distressed by the dancer before being worn/performed in, then deconstructed by me, then travelling south to the very accommodating translator who in order to get the best possible job done took them on a little side journey to a Thai buddhist monk at the local temple. The translator also informed me that ‘Mr Samak Sundaravej’ mentioned in ballet shoe number 5, was the prime minister of Thailand in 2008. Mr Samak was in power for eight months which narrows down the time when the shoe was actually made. Before becoming prime minister he was best known to many Thais for the cooking show he hosted for seven years, called “Tasting and Complaining”. Mr Samak, known for his aggressive, extreme-right politics, died in 2009. The translator forwarded me a copy of a newspaper article announcing his death, and summarising his life and career.
Part II – The revolt of the peasants
The following information has been gathered from – Ball, P. (2006). The Devil’s Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science. New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Chapter 7, pp 123-136. In 1524 a revolt that became known as the Peasants’ war began in Switzerland, travelling quickly through southern Germany. The peasants’ (a traditional class of farmers) were reacting to exorbitant rents and duties imposed by landlords and were seeking a restructuring of society that gave them more rights, including greater influence over the granting of lordships. The revolutionaries, fighting for their cause under the banner of a shoe, formed a violent mob that began to terrorise, rob and kill the rich. The revolution was short lived and bought to a halt in 1525 by armed forces bought together by the lords and barons. Tens of thousands of peasants were killed, with their leaders captured and brutally tortured. One method of torture included the ripping out of people’s tongues… Revolt of the peasants I
Revolt of the peasants II
Revolt of the peasants III
Part III – Slippers
A few years ago a friend put new carpet down in her home. This seemed like a good time to put in place a “no shoes in the house” policy. To this end, she went on line and bought herself a pair of beautiful, grey, Polish-made, felted slippers. The slippers served her very well for many years, until eventually they became so stretched that they were no longer wearable. However, the slippers have a lot more to offer yet, in the way of comfort and protection… Need to come across more broad-shouldered/powerful than you feel?
Want to wear a brooch, but concerned about the damage it might cause to your clothes?
Protecting the family jewels?
I have worn these cuffs out a few times, and received a number of admiring comments followed by a request for closer inspection. The realisation that they have been made from old worn slippers that have come into contact with someones feet, has had an immediate, dramatic and quite amusing repellent effect.
Sunday 01 February, 2015
Classic children’s stories that involve shoes:
- The old woman that lived in a shoe (and had so many children she didn’t know what to do)
- Cinderella (the glass slipper that wins her a prince, and that her ugly step-sisters desperately try to squeeze their feet into)
- Wizard of Oz (Dorothy’s magic shoes – a gift from the good witch of the north – that with three clicks of a heel will take her back home to Kansas)
- Puss in Boots (a cat who in exchange for a pair of boots, wins the hand of a princess for his master)
- Seven League boots (featured in European folklore, these boots allow their wearer to take steps of seven leagues)
- The 12 dancing princesses of the Grimm Brothers (the shoes of 12 princess-sisters are mysteriously worn-out each morning, as if they have been dancing all night. An old soldier discovers their secret and gets to marry the eldest sister to become heir to the throne)
- The elves and the shoe-maker – also the Grimm Brothers (elves secretly make shoes in the night for a poor shoe-maker, until the shoe-maker and his wife make clothes for the elves who are then released from their obligation)
- The red shoes by Hans Christian Andersen (a vain girl wears a pair of red shoes that dance her to death)
Monday 26 January, 2015
Saturday 24 January, 2015
A quick retrospective of the last two months activities, since the first Handshake show opened at Toi Poneke. I’ve had a big push in December and the latter half of January catching up (and attempting to get ahead of) myself in order to start 2015 with a clean slate. My main focus has been on in fulfilling a couple of commissions that came in as a result of The National show, and getting the pieces made for a variation of the constellation ‘star chart’ to be installed into the Bowen Galleries window in June. This was interspersed with:
- a long weekend to Melbourne, Australia in early December – catching up with special friends, visiting galleries, wandering the streets, and just generally soaking up the city. The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the NGV, Gallery Funaki, Pieces of Eight, Eg et al, and The Big Design Market at the Royal Exhibition Building, were some of the cultural highlights. So great to hook up and hang out with Vanessa (fellow Handshaker) and Sophie (Whitireia study buddy who now works for Lucy Folk) along the way; and
- a three week Christmas/New Year summer break(!) spent down south with Christchurch friends and family, road-tripping in a pop-up camper/trailer, and reconnecting with some of my favourite places. A few photos follow. What’s not to love about the South Island.
