Creating Conscientiously, Lawrence Woodford interviewed by 18Karat Studio + Gallery

Interview  /  Artists   18KaratStudio+Gallery
Published: 20.03.2019
Lawrence Woodford Lawrence Woodford
18Karat Studio + Gallery
Edited by:
Alta Cain
Edited at:
Edited on:
Lawrence Woodford. Necklace: The Road to the Cenote, 2015. Green quartz, steel, silver.. 9.5 x 1.5 x 19.5 cm (with chain 110 cm). Photo by: John Kane. From series: Way Finding. Detail view.. Lawrence Woodford
Necklace: The Road to the Cenote, 2015
Green quartz, steel, silver.
9.5 x 1.5 x 19.5 cm (with chain 110 cm)
Photo by: John Kane
From series: Way Finding

Detail view.

© By the author. Read Copyright.

PRECIOUS is an exhibition that asks us to look at the ways in which we covet and desire some things and discard others; the luxurious materials we revere versus those we so easily dispose of. Lawrence Woodford creates what he describes as, metaphysical landscapes - using found synthetic materials and ethically sourced stoned to create sculptural jewellery pieces that are reminiscent of rugged terrains and geological configurations.
Creating a wearable object within an innovative framework is a main area of focus. Referencing components that have origins in traditional jewellery while using composite, and re-purposed materials blur the boundaries between natural and artificial and provide a moment for contemplation. This forces me to alter existing methods of making and develop new techniques to achieve the desired effect. By deconstructed processes and the introduction of new aesthetics, I am re-evaluating and redefining the visual language of the contemporary jewellery object.

My work documents theoretical terrains, metaphysical landscapes, geological configurations and crystallizations as well as humanity’s endless search for paradise on earth. These wearable objects are visual recollections of the places I seek to recreate, diagrammatic maquettes of mountains, valleys and rock formations. The ambiguity and juxtaposition of the shapes and circumscription of the pieces are atlas-like, mineral-like and elevation-like.

/Lawrence Woodford

Q: What is your origin story - what do you think sparked your creativity?
A: As a child, I was forever making things. Attempting to poke holes in rocks with a needle and run thread through it to make a necklace. In retrospect, it is this visceral reaction to materials and adornment that has become my main area of focus. Collecting small objects/materials/stones I found beautiful and intriguing has always been something I have done. I hail from a culture that is very visual, with many festivals and colourful temple ceremonies with sacred imagery and icons bedecked and bejewelled with gorgeous fabrics and ornaments. That also has a lot to do with sparking my creativity and instilled in me an appreciation for beauty.

Q: How did your journey as an artist and a jeweller begin?
A: In my later teenage years and into young adulthood I lived in India and had the opportunity to watch silversmiths and goldsmiths work. I loved witnessing the transformation of materials. I saw not only metal workers, but those who carved deities from stone and wood, and this had a lasting impression on me. Later, while living in Nepal, I actually got to apprentice with a goldsmith, who worked with a kerosene torch and blowpipe. The tools were rudimentary at best, yet the work he made was remarkable. When I settled back in Canada, I knew I wanted to be an artist / maker. I wanted to interpret metals and materials and did my college degree in jewellery and metal arts. After graduating, I received an award for best emerging craft artist and a year later, received my first research grant. I was fortunate to have my work shown by Galerie Noel Guyomarc'h, who represents me still. I was invited to participate in exhibitions internationally, taught and eventually obtained my MFA from NSCAD University.

Necklace: Specimen I by Lawrence Woodford, 2018. Material: sterling silver, composite material (repurposed countertop), larimar, copper minerals, steel. Size:7.5 x 1 x 4.5 cm (with chain 52cm). Photo by John Kane.

Q: Why do you think jewellery as a creative medium or means of expression, is an important or relevant one? How does jewellery, in your opinion, differ from other creative forms of expression?
A: I am fascinated by history and ancient civilisations. Primitive peoples used ornamentation and jewellery as signifiers, it indicated position, social status, spiritual significance etc. It was communicative. The act of putting on jewellery is transformative as well. These concepts are still relevant today. The innate difference between jewellery / objects and other media is the intrinsic relationship it has with the body. The body inextricably becomes the canvas/gallery space as the viewers interact with the wearer.

Q: Explain your creative process - how does a piece of jewellery begin and end for you?
A: My process has evolved so much since I first finished my undergraduate degree. I used to draw things out and plan steps very methodically. Technique and the strive for perfection were almost all-consuming. Learning to let go of that was huge moment and I had to learn to work in a less stifling way, this was incredibly therapeutic for me. It taught me to embrace the process of making and find beauty therein. It allowed me to make more sensitive and thoughtful work. My process now is very much about letting the materials guide me. I am interested in integrating seemingly random / disparate materials that combine well together. As I am using raw stones, leftover composites with jagged edges I am altering traditional goldsmithing / jewellery techniques in order to accommodate the aesthetic I am seeking. So a crucial component of my practice is to modify existing or traditional techniques.

Necklace: Future Primitive I by Lawrence Woodford, 2017. Material: sterling silver, composite material (repurposed countertop), rose quartz, rope. Size: 13 x 4 x 13 cm (with rope 82cm). Photo by: John Kane.

Q: Where do you find inspiration as an artist? Explain your creative process - how does a piece of jewellery begin and end for you?
A: I find inspiration all around me. For the last several years, my focus has been on what I perceive as metaphysical landscapes. Topography, crystallisation, rock formations are subtly intricate. Protecting the environment is also integral to my process. I see divinity in the earth and that divinity is the biggest source of inspiration. I live in an off-grid spiritual community, where the work I produce is made in an ecological studio. Completely solar powered, water from the mountains. It is important to me that my work walks the walk and not only talks the talk, environmentally speaking.

