Interview with Holland Houdek

Interview  /  Artists   BehindTheScenes
Published: 15.07.2016
Holland Houdek Holland Houdek
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To challenge and expand upon the idea of 'wearable art', I explore how jewelry can adorn the inside of the body through drawing connections between medical science and metal arts. Through my embodied jewelry, my goal is for viewers to consider their own physicality and re-conceptualize their understanding and awareness of their own bodies.
Do you think that jewellery is being standardized? What is there of local and universal in your artistic work?
One could argue that jewelry is perhaps easier to standardize today more than any other time due to technological advancements, but I think that we are simultaneously in a time of radical experimentation with the concept and aesthetics of jewelry as well. With my own work, I am dedicated to using more traditional techniques and to crafting highly technical pieces, while also embracing the conceptual depths that contemporary jewelry and metal arts afford. In this way, each of my pieces is rather original and would be difficult to duplicate, and yet the concepts speak to themes that can relate to human life on the whole.

What do you expect when exposing your work to the public (for example with an exhibition)?
To challenge and expand upon the idea of wearable art,  I explore how jewelry can adorn the inside of the body through drawing connections between medical science and metal arts. Through my embodied jewelry, my goal is for viewers to consider their own physicality and re-conceptualize their understanding and awareness of their own bodies. In my ongoing explorations into this medical-biological hybrid aesthetic, I hope to speak to people about the fragility of the human form while disrupting the binaries between life and death, time and mortality, permanence and decay.

Are other areas besides the jewellery, present in your work?
I have worked closely with various medical institutions and doctors in the past several years, and so I see my work articulating a strong relationship to the medical industry, of medical arts. I strive to find a balance between the technical and conceptual, and embrace an artistic orientation that seeks a marriage between sculpture, metal arts, and contemporary jewelry. I love working with metal more than anything though, and employing and playing with techniques of hand-fabrication.

The last work, book, film, city that has moved me was...
My favorite city that I have visited recently is actually Barcelona, Spain. Yes, I realize that Klimt02 is based in Spain (which makes me all the happier to finally become a member), but I truly fell in love while I was there. The mountains, the ocean, the green spaces scattered through the city, the markets and architecture, Gaudi (!), the proximity to the majestic Montserrat, the delicious and endless food, the people - what's not to love?  As far as books are concerned, I am a big fan of the works of the rogue fiction writer, Tom Robbins, and I enjoy getting lost in the strange and jarring worlds that he creates; I can also be a sucker for fantastical and whimsical books and films.

A place, space, country whose creativity surprises me...
I attend Munich Jewellery Week/Schmuck as often as I can (and can afford), and I always leave inspired to get back to the studio. I also spent a month in the Medina of Fez, Morocco, where metalsmiths and craft workers work constantly and in a hybrid new school/old school techniques. Moroccan intricate designs have influenced and continue to influence my work, and I constantly reflect back on that experience for inspiration and ideas. Other than that, I just love being in the studio with a torch or a hammer in my hand! 

Is there any designer, jeweller, artist, you appreciate a lot?
I really appreciate the work of Hanna Hedman and Julia DeVille as of late, but I am always exploring new artists and their works so that I can share them with my students and so I can keep up with what is going on in the field. The age-old concept of memento mori has also inspired much of my work, most directly my current (ongoing) series, Hyperbolic - Implants Series III. I have many more plans to continue exploring the depths of memento mori as a conceptual space, and for updating it for the contemporary age.

Object: Encrusted Penile RESerection (Penile Implant), 2015, From series: "Hyperbolic" (Implants Series III), hand-fabricated copper, pierced, penile implant, Swarovski crystals (1,106), bead-blasted, patina, 3 x 25 x 28 cm, Photographer: Tom Burazin

What piece or work has given you the most satisfaction?
The work in my Hyperbolic series has definitely given me the most satisfaction, but that is also likely because it is still very much in progress and continuing to develop. Each piece is incredibly labour-intensive, taking me literally months of working full time, seven days a week to complete each one. I have been working on the series for nearly two years now and I have a total of twenty-one rather different pieces, each of which revolves around a common narrative. I want to have about thirty pieces in the series in total, but I enjoy working on it so much that I may just keep going after I reach that point. It may become a lifetime's project...

Asymmetrical Mammoplasty (Double Breast Implant), 2015, From series: "Hyperbolic" (Implants Series III), hand-fabricated copper, pierced, silicone breast implants, Swarovski crystals (1,267), bead-blasted, patina, 4 x 27 x 18 cm, Photographer: Tom Burazin

Do you read Jewellery Magazines? What is your source to get information?
I primarily read Metalsmith Magazine, Klimt02, and the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) website for information and for keeping up with what everyone is doing in their practice. Although I also frequently look to other websites and online publications for calls for entry, to find new voices in the field, or to learn new things about what's going on in the broader discipline.
Do you discuss your work with other jewellery artists or any other person?
As a professor I always am engaging in dialogue with my students, colleagues, the graduate students, and with others throughout the community. I am always looking for the opportunity to receive studio visits and have my work critiqued, and I really push my students in their project critiques as well. I believe that critique and thinking critically about our concepts, techniques, and aesthetic choices is an integral part of being an artist and in pushing oneself into new directions and to the next level.
What is your first thought when you hear the word Future? What do you expect for?
Making more work (!) and continuing to advance my skill set and technical knowledge. I want to continue contributing to the field (making work, educating, facilitating dialogue, engaging with the broader discourse, etc.) and to making connections with others who share a passion for making, collecting, or just enjoying contemporary jewelry and metal arts. Of course, I also want to have a much more well-equipped studio to call my own, and in general just keep doing what I love.