Of Tales and Woods from the Coolest Corner

Article  /  NichkaMarobin   CriticalThinking   Debates
Published: 05.12.2022
Nichka Marobin
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Will Beckers, Attraversare l’anima/Through the soul 2015. Arte Sella, Borgo Valsugana, Italy. Photo by the author
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Will Beckers, Attraversare l’anima/Through the soul 2015. Arte Sella, Borgo Valsugana, Italy. Photo by the author

© By the author. Read Copyright.

Threads, tales, and play in Pamela Wilson’s and Matti Mattsson’s art jewellery at Ateljé Minowa.

This text has been the subject of the lecture by Nichka Marobin given on Saturday, 12th November 2022 at Atelje Minowa in Stockholm.
An exhibition is, above all, a privilege: a privilege to share and a “choral work” which involves several figures on the stage: the artists, the gallerists, the public, the critics, the collectors, the visitors who enter the gallery, the curators, the art historians, teachers, professors, academics…and so on.

An exhibition of contemporary jewellery gathers different artistic voices that, as a musical counterpoint, find their own “voice” in each other’s works; or sometimes not. But the result is always fascinating.

An exhibition is like a walk into a “narrative wood” where the language –both written and unwritten- is offered to the eye of the viewer through the works of art on display. A walk into a narrative wood that, in this case, takes place here in Stockholm, at Ateljé Minowa: definitively…an interesting “cool corner”. For this reason, I am deeply grateful to the gallerist, Etsuko Minowa together with the artists Pamela Wilson and Matti Mattsson for inviting me to talk about this exhibition.

I would like to begin this conference with an assertion: contemporary jewellery is a complex system. A myriad of voices speaking different languages under a very huge vault enclosing ideas, moods, needs, feelings and necessities that are both personal and collective. Thus, since contemporary jewellery, as all arts, is also a “seismograph of time”, it contributes to the creation of its own visual era throughout the works of arts and the different languages they encompass, convey, and form.

Giuliano Mauri, Cattedrale Vegetale/Tree Cathedral, 2001. Arte Sella, Borgo Valsugana, Italy. Photo by the author.

The idea about the different languages inspired me the metaphor of the wood and, consequently, I entitled this lecture “Of tales and woods from the coolest corner” because, deeply indebted both to Borges and Eco, I consider and imagine the complex system of contemporary jewellery as a wood. As a keen observer, Umberto Eco writes: “a wood is a garden of forking paths. Even when there are no well-trodden paths in a wood, everyone can trace his or her own path, deciding to go to the left or to the right of a certain tree and making a choice at every tree encountered.”[1] Thus, as “in a narrative text, the reader is forced to make choices all the time.”[2], so the in the wood of contemporary jewellery the collector/beholder/viewer is -if not even forced- invited to make choices all the time while reading the multiple languages and stories the works display and convey.

Specifically for this event, two are the tales and the walks in the woods of contemporary jewellery that the gallerist decided to show: the one of Pamela Wilson and the one of Matti Mattsson.

Edoardo Tresoldi, Simbiosi/Symbiosis, 2019. Arte Sella, Borgo Valsugana, Italy. Photo by the author.


When one walks in a wood -if not in a hurry because he/she has to run to the Mad Tea Party together with Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the March Hare- the pleasures and the whims of a walk are all captured by the eyes and the senses: the effects of lights among the trees, the symphonies of colours, the silence, and the different rhythms the wood propels.

“Lingering doesn’t mean wasting time: frequently one stops to ponder before making a decision”[3], but in this case, I mean, in this peculiar wood, there are no forking paths among different artistic narrations, for wandering in Pamela Wilson’s wood means lingering pleasantly in a place where two specific artistic languages dialogue together, that are the one of textile art and the one of jewellery. Working both as a textile artist and as an artist jeweler provides Wilson with a wide range of possibilities and inventions, as she explained in her report: “I work according to whims and pleasure. My jewellery doesn't develop from exact sketches but evolves as I work on it and in dialogue with the materials. I often arrange and re-arrange components until an image or total composition feels right. Over the last century originality has been a prime goal of artists, continually surprising one’s audience and ideally yourself. All you have to do is play and hopefully, something unique will happen”.[4]

Pamela Wilson, “Bogong”, set of Earrings - Stainless steel, linen, silver, lacquered copper.. Photo by of the Artist - courtesy of Ateljé Minowa.

And something unique really happens because the viewer and the wearer are captured by the “rhythms of the loom” that portray her narration. They are specific rhythms in terms of colours, forms, and dialogue within the wide range of materials she works with and assembles. By following those primal “whims and pleasures” that, in the end, form a structure, the metals are woven; the materials are stitched, knitted, and assembled following an inner sense of exploration.