I arrived back to Wellington on the 8th January, and to my job at the Ministry on 12th. Since then, in addition to catch-up workshop time (as described above), I have been working with the Wellington Handshake crew to organise a fundraising pin-swap. Proceeds go to help offset mentee costs (eg, travel, accommodation) associated with participation in the Handshake programme. Invite follows:
For any Wellington readers – it’s not too late to buy a ticket! Just head along to the fundraiser shop for more details and to secure your place. PLUS I’ve also started to prepare for our second jewel camp (07 February) and Masterclass with Benjamin Lignel (08 – 11 February). Lots of ‘homework’ for these, but all useful activities to support reflection and to provide a platform for moving forward. Assignments include:
- A seven minute presentation reflecting on our experiences of Handshake so far (Jewel Camp)
- A three minute presentation/pitch of a recent key work of ours (Masterclass)
- Images of three key works that we think represent our practice (Masterclass)
- A visual presentation (A4 paper) of between 10-30 finished works, fully captioned (Masterclass)
- A two-page detailed report on an assigned gallery space – I have Gallery So, London (Masterclass)
- Presentation of a photo that we would really like to have been part of, including reasons why (Masterclass)
- Collection of random thoughts, ideas, images that capture our ‘inattention’ over the period of a week (Masterclass)
- Collation of a bunch of finished and unfinished works to take along to the workshop (Masterclass)
And finally (a little bit separate from Handshake), I have developed a two-year plan for my creative practice. This was a commitment that each of our Occupation: Artist crew made to each other. At each meeting over the last few months, we have presented our individual plans to the others. In part, to help give us the incentive to do it. In part, to make it real and to have others to help hold ourselves account. It was my turn last week. Really good to sit down and think about what it is that I really want from my practice, and to develop a (hopefully realistic) plan in which to help to bring it about. Next Skype chat scheduled with Ruudt for Friday evening 06 Feb (NZ time)/Saturday morning (Dutch time).
Friday 19 December, 2014
A nice mention of the Handshake project, including my contribution to the Toi Poneke show in art commentator, Mark Amery’s 17 December write up in the Big Idea on “what he saw, and didn’t in 2014 in the visual arts”
Also in the 11 December, Circuit Cast podcast discussing memorable exhibitions of 2014 – at around 12minutes 50seconds
Sunday 23 November, 2014
Friday 21 November – exhibition at Toi Poneke opens. Installation images and a couple of close ups follow…
Untitled – fabric, newspaper, thread My journey to contemporary jewellery has been winding, scenic and rewarding. My adventures, a rich source of inspiration. I have terrible memory for facts and figures, but I think a lot, love a quirky story, and a good technical challenge. Small details, contradictions and surprises are things I hold dear. Through Handshake I am exploring new ways. Ruudt is my conspirator. Don’t make beautiful things he says. Be less rational he says. Embrace chaos he says. OK.
Friday 14 November, 2014
This piece from a few weeks back, made me think of ballet shoes …the colour, the worn out fabric in the toe.
I mentioned this during a catch up with my Occupation: Artist studio mates, and Kelly (also a Handshaker) suggested I talk to her friend Fiona who works for the Royal New Zealand Ballet company. Apparently the dancers go through their shoes at a great rate of knots. Four days later …voila!!!
