- Sara O'Hana
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The exhibition Jewellery & Object, hosted by ARAM in Palma de Mallorca last September, celebrates the work of staff and students who taught and studied on a programme bearing the same name at the University of Lincoln, UK. The course was nicknamed J&O for short and ran until 2016 from studios they called the Maker Lab. Jeweller and course director Sarah O'Hana, reflects on the ingenuity and imagination of those she worked with.
A conversation between Sarah O’Hana and Anna Catalani.
In May 2016 it occurred to me that some inspired work had been created in our studios, the Maker
Lab at the University of Lincoln, by students as well as by the staff who had taught there. Amazed at the multiplicity of their imagination and also the subtle influence that learners can have on their teachers, I wanted to share this talent with an audience beyond an educational environment. Auba Pont, from ARAM in Palma de Mallorca agreed to exhibit this collective in September of the same year. Anna, I remember I was in Mallorca when I texted you to ask if you would like to contribute as a reader. Your background in museum studies and material culture seemed a likely partnership. What were your first thoughts about this proposal?
When you mentioned that you wanted to do an exhibition celebrating the work of the makers involved on J&O programme, I thought it was a great idea and that it would be a very good way to present the work produced on your course to a different public. As you know I am developing a research strand on the material culture of fashion and to have the opportunity to curate a specific type of jewellery objects was something that definitely caught my attention and curiosity.
How did you come up with ideas for themes and the text panels?
We had a discussion during the spring (me, you and Ann Povey) about the themes and my suggestion was to identify a set of keywords, that the staff and students, both current and past, associated with the programme, or their memories and feelings towards the programme. I thought this would be a good and spontaneous way to develop the narrative for the exhibition.
Yes, we received an intriguing set of words! How has your background in museum studies and material culture helped in the writing about this exhibition?
It helped in thinking about how to convey the main idea of the exhibition, through the text associated with the themes and the objects. The material selected for the exhibition was varied and very different: it was extremely fascinating to see how each of the maker expressed his / her individuality.
What have you learnt from working with makers?
It has been really interesting observing the markers at work and the main thing I have learnt from them is that anything can inspire their work (small details apparently overlooked) but after a focused and passionate process such items are transformed into beautifully crafted objects.
How do you think today’s makers can contribute to tomorrows heritage?
I think they can contribute greatly to tomorrow's heritage: things that we consider as part of our contemporary life, will undoubtedly become part of tomorrow’s heritage and to keep alive and share as much as possible with the wider public the thinking and practice around making can only be beneficial to the appreciation and conservation of heritage.
'The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.'
By Stephen Bottomley
This ancient Chinese proverb by Lao Tzu from the 1st Century BC was famously adapted 2 millennia later for the 1982 Ridley Scott film ‘Blade Runner’. The quote came to mind on one of my train journeys back from Lincoln to Edinburgh where I had been visiting to see the final degree show of the students on the Jewellery and Object (J&O) degree course.
The staff and students who are exhibiting in this exhibition all worked together on J&O, a course that ran for six years until June 2016 and had a total of four graduate degree shows, three of which I had the pleasure in visiting from Scotland as their external examiner.
Over those years I was fortunate to witness and help champion an ambitious course supported by some truly talented and creative practitioners who achieved something very special in Lincolnshire and the United Kingdom. Together they brought a new creative center of ‘making and thinking’ to an ancient English city and together they opened the eyes of their students to the wonderful world on jewellery and applied arts and crafts.
Why I am so pleased to see this exhibition taking place is that it boldly keeps energy and determination alive with a massive positive step forward to show together to a new audience outside the UK. As Lao Tzu also said: “a journey of a thousand miles starts with just one step” All I can ask is - what next?
A Journey through jewellery & Object: J&O.
By Dr. Anna Catalani
Panel 1: Why J&O?
Every day we use things of a different type, shape, colour and value: we choose them, we throw them away, sometimes we study them or we amend them. But we also make them. Jewellery and Object is an exhibition about things. It celebrates the creative journey of making through the imagination and personal
inspiration of staff and students from the University of Lincoln, UK. It is an exhibition about the ‘whys’ and ‘ifs’ of the study of different materials, the exploration of traditional and new techniques and the materialisation of beautifully crafted THINGS.
And so, while you view the work, perhaps do not ask only: ‘what is the use of these objects?’ but also ‘why did they want to make them?’
Panel 2: The value of precious objects.
All the jewellery and objects you see here are things that matter: they matter to the people who thought of, designed, spoke about and made them. They are precious, not much in terms of monetary value, but in terms of the emotions that go with them: patience, frustration, independence, hope, disappointment, pride.
Jewellery and Object represents the effort, mistakes and successes of contemporary makers and designers. One day, these objects may become gifts or end up being personal possessions and ornaments that sellers or owners will want to collect, accumulate in their drawers or wear and display in special occasions. The objects on display have personal stories and will surely embrace even more tales about the relationships between humans, creativity and valued things. And these private (but often unknown) values are exactly what make these items exceptionally precious.
Panel 3: Identity.
Things can tell us a lot about the identities of their owners: they carry values, ideas and emotions. Objects help people establish relationships with other individuals (e.g. as a gift); they define the way we want to be seen by society (e.g. clothes or fashionable accessories) and can be the symbol of status (e.g. wedding bands).
But what about the identities of their makers? How can we understand, through objects, how much of themselves makers wanted to express through their products? And do we really use objects according to the purpose given by their makers?
The items on display bear the distinctive traces of their makers. The hints are in the refined details, in the smooth shapes and in the skilful combination of materials. The Jewellery and Object designer and maker is a skilled observer, a critical thinker and an expert artist, inspired by the preciousness of everyday life.
‘We know very well that progress is due to creativity: to looking at things a different way... to putting things together to deliver new values' E. de Bono.
By Dr. Sarah O’Hana
This quote by Edward de Bono was my main source of reference when concerned parents would ask me what the prospects were for a student gaining a degree in jewellery design. The point of teaching Jewellery and Object is not only to share knowledge so that students become professionals, but also to initiate a dialogue so that they can contribute with their own ideas and concepts. Learning begins when students realise that teaching is a collaborative venture between teacher and learner. This exhibition celebrates that creative collaboration through the themes of Why, Value and Identity.
During the three years of their programme, students learn how to form their own opinions, harness their energy through artistic expression and deliver a message through their work. They take risks with many materials and learn to make objects with great precision. Through lateral thinking and self-direction, they complete the course with a public exhibition and graduate at Lincoln cathedral, one the finest in Europe. It is a challenging journey which they share with staff and colleagues.
In turn, my own thoughts and ideas about practice are questioned through working with students. It keeps me curious, stops me from sitting still and reaches into a part of the creative process that inspires others to realise their ideas too. If Edward de Bono is right, and we have formed a generation of professionals who can contribute to progress in some way, this for me will have been the point of teaching.
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