Companions. Marginal Notes to the Approach and the Process of Artistic Creation

Article  /  JuliaWild   CriticalThinking   Exhibiting
Published: 06.07.2021
Julia Wild
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Natascha Frechen. Object: Randnotiz zum Gewächs, 2018. Soapstone. 9 x 12.5 x 4 cm. Unique piece. Natascha Frechen
Object: Randnotiz zum Gewächs, 2018
9 x 12.5 x 4 cm
Unique piece
© By the author. Read Copyright.

There are places that let you fall back on yourself. Where there is no hustle and bustle, no breathlessness, hardly anything to distract the gaze from one’s own self. Such a place can be narrow, like a valley cut into the rock, but at the same time generous, in terms of what nature bestows on the beholder.

Article included in the book from the jauntiness of absence published on occasion of the exhibition "from the jauntiness of absence" at A-Galerii in Tallinn.
In one such tranquil place, four jewellery artists made each other’s acquaintance. As much as their work differs, they share the choice of stone as their artistic material. This connects them to the place whose inhabitants have searched for stones, mined them and worked them in the most diverse ways for centuries.

Quiet surroundings, external stillness, help when working with stone. For the work demands a lot of time, of observation and concentration. It begins with selecting the stone; it can be a conscious search for a particular shape, structure or a colour, that fits to an existing idea. But it can also be a mutual discovery: the stone sparkling in the freshly ploughed field after the rain or shining out from the stone dealer’s Ali Baba-like chests, begging to be taken home. Fascinating, unusual, beautiful, in a way that still has potential. Posing questions without quickly producing a feeling of saturation.

If it’s lying on the table, it wants to be looked at. What are the colour gradients like? What do the stone’s markings allow? How is it composed? Are there fractures running through the stone? What is its internal structure like? What does it feel like? The observations and questions form a beginning, the start of a process which sometimes requires a lot of time, so the stone can accompany the jewellery artist for months or years until the dialogue finds common ground. Impatience and haste may not only hamper the process but could also disrupt the way. Because one momentary loss of concentration when grinding, engraving or polishing can irreparably damage the work of many days. Working stone is a special way of creating something; instead of being built up, the stone acquires its shape and inscription through material being taken away. Every decision is final because the base material is unique in composition and structure and can never be returned to an earlier state. Time and caution are required so that in taking away, something is liberated from the stone which meets your own expectations.

Luisa Werner. Object: Untitled, 2019. Basalt. 4.9 x 7.4 x 0.2 cm, 8.3 x 10.1 x1.1 cm
Unique piece

To engage in the properties of the material and yet remain as creatively free as possible- this too means confrontation with stone. Finding the balance, allowing yourself to be led, but not misled by it. Not being overwhelmed by the beauty of the stone, but provoking it too, sometimes breaking or augmenting it, finding something that allows you to go in deeper, without losing the connection to the material.

It is in the nature of a dialogue to be beyond the individual’s control, that its flow cannot be forced. Similarly, the interrelated reactions of person and material in the workshop are only predictable to a limited extent. What may have been imagined a certain way often turns out somewhat differently in reality. Because in contrast to a more malleable or homogenous material, stone always hides something unpredictable within itself. From resistance, conflict, come fractures, which may hold the potential for something new within themselves. Like a heated discussion, at the end of which comes insight into the other and the chance to complete oneself. In conflict, the break may reveal the stone’s essence, beyond that which first caught the eye. The broken pieces can open up new perspectives and enrich the designer’s imaginary world, letting them go new, previously unknown ways.

Sometimes the stone simply does not allow something, is already closed up in itself. It poses questions which are answered, followed up, not by actions but by contemplation. These are found objects which defy further manipulation. Others show traces of handling but, through this incompletion, they convey a raw strength. They can become an important part of an environment in which something new is being formed. This is characteristic of all four jewellery artists, that they collect things, sometimes finished, unchanged, sometimes their own objects and sketches that are still open, hanging, full of possibilities. In which everything is not yet decided.

Felicia Mülbaier. Object: Habseligkeiten, 2020. Lapislazuli, Installation size 19 x 8 cm, Pieces approx. 8 x 0.8 x 1 cm
Unique piece

These are marginal notes for the four jewellery artists. They do not always deal with stone as a material, but they are important for the genesis of a piece of work from stone. In the preliminary stages of a project, this means experiments, the initial attempts to find and articulate an idea, later they accompany the artistic process by creating a space for possibilities. Because working stone not only requires a lot of time and attention, but also the right mood and attitude; oneness with oneself, the stone and the tool. Marginal notes, on the other hand, are created in an atmosphere of freedom, intuition, experimentation. They demonstrate that a base tone has been set which, thanks to another materiality or technology, has been able to develop faster and more easily and become defining for the ongoing artistic process. Ideas materialise within marginal notes, are consolidated and through body and spirit, hands and tools, they experience what later lives on in the completed jewellery object.

The marginal notes form a kind of language with an individual and unique lexicon, which defines the jewellery artist’s individuality. Like a diary, you can leaf through and find out what was significant in the emergence of a piece of jewellery. That is why the marginal notes are more than just a collection of things which serve as inspiration; they show the steps in the process towards something new. They form a kind of archive that bears witness to what accompanied the four, what they found by the wayside, what inspired them, what caused them to falter or come unstuck, what challenged them. They are landmarks that influenced later decisions and that, viewed with hindsight, help the recognition of relationships between the individual pieces, for both the creator and the viewer. The focus here is not on the completed jewellery object, but rather on the objects and drawings which made it possible, by clarifying questions of form, composition and materiality and, in overview, revealing its inner cohesion. The marginal notes are notes which stay behind, retell a story and establish connections to that which has passed and which will be.

Constanza Salinas. Object: Randnotiz zum Wald, 2019. Limewood. 11.5 x 14.6 x 4 cm
Unique piece


About the author

Julia Wild
(b. 1970) has been an academic assistant at the Department of Gemstones and Jewellery at the Trier University of Applied Sciences since 2010. She studied German studies and history at the Ruprecht-Karl University Heidelberg. Her focus lies in the field of ritual and symbolic communication, space and body, which she seeks to bring together in her teaching with the social phenomenon of jewellery.