Feeling quite indebted. The shoes are such beautiful, evocative things. They are beautifully made (its hard work deconstructing a ballet shoe!), and full of hidden secrets. I understand that most of the shoes used by the Royal New Zealand Ballet are made in England or Thailand. Check out this YouTube clip to see how they make them in the London factory – it’s a real craft. Lots of thoughts going through my head right now, and finding it quite hard to put the brain-brakes on! In another strange, yet glorious twist of fate… Yesterday I went to go and have an ultrasound on my feet (three months later they are still giving me trouble). While my ankle has settled, I have had continued residual pain in my toes – at the joint where they connect with my foot. The woman who was taking the x-ray looked at the images and told me that the injury (inflamation and fluid build up around the joints) was something that is quite commonly seen in ballerinas! I think she was a bit taken aback at my exclamation of delight. When I explained why, she very kindly let me take a photo of the screen…
I can quite safely say that it isn’t my ballet dancing days that are to blame. I did do ballet as a child, but my dreams of being a star were dashed when I failed my Grade 3 exam. Instead, the highlight of my career was partaking in a ballet recital at the age of 9, filling the role of a duck.
Thursday 13 November, 2014
Yellow shoe. Blue shoe.
Also my plan for the Toi exhibition has changed…
Saturday 08 November, 2014
Lots of great contemporary jewellery related articles also in this issue, including a lovely interview with Pauline Bern (p90), a piece by Damien Skinner honouring the 40th anniversary of Fingers contemporary jewellery gallery in Auckland (p112), and a item promoting Handshake 2 and our first show at Toi Poneke that opens on 21 November (p48).
Friday 07 November, 2014
Ruudt cautions me not to put things in frames “don’t make it nicer than it is, it looks like you want to turn it in to art”. OK. No more framing! This week, having fun with a boot. The heels cause a mind wander to Man Ray, The Gift… And from a boot to a yellow shoe.
Friday 31 October, 2014
Starting to have fun now…
Thursday 23 October, 2014
Carrying on, carrying on. In response to my first offering, Ruudt reminded me not to think “toooooooo” much. Only one workshop day since (see documented record at the end of this post). However, I have been reading (and sorry Ruudt) …thinking. Books (real ones!) that I have been dipping into.
- Splendid Slippers: a thousand years of an erotic tradition, by Beverley Jackson
- Introducing chaos, by Ziuddin Sardar & Iwona Abrams
- The Tao of Chaos: essence and the enneagram, by Stephen Wolinsky
Also done a bit of internet reading on chaos and creativity. The article on the controlled chaos of creativity from the Scientific American blog was my top pick. Splendid slippers is an eye-opening exploration of the facts and fiction surrounding the historical chinese practice of foot binding. Staggering to learn that this was an accepted part of life for women for over 1000 years …and impossible to comprehend what the process must have been like to go through.
And the reading around chaos? “Embrace chaos” is one of the challenges that Ruudt has thrown to me – and the Stephen Wolinsky book a recommendation. My layman’s understanding (it gets way too complicated too quickly for me to grasp it on any deeper level) of chaos and chaos theory, is that small disturbances in a simple system can amplify over time (ripple effect) to create great disorder (or chaos) …but that over even more time, a new order will emerge. Weather patterns are an example, also creation of the universe. Stephen Wolinsky proposes a link between quantum physics, chaos theory and human psychology – suggesting that rather than resisting and attempting to control chaos in our lives, we should embrace it with the knowledge that a deeper and more subtle order will naturally emerge over time. “The way out of chaos is through it” The article on chaos and creativity suggests a link between the two, including a middle ground. The author referred to word association experiments used to investigate creativity, and that found that creative people made freer and broader associations between ‘unrelated’ words and ideas. That is, an ability to create some form of order from chaos. One investigation looked at word use and associations in poems compared to prose (see examples below).
