I first met Henriette at her workshop and gallery space early in 2014. There I asked her to tell me about her work. ‘Take a look and then you will see’ she told me: so I did. Since then I have been rather taken with that approach to viewing the work of others and with regard to talking about my own work.
I met with Henriette again last week while in Munich and it has been great to bookend the Handshake2 project with this physical, actual, contact. While I was there she mentioned that something in a work can be killed or destroyed if you explain everything. And in a way this sums up our experience nicely. Non-verbal communication and these kinds of incidental exchange (over a cup of tea, say) have been of equal value as our formal skype sessions and email chain which has been more about focussed attention on work, ideas and technical challenges.
So thanks Henriette. I began this project with a love for your work and end it with a love for your wisdom and your company.
And that conversation about collaboration that began back in October? Go to handshake3.com to see how it develops.
The last Handshake2 opens at Pah Homestead in Auckland
During November I wonder about the complimentary worlds Henriette and I inhabit. As I rise and prepare to enter the workshop for the day, she down tools and heads home for the evening. It is warming up here in Auckland and I am aware that it must be getting cold in Munich. I send her a poem to welcome the weather:
Rain – Hone Tuwhare
I can hear you making
small holes in the silence
If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
And I should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind:
the steady drum-roll
sound you make
when the wind drops
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
But if I should not
smell or feel or see you
You would still
wash over me
We send each other the view from our back door
During October I applied for, and was rejected from, Schmuck 2016. I was happy to see Henriette’s name on the exhibiting list.
We begin a conversation about collaboration. This is a new way of thinking and working for me and I wonder how to navigate through this territory. Of some things I am sure:
- have a reason to collaborate, whether that be a connection through ideas or work processes
- have a trusting relationship with fellow collaborator where expectations and commitment are agree upon
- remain faithful to own practices
And we swap images of things that are of interest to us
What a turn out for the exhibition at Avid Gallery last week! And what a great show – it really feels like we have moved a lot since our first showing at the Toi Poneke Arts Centre late in 2014. Nice to see all that mentor work in the flesh as well – can’t beat the real thing. I think, fundamentally, being part of the Handshake Project has kept us making work. Lots of it.
The mentors were downstairs and the mentees upstairs. The layout was great and I enjoyed seeing work on tables offset from each other.
August has been all about preparing for the next show at Avid Gallery in Wellington. Another commercial gallery, I wonder if this has any influence on my making; part of signing up for the Handshake project is the opportunity to experiment. Play. In the end I don’t think these conditions have influenced what happens in the workshop to much. It is a good thing to remember the audience and consider any obligations, real or imagined, to those who back you and host exhibitions.
Henriette and I discuss decision making – where to edit and when to leave things be. I worry that some of the things coming out of the workshop look like some of things that come out of another person’s workshop and she tells me to look where the differences are, not the similarities. Good advice that helps me make my way through the doubts. I don’t normally ask Henriette what I should do but I get a bad case of the heebee jeebees about some workshop experiments and send out an SOS regarding which work I should send. Focus on core competencies for the time being she suggests, amongst other things. So I do.
I am looking for to heading up to Wellington (up the fish, down the country) to see the mentor’s work in situ. And of course, my fellow mentees who look like they are doing good things!
Meanwhile, it is Wunderruma time with this iteration at the Auckland Art Gallery. Bit flash. The jewellery part of the show remains as it was in Munich, and at The Dowse in Lower Hutt and I am happy to see my piece ‘Going Flat’ once more.
The gallery made a series of artist videos that are on constant loop in the gallery
As a card carrying member of The Jewellers Guild of Greater Sandringham and part of the editorial team that puts together a jewellery newsletter, I also spent some time on the third printed edition Overview
At the same time as the opening of Wunderruma was Wunderweek; a series of satelitte exhibitions and events organised by Sharon Fitness and Kristin D’Agostino of The Jewellers Guild of Greater Sandringham. I was thrilled to be part of one of these events – the RAW exhibition curated by the indomitable Jo Mears. The show was billed as Reactions After Wunderruma and I showed a series of bits and pieces from my workshop that I like to call my dirty laundry. Those things that lie somewhere between finished work and complete failures and which do not normally get shown but have value and offer a glimpse of the workings of a hands on maker.
Time for the second Handshake exhibition that will be at the Stanley St Gallery in Sydney and which will coincide with the JMGA NSW jewellery conference. Unfortunately I can’t make the trip to Sydney, but know that my work is in the capable hands of Peter, Hilda, and the other handshakers. Of the pieces I have been working on, I decide to send over 5: 3 pendants and 2 brooches.
I work intuitively, hammering away until a form emerges and tells me where to go next. Colour is still important and I find a more identifiable form becomes apparant once a coat of paint goes on. Though I am still happy with ambiguity – sometimes a piece suggests it could be something even if I don’t always know what that something is.
More work for Masterworks Gallery. This time a group show centred around the theme of the pearl. The website states:
In 2013 the Victoria and Albert Museum in conjunction with the Qatar Museums Authority held an exhibition on Pearls. This exhibition looked at the long and fascinating history of pearls from the natural to the advent of manufactured pearls. Taking Inspiration from this illustrious material are twelve artists who have used pearls as the starting point for their work.
The twelve artists are Vanessa Arthur, Cath Dearlsey, Peter Deckers, Jane Dodd, Sharon Fitness, Karl Fritsch, Victoria McIntosh, Brendon Monson, Mieke Roy, Moniek Schrijer, Lisa Walker and Raewyn Walsh.