Pamela Wilson, “Knot” - Brooch. Lacquered copper, gold plated copper, stainless steel, silver. Photo by Peter de Ru - courtesy of Ateljé Minowa

This inner sense of exploration (exploring a wood of materials deserves accuracy in terms of care and pleasure of selection) pursues the most rigorous and happiest of all methods: play. As Wilson explains: “I work with various materials including silver, aluminium, iron, copper, plastic and paper. My jewelry is usually constructed using textile techniques including weaving, knitting and stitches. The rhythmic forms of color and line are explored and then joined together in the structure. I play with simple shapes that are shaped to be able to move smoothly on the body. The textile techniques and my materials allow me to work spontaneously in large forms which can create dramatic effects”.[5]

Pamela Wilson, “Green Heliamphoria” - Pendant. Lacqured copper, lurex, silver, aluminium. Photo by Peter de Ru - courtesy of Ateljé Minowa.

Enjoyment surfaces from the colours of the fibers; from the knitted metal of a bracelet hosting rows of mother of pearls, or from the recurring elements of necklaces, all joined together by pursuing a sense of harmony both in terms of forms and of colours. The sense of rhythm is carefully pursued and achieved by following the explorative paths provided by the different elements employed by Wilson, then amplified once worn, creating a vivid sense of surprise and pleasure.

There are woods where the pleasures of lingering and the curiosity of exploration transform a forest into a garden of delights: needless to say, the catalysts are precisely the happiness of creation and the playful approach. Play, in its declinations as approach, discovery, and quest, has its own rules that offer -both to the narrator/creator and to the reader/beholder/viewer- tangible media as measure, weigh and space, plus an entire world of visible and invisible narrations.

Pamela Wilson, “Pink Heliamphoria” - Pendant. Lacquered copper, silver, lurex. Photo by Peter de Ru - courtesy of Ateljé Minowa.

Where narration and play meet will be the subject of our next walk.



The first time I saw Mattsson’s work I was in Florence. I was curious about the man who created these tiny, poetic and narrative worlds, full of humour and kindness. I saw a dog brooch and I wanted to buy it at all costs…but someone had the same idea…and when, finally, I had to time to reach the booth of Mr Mattsson…it was already sold. So, when we finally met, I discovered that, beyond the dog that asks “hau are you?” there was not only an entire world full of poetry carried by those little things that reveals themselves only to sensitive eyes, but also the idea about recycling by playing with materials.

Matti Mattsson, "Turkoos time,Seatime"- wall clock,. Top of cooking pan, feather, old badminton ball, 2022. Photo by of the Artist – courtesy of Ateljé Minowa

Narration frames. It frames and crystallizes a specific moment, a mood or, a sensation.

A “narrative piece” in jewellery is the one that “narrates”, that tells a story.[7] Of course, many pieces in the “wood” of contemporary/studio jewellery correspond to this “definition” because they all tell a story and are a container of messages, nevertheless in my opinion, “narrative” pieces are those that clearly are described by the author and that plainly are read by the viewer and the wearer.

In Mattsson’s works, for example, what stands under our eyes clearly refers to something around us: a dog, a feather keeping the beat of the seconds, a mushroom of golden reflections, a whale jumping from a blue clock or a sleepy cat on an armchair. Everything captures a specific moment; everything recalls to everyday life or event to a moment captured in ones’ life. All these tiny little moments, all these stories -whether real because they come from the artist’s own life or just fictionally created by the artist- they all becomes true each time we look at them, because they always remind us a moment we lived, a mood we felt, a sensation we proved.

The stories narrated by the pieces -all of them coming by the hands of the artist creator who sources his stories both from his own real life and from his imagination (and in this sense, they are all individual)- wholly become collective in the sense that they become part of others’ life, in this case, of the wearer and of the viewer who wears and looks at the jewellery piece.

Matti Mattsson, “Bear cloud” - brooch, Cooking pan and Recycling hologram, 2022. Photo by of the Artist – courtesy of Ateljé Minowa.

Matti Mattsson, “Chanterelles” - brooch, Cooking pan and Recycling hologram, 2022. Photo by of the Artist – courtesy of Ateljé Minowa.

In his book, “Six walks in fictional woods”, Umberto Eco wrote[8] that “Children play with puppets, toy horses, or kites in order to get acquainted with the physical laws of the universe and with the actions that someday they will really perform. Likewise, to read fiction means to play a game by which we give sense to the immensity of things that happened, are happening, or will happen in the actual world. By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something true about the world. This is the consoling function of narrative—the reason people tell stories, and have told stories from the beginning of time. And it has always been the paramount function of myth: to find a shape, a form, in the turmoil of human experience.”