The author finished off with the observation that mental processes that are too controlled are rigid and colourless, mental processes that are pure chaos are just bizarre, but that we owe some of the greatest inventions of all times to mental processes that are both controlled and chaotic. Hooray! Seems like there is room for both. ———– In terms of responses to my shoes – once people have got past “what has this got to do with jewellery?” then we have some clear winners. Part I – the shrunken shoe, Part II – image number 5. ———– And in other news, I have formulated a plan for the Toi exhibition… ————
Sunday 12 October, 2014
Sunday 05 October, 2014
Step 1: Clean workspace …and house. Don’t forget to dust and mop under the bed, fix any broken holes in your shower curtain, and sort through all your old clothes.
Friday 03 October, 2014
I had a great chat with Ruudt last night.
The plan of attack that I sent through prior to our Skype formed the basis of our discussion. In it, I had talked about the things that I enjoy about my current practice:
- Can be appreciated on different levels – form and/or ideas
- People can generally understand or relate to the ideas that sit behind the work
- Connection with the sciences
- While fairly light hearted, the work often hints at more serious subjects
- Holds surprises
- Aspires to be well-crafted
- Can sometimes be a bit ambiguous (object or adornment or both?)
And the things that I wanted to explore through Handshake, including:
- Letting go of control a bit more
- Experimenting more with abstraction of form and ideas
- Being more adventurous in the way I use material, colour and scale
- Exploring different approaches to, and directions of research
- Pushing the ways in which I present my work through installation and exhibition support material
In previous conversations Ruudt had also challenged me to be less ‘rational’ (perhaps easier said than done!), and talked about more intangible concepts – he used words like “emotional womb”, “discover no-where land”, “the poetic way”. I’m definitely up for the challenge, but the big question, is where to start… One of the hardest parts for me is at the beginning of a new project when I feel like I am starting from a blank slate. That is, before I have hooked into that initial, idea, image, material, form or process that ignites that excitement, drive and motivation, and especially when coupled with tight timeframes and looming public exhibition. To help get over this hump, I had outlined a bit of a strategy. It included the following:
- Treat the whole exercise of developing work for the first Handshake show as an experiment, incorporating some of the techniques introduced to us at FACENOW (eg, starting the making day with half an hour meditation and blind drawing) – let’s test them out and see how they work!
- A long list of possible starting points including material exploration, setting constraints (eg, using only low tech solutions), finding interesting images and using these as a starting point for abstraction of forms, working with my existing forms but using different materials that won’t behave as I want them to, doing things in the exact opposite way to which it first occurs to me, and deconstructing all my shoes (more on this later).
- I also talked about clearly documenting (photography and writing) each day’s activities, spending up to an hour each day reading and researching (looking at pictures counts!), and updating the Handshake blog once a week.
Easy peasy (cough cough). So what was Ruudt’s response to all this? In a nutshell, he was fully supportive of my proposal (see previous post) to use the first two Handshake shows as points along the continuum to the final show in Auckland, next November, and thought my shoe idea could be a great way to begin to break habits. He also made the following comments:
- Handshake shouldn’t be about making nice shows, but about finding new ways.
- He challenged me to work as if there was no first exhibition – continue to work away freely, with no judgment right up to the end. “If you want to work more freely, you can’t be worrying about deadlines. That will never work”.
- For the first few weeks, he suggested I focus solely (excuse the pun) on deconstruction of the shoes – no reconstruction, no making of ready objects – keeping an eye out for any gifts they may present along the way.
- He likened the process of me deconstructing my shoes to reversing my making process and even to deconstructing myself (yikes, here’s hoping I can find a way to put myself back together again at the other end).
