The Languages of Jewellery

Blog post
Published: 14.06.2013

When writing this I am sitting at the airport in Stuttgart on my way back home to Göteborg. The last four days I have been talking about jewellery, discussing the jewellery scene, listened to lectures about problems, possibilities, processes and results – the voices, expressions and beats of the contemporary jewellery language.

I have been right in the middle of the jewellery bubble toghether with som wonderful jewellery people and as a passionate jewellery nerd I loved it!

The Zimmerhof Symposium has a long tradition. For many years people with an interest in jewellery have gathered in a barn in the German countryside to exchange ideas and and discuss different jewellery matters. The theme for this year was “Mind your language” And I was invited to give a lecture about “Imitation vs. Inspiration”.

Outside the barn where the lectures were presented

How can we avoid ending up in a loop where the same pieces and expressions are, if not copied, at least remade over and over? Are there to sharp frames put out by a certain crowd of “important actors” – galleries, professors, jury members etc? And are these actors creating something like a “style evolution” that sets the standards for "good contemporary jewellery", at the same time as it narrows the diversity and creativity in the field?

I presented some examples of pieces made by contemporary jewellers where I could see a resemblance and I asked the audience to try to imagine what their reactions would have been if they had made either one of the pieces. I also showed a one of my own most recent pieces.

Plastic scales

When I first started this project I wanted to use a cheap material. Some would say garbage. The first pieces were shown at (ig)noble and I wanted to add value to the material by giving it my own time and skills. I collected all sorts of plastic garbage and produced big amounts of round discs that I mangled in a role making something that reminded me of fish scales.

Fish is something that has always fascinated me (I have been writing about that in a previous post), and it is a theme that I tend to return to in my artistic work.

When making the last piece before the exhibition at Beyond Fashion there were mostly white and red scales left and I decided to make a piece with a combination of these two colours. When the bracelet was ready, and especially when I saw the pictures of it,  it hit me that I had seen a fish piece with a similar combination of colours. It was the Koi bracelet by David Bielander that I had seen during Schmuck one month earlier. At that point I was already working on the project but since David’s fishes are made in a different material and are very figurative I didn’t make the connection until I saw my red and white piece.

Karin Roy Andersson. Bracelet: Catching Big Fish 2013, recycled plastics, textile

It really made me hesitate, had I gotten too close? I discussed the matter with my friends and colleagues who know both David’s work and mine and I decided that this after all these were my pieces. What was important in this decision was that I realized that no one familiar with David’s work would ever mistake my pieces to be his – or the other way around.

A few weeks ago I visited Metal Works in Brooklyn where Sergey Jivetin made a presentation. He explained how he had been working with clouds and that he had used eggshells. When I saw the result I was quite surprised – in one of my sketching books I have a picture of more or less the same necklace! I never finished that piece, but after the lecture one of the other visitors asked if there hadn’t been another artist making something similar. It turned out that at the same time Sergey had his vernissage, Tim Hawkinson opened an exhibition showing eggshell sculptures just a few blocks away.

Sergey Jivetin. Necklace: Poultry Accumulus 2009, eggs, carbon fiber, gold, steel

There are many mechanisms affecting and creating trends. One factor pushing the creators in a certain direction could of course be that this is a style or an aesthetics that is appreciated by the surroundings but it could also be something that is part of a current discussion, a subject that is occupying many people’s thoughts and is developed because they all contribute with their personal views - or a simple fact like many people enjoys looking at the clouds and having eggs for breakfast.

In our field it is not always a positive thing to be a part of a trend and although I am not suggesting that jewellers should aim to go with the latest flow, I think that it can sometimes be hard to avoid.

I think the best way to get out of the loop is to grow a culture with a diverse group of actors with different backgrounds, inputs and opinions. Use the inspiration you get from other jewellers and be aware of what is -, and has been, going on around you in order to avoid getting too close to someone else’s work. But also, as one of the participants at the symposium commented, try to step out of the jewellery bubble every once and a while. Inbreed is probably what we need least of all.

Cornfield in Zimmerhof

The other speakers at Zimmerhof were all presenting different tongues of the contemporary jewellery language. Problems with monotone voices or echoes were except from in my presentation, also discussed in Liesbeth Den Besten’s and Helen Britton’s lectures. Strong and personal voices was heard inChristina Karababa’s, Ulrich Reitenhofer’s, Jorge Manilla’s, Éva Suba’s and Simone Ten Homple’s talks and Mike Holmes’, Patrick Letschka’s, Constanze Kirmse’s and Panjapol Kulpapangkorn’s presentations contained a chorus of different voices. We could also hear one provoking, to some people maybe out of tune, voice belonging to Sam Wall. An Irish Artist claiming that an Artist can make jewellery but a jeweller will never make art.

Schmucktiche - Jewellery Table

The organizers did a wonderful job in making it all cling in harmony in spite of the rain and cold weather. I was quite impressed of how well the speaker’s different subjects complemented each other, and how smoothly all the technical arrangements worked. Casey Fenn, Timothy Information Limited, Laura Bradshaw-Heap and all the people behind them were the Masters of Symposium!

Zimmerhof dears

The expectations for next year are high, see you there!


About the author

Sanna Svedestedt, Klimt02 Forum Editor & jewellery artist

Karin Roy Andersson, Manager gallery Four, Gothenburg & jewellery artist


About this blog

Diagonal is a collaboration between Karin Roy Andersson & Sanna Svedestedt. Our focus is to promote contemporary art jewellery. With this blog we share our views & thoughts to take you with us through the ups & downs of our jewellery adventures.