I made three pearl shaped brooches that each had a hidden pearl inside.
This month I am concentrating on a THINKspace show at Masterworks Gallery in Auckland. I like THINKspace – it gives you the opportunity to experiment with ideas and process. For this show I looked to the tradition of still life to continue my investigation into form, composition, colour, and the notion of time. I was amused that not so long ago painting was categorised into a hierachy of genres, with still life ranked last…
I love Munich in the springtime – so the song could go, if you wanted it to, because it was quite warm during the week I spent in Munich in search of schmuck and everything else that goes with it. The warm weather meant there was no sequel to my travelling buddy Sharon Fitness’ ‘How to make a snow brooch’, but it did make it easy to get around. Sharon was part of Handshake 1 – you can see her snow brooch video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22EmlIoWbck There were about 100 shows and events throughout the city during the week – didn’t make it to all of these but gave it a good go. Here are some of the exhibition highlights:
Seeing my mentor Henriette was, naturally, another highlight. We had met briefly last year and our subsequent skype calls gave room for an easy rapport where life, jewellery and everything in between could be discussed. During the week Henriette hosted a group exhibition at her beautiful studio/shop, Geschaft. It was great to see her work, a series of new rings, which did not abandon the concepts and forms of previous work. Each ring was made up of two geometric elements cast together that was reminiscent of her pendants from the Zerfught series from 2011. The edges of these rings and the pendants appear softened with a kind of ooziness that I really enjoy. There were also some accompanying drawings that I found really interesting – stand alone work but still complementary to the jewellery. I wonder how many jewellers have 2D drawings stashed in the workshop which can broaden the understanding of a practice…
Henriette looked at my work and I duly noted the ones she responded to and the ones she ignored. She also suggested I stick to the current forms I am working with and try different materials. Alright then, I will. This is, I think one of the great things about Handshake; a space where the new can happen.
After the hubbub surrounding the Handshake2 show at Toi Poneke and Christmas, January was all quiet on the jewellery front. That’s ok, the summer weather will keep you outdoors anyway. That is, until February, when it was time for the second Handshake jewelcamp: masterclass, hosted in Wellington and led by Benjamin Lignel. Ben devised a full programme that he likened to “The Münchhausen Principle” which in his words was
“in honour of the Baron Munchausen,who at some point during his fictional adventures pulls himself and his horse out of a pond by tugging at his own hair. Which, you’ll agree, is what being a contemporary jeweller is all about”
Between pulling ourselves out of the mire that is our own practice and tearing our own hair out (five days in a windowless room!), the workshop enabled us to:
- reflect on those areas of our work that we found successful
- analyse those elements that we saw as less successful
- consider where to go next
During the week we asked ourselves what we do and why, made marquettes from simple materials, conducted cold readings of each others work, recorded audios for a lay audience, and devised exhibitions that would best show the work we make. We also consumed huge amounts of coffee and cake (thanks Hilda and Viv), shared meals (Ben, it turns out writes, teaches, makes jewellery, AND cooks delicious pasta) and life stories (Julia is planting an orchard in Southland, Vanessa has a gangster cat called Murray), and even managed to squeeze a fundraising pinswap organized by the Wellington crew. Which, you’ll agree, is what being a contemporary jeweller is all about.
Research and development
3 December 2014
Display Laying out work for an exhibition is a tricky one and is something Henriette and I have discussed. I wonder how to present work in a way that adds to the story of each piece, but that does not overwhelm the intention. I also wonder how to approach the available exhibition space. Fill it up? Create space? Add colour? Show process? Provide support material? The first Handshake2 exhibition at Toi Poneke exposed my uncertainty in the area of display. A desire to have plenty space around each piece meant the work was somehow ‘ungrounded’ and a little bit lost.
Henriette lets me in on her working process in this regard. She experiments with display with one eye on exhibition and the other on developing work.
15 October 2014
Henriette and I talk about nothing. As a concept that is. In a climate of dematerialized art I wonder what form nothing(ness) could take. How far can you reduce something before the only thing left to do is abandon it? Henriette warns me that this can be fatal because then you are faced with wondering what kind of work you can make at all. She recommends that I read the writing of philosopher and Zen Buddhist scholar Hisamatsu. I am also pleased to learn that Henriette trained as a silversmith. Why do I like it, she asks, and I am heartened when she understands that it is the actions of silversmithing that are important to me. Repetitive hammering is contemplative and, for now, is a good space to be in. And the same goes for my granulation experiments. The routine of making granules and bonding them holds my interest and I am happy to let intuition lead the form. Henriette has worked out that my workshop is fairly rudimentary and that my granulation technique is less than orthodox. I am ok with this as I hope unexpected methods can achieve unexpected results. This is how our mentorship works. I career between a silent refusal to explain myself, and an explosive brain dump that I hope she can decipher. In return, she listens, gives me room to work things out for myself, and nudges me back on track when needed. In a more direct way, she sends me an image of some work she has seen by Ai Wei Wei and I respond.
14 September 2014
10 August 2014
While communications between Henriette and I are going well, I did not anticipate how hard it would be to update this blog. I struggle to articulate my motivation and reasons for decisions made in the workshop to Henriette, and feel a long way from finding meaning, or a conscious lack of meaning in my current experimentation. That is ok she reassures me. In the meantime I go into the workshop, make granules, fuse them, and sometimes add a layer of paint.
22 July 2014
18 June 2014
Call and Response
from Henriette (paper collage)
from Raewyn (oxidised copper, gold solder, h48mm x w27mm)