By the end of our conversation I felt quite excited. [I do also confess to waking in the middle of the night with a slightly panicky feeling, but pleased to say that by morning it had subsided again somewhat] And more on the shoes: Two days after arriving to the Netherlands, and following a couple of full days pounding the pavement, my right foot started to give me a lot of pain. Fortunately Amsterdam is made for bikes, so I pedalled around for the remainder of my time there, and during FACENOW I hobbled around with a stick and kept my foot elevated as much as possible. On returning to New Zealand I started going to a podiatrist. The problem is partly genetics (the physical construction of my feet is a gift from my father), but also some serious muscle imbalance developed over years of compensation, …and my shoes. I love the shoes that I have and hate shoe shopping, so all my shoes are old, are on their 4th or 5th resoles, and apparently no longer provide my feet the cushioning and support that they need. I’ve been told that the shoes must go. It’s just a matter of how… Postscript: At the end of FACENOW Ruudt made me shake hands on showing work in the first show that may not meet my perceived criteria of resolved and polished work – celebrating those ‘imperfections’ and countering risks of overworking pieces. It seems I may be on a path to holding up my end of the bargain. Worst case scenario is that I have to present something that feels like a poor reflection of what I believe I am capable of. On the bright side, no-one will have died and there’s no question that for better or for worse I will have learnt some stuff a long the way. My great hope though, is that along the way I’ll have some amazing creative breakthrough!
Thursday 02 October, 2014
Now turning my head to the first Handshake show, opening in Wellington on Friday 21 November. A few days ago, we received an email reminding us that the exhibition date is fast looming with a request for photos of our works in progress, including any associated writing. A little bit frightening, given that I haven’t actually started yet! Today my focus has been on drafting up a plan of attack, which I have shared with Ruudt in preparation for our Skype chat tonight. In it, I propose to start work on a single new body of work, to be developed over the course of the coming year in time for the final show in Auckland, in November 2015. The idea being to use the first two shows as an opportunity to present where I am at in the process, at that particular point in time. I also talked about pushing my comfort zones in terms of the way I usually work – another slightly scary prospect. However, I figure that Handshake presents a fantastic opportunity, in a fairly safe environment in which to do this.
Tuesday 30 September, 2014
OK, time to start playing catch up! My big focus over the last few weeks has been on preparing for my show at The National gallery in Christchurch.
I drove down to Christchurch from Wellington with my folks (who had been up visiting for the week) on the Wednesday, and spent a fairly leisurely Thursday and Friday setting up the show with Caroline Billing, gallery Director. I never knew installation could be so much fun. I had printed up a big giant vinyl black spot (hole?) on which to display some of the pieces. The effect on the wall was stunning and inspired many photo shoots … and even some interpretive dance moves from Sharnae of the gallery next door – skillfully captured by Caroline on her ever-ready iPad. Seemed a real shame to have to add the jewellery to it. Still needs must.
One of my favourite moments during the opening, was speaking to a close friend who is quite familiar with my work. She had been at the gallery for awhile and was in conversation with other friends. When I joined in on the conversation, one of the first things she asked was ‘are any of these pieces actually wearable?’. They had all thought that the works were straight wall works and/or sculptural objects. The subsequent tour around gallery and the grins of appreciation, when I turned pieces over to show the backs, or dismantled the wearable components from their stands was a real highlight. Photos of the individual pieces are now up on my website which you can view here
Sunday 14 September, 2014
Ruudt and I were both interviewed a few weeks back for a short story on Radio New Zealand about Handshake. While the interview felt fine at the time, as the weeks passed I became more and more nervous about what I might have said, and how it might have come across. Turned out ok though I think… Link to the podcast here
Tuesday 09 September, 2014
I’ve been back from the Netherlands now for two weeks. Ruudt asked me to write some reflections on the FACENOW workshop for his website …and to post on this blog (he has challenged me to blog more!). Here tis… I travelled from New Zealand to Ravenstein via plane, train and automobile – converging with nine others who wound their way from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, and the United States. Each of us laden with a vegetarian recipe, hand tools, pens, pencils, paint, fabric, other materials and pre-work shop assignments. Destination: An ancient village in the countryside, windmills, canals, grass paddocks, horses, pigs, goats, cows, chickens, and turkeys, corn fields, rustic bicycles, a large farmhouse, a giant radio tower, a large open plan converted barn studio, lots of sun …and occasional rain thundering on a tin roof. Destination: Meditation, blind drawing, collage, material exploration, scientific experimentation, film