Q: What other artists inspire you?
A: I have always loved the work of Karl Fritsch, Iris Bodemer and Luzia Vogt. I value and appreciate any artist who is attempting to introduce new aesthetics and questions notions of value. A special mention should be given to Rebecca Hannon who was my studio advisor during grad school, her innovative approach to materials helped inform many of my own material choices.

Necklace (back): The Road to Khewra by Lawrence Woodford, 2015. Material: sterling silver, composite material (repurposed countertop), rose quartz, rope. Size:10.5 x 1 x 17.5 cm (with rope 92 cm). Photo by John Kane.

Q: Looking back from your career now, to when you first began - how would you best describe your evolution so far?
A: Rather than trying to control the materials as I did in the beginning using mostly metals, I now have a more organic approach to materials and allow their qualities to be the process as the object becomes manifest.

Q: What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learnt and what advice would you give to artists who are just beginning? Looking back from your career now, to when you first began - how would you best describe your evolution so far?
A: Educate people on your process and engage in dialogue about how jewellery is not simply a strand of pearls or a diamond solitaire. Be strong and confident with the work you are making, in other words, be intentional. Make work that you feel strongly about and addresses concerns important to you. It will show in the pieces and galleries will respect that integrity.

Q: What do you hope those who view your work or wear it, take away from that experience?
A: I would hope that they appreciate how it was made. Not just technically or conceptually, but ethically as well. I would also hope that they feel a sense of transformation/drama when wearing a piece.

Necklace (back): Specimen II by Lawrence Woodford, 2018. Material: sterling silver, composite material (repurposed countertop), kunzite. Size: 2 x 0.5 x 7 cm (with chain 72 cm). Photo by:John Kane.

Q: Through this exhibition, PRECIOUS, we are asking the question, why do we value some things and so easily dispose of others - an important question when we consider the state of our environment. What role does the environment, consumption or consumerism play in the work you have created?
A: Well all three of these aspects play a huge role in this body of work. I live ecologically and ethically and this collection was fabricated within that framework. My use of discarded materials and re-purposing them is as a direct response to mass consumerism. I am in love with the idea of gathering scrap steel sheet, raw slabs of stone and cast off composite countertops and making them into something luxurious.

Q: How do you think we can reconcile the need to create from within an industry that has traditionally relied solely on resource extraction and mining? What role does the environment play, specifically our responsibility as artists to it?
A: Very important questions. I think it is imperative to use ethically sourced metals and materials. When I was at the Sydney College of Arts in Australia as a guest artist / lecturer I found that it was very easy to have access to ethically sourced metals. I stocked up. I also encourage artists to ask their clients to reuse old metals / jewellery to minimise the impact of extraction and mining. This is one of the reasons I have chosen to mainly use alternate materials that would otherwise be destined for landfill.

About the Interviewee

Lawrence Woodford received his college degree in jewellery and metal arts at the École de Joaillerie in Montreal and his MFA from NSCAD University in Halifax, Canada. He won his first award as best emerging artist the following year and has since maintained a professional studio practice as a jewellery artist. He has taught at three visual arts institutions. During this period, he received accolades from his peers through awards and research grants. Lawrence has taught different levels of jewellery, focusing on fabrication, metal forming and new methods for new materials; he was also a studio advisor for undergraduates at NSCAD University. Participating in international exhibitions, being published in numerous anthologies on contemporary jewellery as well as public speaking, Lawrence Woodford’s contribution to this art form is significant. He has been invited to artist residencies around the world, one of which was at the Sydney College of the Arts as a guest artist and lecturer and was recruited to teach at Penland School of Crafts. He has had solo exhibitions in Australia and Canada and is working on a collaborative exhibition in the United States. Woodford lives in an off-grid eco-home / studio in rural British Columbia, Canada where he continues to make work for exhibitions, give workshops and re-evaluate the aesthetics of the worn object.

About the author

I believe that artists are far more than the art they create or the tools they use - they are creative problem solvers who by their very desire to create, challenge the status quo. They create because some part of them, hidden or otherwise, imagines the world differently; they percieve a reality that is beyond what already exists. It is this perception, this imagination or sixth sense that I believe is at the root of our creativity - this drive to create - and the more we discuss and explore it together, the better we will be able to understand ourselves.
/ Alta Cain
Alta Cain is our exhibition curator, as well as an artist and digital broadcaster. She is interested in exploring the ways in which technology can be used to build creative communities, connecting artists and their art with an audience that is not limited to geographical space. With the potential for their art to seen and their voices heard, she is also interested in understanding the ways in which the role of the artist is shaped and changed within the digital age. She is also the writer and producer of the podcast - The Fear that Lurks - a montly podcast that explores the things we fear most, from myth to mass hysteria.
Her work can be found at:
1) podcast - The Fear that Lurks
3) Instagram
Lawrence Woodford. Necklace: The Road to the Cenote, 2015. Green quartz, steel, silver.. 9.5 x 1.5 x 19.5 cm (with chain 110 cm). Photo by: John Kane. From series: Way Finding. Lawrence Woodford
Necklace: The Road to the Cenote, 2015
Green quartz, steel, silver.
9.5 x 1.5 x 19.5 cm (with chain 110 cm)
Photo by: John Kane
From series: Way Finding
© By the author. Read Copyright.