In Mattsson’s work, the function of play is the catalyst for a narration full of gentle and humorous scenes: a smile always emerges upon looking at his pieces rich both in reality and imagination, but always providing a sense of lightness and delicacy. A very nice wood where to get peacefully and happily lost, since in Mattsson’s narrative wood acts what Coleridge called “the suspension of disbelief[9] precisely because in his world everything is possible, even a dog which asks you “Hau are you?”.

Matti Mattsson, “HAU ARE YOU”, brooch – recycling metals , 2020. Coll. Priv. Photo by of the Artist – courtesy of Ateljé Minowa

At the end of his Norton lectures, Umberto Eco wrote: “At any rate we will not stop reading fictional stories, because it is in them that we seek a formula to give meaning to our existence. Throughout our lives, after all, we look for a story of our origins, to tell us why we were born and why we have lived. Sometimes we look for a cosmic story, the story of the universe, or for our own personal story (which we tell our confessor or our analyst, or which we write in the pages of a diary). Sometimes our personal story coincides with the story of the universe.”[10]

Approaching, entering, and lingering in the woods of contemporary jewellery implies both curiosity and knowledge. Since to me -as a Socratic practice- the first one is bounded unavoidably to the other, it is through curiosity that we discover, comprehend, and know. Getting acquainted with different kinds of preciousness, together with the use of different materials, and with all that invisible world sourcing from the visible, leads inevitably to multiple levels of knowledge. The “unwritten world” of jewellery pieces is a legacy of knowledge shared between the artist, the wearer, and the observer[11]; a knowledge that is interpreted, decoded, and explained through the use of words.

Quoting Eco, I can say that after all, we will not stop creating, wearing, admiring, and studying contemporary jewellery precisely because it is in it (and in arts) that we look for stories, memories, tales, awe, knowledge, moods, sensations, power, identity. We look for the story of the universe as well as for the story of all of us.

Nichka Marobin
This text has been the subject of the lecture given on Saturday, 12th November 2022 at Atelje Minowa in Stockholm.

Linea melodica | Playlist
François Couperin, Tic Toc Choc, Alexandre Taraud joue Couperin, Harmonia Mundi;
Georg Friederich Haendel, Concerto grosso a due cori – HWV 333 – V mov. – allegro non troppo performed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.


Will Beckers
Attraversare l’anima/Through the soul di Will Beckers, 2015;

Giuliano Mauri
Cattedrale Vegetale/Tree Cathedral di Giuliano Mauri, 2001;

Edoardo Tresoldi
Simbiosi/Symbiosis, 2019;

[1] Umberto Eco, Six Walks in fictional woods (The Charles Norton Eliot lectures 1992-1933), Harvard University Press, p. 8.
[2] Umberto Eco, Op. Cit., ivi.
[3] Umberto Eco, Op.Cit., p. 42.
[4] Pamela Wilson, Report presented in fulfillment of the requirements of the graduate Diploma of Art, Canberra School of Art, Graduate Diploma of Art, Year 2000, p. 5.
[5] Pamela Wilson’s statement (free translation from Swedish): “Jag arbetar med varierande material bl a silver, aluminium, järn, koppar, plast och papper. Mina smycken är oftast konstruerade med hjälp av textila tekniker inklusive väv, stickning och stygn. De rytmiska formerna av färg och linje utforskas och fogas sedan samman i strukturen. Jag leker med enkla former som formas för att mjukt kunna röra sig på kroppen. De textila teknikerna och mina material tillåter mig att arbeta spontant i stora former vilket kan skapa dramatiska effekter” in
[6] For this title I am deeply indebted to Miranda July and her delightful movie directed in 2005.
[7] For narrative jewellery see: Jack Cunningham, Contemporary European Narrative Jewellery: the prevalent themes, paradigms and the cognitive interaction between maker, wearer and viewer observed through the process, production and exhibition of narrative jewellery in
Mark Fenn, Narrative jewellery. Tales from the toolbox. With a foreword of J. Cunningham, 2017.
[8] Umberto Eco, Op. Cit., pp. 71-72.
[9] Umberto Eco, Op. Cit, p. 65.
[10] Umberto Eco, Op. Cit., p. 116.
[11] See Jack Cunningham, Op. Cit, and Liesbeth Den Besten, On jewellery. A compendium of international contemporary art jewellery, 2012, pp. 60-105.

About the author

Nichka Marobin is an Italian art historian specialized in Dutch and Flemish art history. She graduated from the faculty of letters of Padova (Italy) with a dissertation on Renaissance ornament prints from 1500 to 1550 in Germany and the Low Lands, focusing on the migration of forms, themes, and styles on the engravings of Cornelis Bos, Cornelis Floris II, Lucas van Leyden and the German Little Masters. In 2011, she founded “The Morning Bark”, a bloGazette on arts and humanities, where she posts about arts with a multidisciplinary path, including fine arts, books, fashion, and contemporary jewellery.