making, face painting, work construction, destruction and reconstruction, ritualistic work burning, mark making, mask making, ‘jewel’ making, aerial lantern decoration and ceremonial release, nature walks and bicycle rides, outdoor communal culinary feasts, conversation, play, enquiry, laughter and tears. Destination: FACENOW, Ruudt Peters and Estela Saez. Ruudt talks about good art being made up of three critical elements – the belly, the brain and the heart. In his opinion, a work must have a foundation of at least two of these and he firmly believes that when it comes to creativity, the belly is a much better brain. Ruudt and Estela developed FACENOW from this starting point. Putting technical learning and conceptual development to the side, FACENOW was comprised of a wide-ranging series of exercises to help us activate the belly and to disengage the brain. We were challenged and supported to immerse ourselves in the ‘now’, to let go of control, to trust in the process, to reconnect with our inner child, to remove judgement, and to apply complete focus and dedication to every task at hand. We made a diverse group –different ages, cultures, personal histories, academic training, creative approaches, styles, and aesthetics. Seeing how different people approached the same tasks to produce such a broad array of outputs was both insightful and inspiring. In fact, working together and learning from each other became a significant part of the process. Making new friends and extending our support networks was a wonderful bonus of this way of working. Ruudt was also incredibly insightful and very quickly honed into the core of each individual’s strengths, challenges and development opportunities. Almost eerily so – more than once his observations stopped me in my tracks. My brain loves to get a look in, I like to have a plan, to be in control, and to problem solve. However, I also love those moments when my brain shuts down and magic just happens. I find it easy to get stranded between these left and right brain states and over recent years have become very curious about bridges. I hoped FACENOW might help me with this, and I feel sure that it has. I left the Netherlands armed with a long list of creative insights – both at a general level and in relation to my own creative practice and process. I also feel like I have been armed with a broad range of practical techniques for approaching my work from different perspectives and to help break through creative walls. I am now very much looking forward to integrating these into my practice and to seeing what comes.
Thursday 17 July, 2014 (Part II)
I realise I have been a bit remiss about reporting back on my first conversation with Ruudt. I prepared for the meeting by sending images and a brief summary of my work, and some different ideas for installation that I was considering. A brief summary of our discussion points follow:
- He said he really liked my work and the different elements. However, based on the information I had sent him, he was concerned I risked jamming in too much in an attempt to make sure the audience ‘got’ my ideas. He challenged me to pare things back, to let go of control, and to create sufficient space to enable people to have a ‘belly’ reaction as a result of experiencing the work. Other elements could easily form the basis of a whole new show
- I had shared images of rocks that I had collected because they reminded me of planetary surfaces and had been thinking of how I might incorporate them as part of the installation. Ruudt really liked the rocks and saw some really nice connections with my themes. Rocks are part of the universe, they come from inside the earth, they are solid and heavy contrasting nicely with the weightlessness of outer space, also macro versus micro universes. However, he cautioned about displaying them too closely to the works themselves as they could easily compete with and/or ‘earth’ pieces that to me spoke about space and weightlessness.
- We also talked a lot about ways to create a sense of space in the space – both physical and mental
This conversation was incredibly helpful in terms of solidifying what it was that I wanted to show and how I wanted to show it. You can see the final result below. I felt very happy with it all – also people’s responses to it. You can see close-up images of the individual works here. Ruudt and I have had one other Skype chat since then (mid-June). I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work to do and the time available in which to do it and shared my proposed plan of attack. He responded almost immediately via email with a set of comments and questions for me to consider. My default approach to the problem and his comments were pretty consistent with the things we had discussed earlier. Be wary of trying to present too much, ‘you are afraid to be misunderstood’, less is more in this context, be clear (at least in your own mind) about what it is you want to tell your audience, and think about the angle from which you want to show your work. The process of thinking about and responding to Ruudt’s questions – which we followed up on with a quick Skype chat – worked wonders, and got me to a point where I was able to get back out of my head, knuckle down and start to enjoy the process again. The almost repetitious nature of elements of our conversation was also in itself insightful. Ruudt is not the first person to have challenged me on some of these things, which definitely helps to cement for me the parts of my practice that I think would be good to focus on.
Thursday 17 July, 2014 (Part I)
So I’ve not quite finished all my work for The National, but I certainly feel like I’m on the homeward stretch. For now though its time to put that aside and to begin preparation for the workshop I will be attending in the Netherlands – led by Ruudt Peters and Estela Saez. Yes. I am feeling just a little excited. I fly out from New Zealand this coming Wednesday 23 July at the grand old time of 645am and arrive in Amsterdam 35hours later at 830am on the Thursday. At 5pm that same day I will make my way to Ruudt’s studio in Amsterdam for a chat, a work show and tell, and a bite to eat. This is most definitely an opportunity I don’t want to waste, so I am currently working through my travel sleep/wake strategy to ensure that I am still able to string some coherent sentences together! It sounds like there could be up to twelve of us on the workshop which runs from Monday 28th July until Saturday 02 August. While Ruudt rightly wants to keep the workshop separate from Handshake, for me this feels like the true beginning. And the pre-workshop assignment? Key elements follow:
- Identify my personal colour – and take lots of materials, paints, pens, pencils in this colour
- Identify my hero/idol – take along video footage and a portrait image of this person
- Create and make my alter ego – any material, a minimum of 30 x15cm
- Create a powerpoint of my recent work
- Select a vegetarian recipe
We are under strict instructions not to pre-share the results of our assignment with anyone else on the workshop, so I’ll keep this to myself for now. However, I will share my recipe. Ottolinghi’s fried butter beans, with feta, sorrel and sumac. It’s delicious. Just hoping I’ll be able to find some sumac…
Thursday 10 July, 2014
- 26 -27 April – Handshake2 kicks off with ‘jewel camp’ weekend
- 26 May – 14 June – solo show, Bowen Galleries (Wellington)
- 21 June – opening of Wunderruma at the Dowse Art Museum
- 23 July – 13 August – Netherlands (Ruudt workshop) and Berlin
- 26 September – solo show, The National (Christchurch)
- 21 November – first Handshake2 group show (Wellington)
- Part-time business analyst for the Ministry for Primary Industries
These are the big rocks that guide my life in 2014. I had my first skype chat with Ruudt in early May. A warm, easy, stimulating, inspiring conversation. We agreed that for the next few months I should focus on completing the works for my upcoming solo shows, so that I can arrive to the Netherlands with a clear head and return to New Zealand in a position to forge ahead with new projects. This has been an incredibly motivating prospect and I have surprised even myself with my making discipline. Three workshop days left now to finish my work for The National – and I largely feel on target. Brave words! I am also touching wood. At the time I spoke with Ruudt in May I had all but finished making the individual pieces for my Bowen show, so instead we turned our heads to installation…
Sunday 06 July, 2014
Thursday 26 June, 2014
When I went through high school everyone did art in their first year, but only those with ‘talent’ were invited to continue. I was never shoulder tapped so accepted that mine was not to be an artistic path and followed the route of sciences. I graduated with a Masters in Zoology in 1995 and after a few years of travel returned to New Zealand and embarked on a career in science-based organisations. However, from the moment I submitted my thesis there began a creative stir. I scratched the itch first with life drawing classes, then progressed through all manner of creative based short courses until in the year 2000 I stumbled on contemporary jewellery. In 2010, I resigned from my job of nine years at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and commenced full-time study at Whitireia New Zealand, graduating with a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design in 2012. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. At Whitireia we were expected to maintain a visual diary. I felt incredibly intimidated by this and for weeks carried around a blank book. Then one day I had an epiphany. I had been maintaining a visual diary for years …on my fridge. I slapped a picture of my fridge into the front page and from then on looked at my notebook as an extension of my whiteware.
The requirement to maintain a blog as part of Handshake2 sent me back into a very familiar spin. Figured the fridge photo got me going back in 2010 …hoping it will work its magic again. Watch this space!
Fridge 2014 - front and sides