by Marissa Ryan Racht

 This past fall Lucy Sarneel became the main advising tutor for Alchimia’s second year MFA program. Marissa Ryan Racht, one of her students and an on-going contributor to Alchimia’s blog, has been asked to interview her. The outcome is a short story on her practice as an internationally acclaimed jewelry maker, as a professor and as a mother.


Lucy is not a very egocentric artist. I could tell she was a bit hesitant to talk about herself, beginning by saying that others will probably be able to tell me better who she is, but agreed to give it a try.

After one basic year and three years of technical jewelry training at the art academy in Maastricht, she felt the need for greater artistic challenge. Gradually it became clear to her, that technique is a means to intent, not the intent in itself.” The fact that Onno Boekhoudt was head of the jewelry department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy at that time, made her continue to study there for another four years, finishing in 1989. After the academy, things went well; lots of opportunities to show her work and some grants that supported her artistic development, without too much pressure on earning money (Oh – the Netherlands!).

She later met her partner, painter Jelle Kampen, and in 1995 and 1997 their daughters were born. “This was an indescribable experience and a huge change in my way of living and working.” The birthing experience is life changing, “you suddenly have an entirely new role. There is much less time to work. It changes your whole psyche.” Before kids she had more time, and especially more time for doubt. After having children she found herself becoming much more decisive – “decisions began to come more naturally and effectively. You develop a greater sense of living in that moment.” Plus, the imaginative world of children can be very inspiring. “The freedom, the lust for life and impulsiveness of expression…it’s a wonderful learning experience.”

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Her oldest daughter made this jewelry piece for her in her studio when she was around 7 years old. It says: ” isn’t it beautiful?”

For many years Lucy’s practice as a professional maker was mainly developing in the studio, while having a few wage earning-jobs, and being a mother. In 2009 she began teaching on a regular basis at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy until 2014.

Teaching at the Rietveld Academy was intensive and interesting, but she desired to dive deeper into her own work, so left the position to dedicate more time to her own studio practice. The balance between these two roles is fragile, and never easy to handle, there is a constant risk of one taking over the other. However, the challenge proposed by Doris Maninger and Lucia Massei last year to become tutor of Alchimia’s MFA was accepted with pleasure: “I admire Doris and Lucia for establishing Alchimia from the heart, independently and non-bureaucratically, and developing it to such a high level as it is now.”

She enjoys the contact with the students, and is intrigued by what occupies them and their working-processes, finding it an enriching search. She notes, “…to follow a course of study like this is a very courageous choice!” Meetings are intense, but articulated in workshops throughout the years, so getting used to the incidental contact with the students was no easy task, while becoming accustomed to the more distant interaction. However “the teaching staff keeps each other informed by e-mail about lessons, which is important in order to understand the input that the students are getting.”

Lucy finds it a rewarding challenge to give the right feedback to a student and a pleasure when she sees it work out well. Questioning and listening are essential aspects of teaching. As a professor she tries to “crawl into someone else’s skin” in order to understand their reasons, and to be able to give appropriate suggestions to help developing further. “The warm, relaxed atmosphere at Alchimia is wonderful and contributes to an open attitude.”

She hopes the students will develop a dialogue between the idea, the material, and the form, by evaluating attempts and failures, while doing and reflecting, and thinking in possibilities rather than solutions. This way of working opens personal potential and ways of looking, while teaching the students to rely on themselves and to convince others of the value of their work. Lucy personally strives for a strong and authentic visual language with a consciousness to the realm of the jewelry field. “The work is the vehicle for communication with the world and leads to certain situations in which it is positioned and shown.” She is interested in the way people live their lives – how they try to master this incomprehensible life with an inevitable end. By miming the evil, for instance, in the image below to the left, of an Austrian Krampus…

 

…or by beautifying (as in the image above to the right) “people express themselves and their surroundings and everything in between these two options, they establish their place in the universe.”

Image on the left: Iris ApfelAmerican businesswoman, interior designer, and fashion icon. Image on the right: Woman from Marken, ca. 1940-50

She believes that body ornament and related matters provide rhythm in life stages and identity. Objects of unintended beauty from daily life, folk-art, curiosities, bring her wonder.

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A farmer wearing a milk stool, image by Lucy Sarneel.

“The intimacy between a person and a jewelry piece/object and the private in the public intrigues me.”

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Photo taken in Mexico in 2010 by Lucy Sarneel.

“Traditions and ceremonies: how they transform through time: on the one hand people want to keep things as they are, but at the same time society changes and asks for anticipation which is a complex process.”

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Cover image of “How to Wrap Five More Eggs: Traditional Japanese Packaging” by Hideyuki Oka and Michikazu Sakai, Published January 1st 1975 by Weatherhill Inc.

Her work results from trying to understand the world around her, “people and animals are being sacrificed for what purpose, really?” She is looking for fields of tension in the form of ideas and materials as a metaphor for life in the quest for balance between forces and ideas of role-patterns by which we are influenced.

“Aren’t we all jugglers, trying to keep all the balls in the air? The extremely big element (the ball) brings the whole in physical balance, but into visual imbalance. The ball is at rest.”

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Lucy Sarneel, Juggler’s Moment #2, necklace, 2014. Materials: zinc, polyester ribbon, acrylic paint, varnish, bamboo fibre, foam clay. Dimensions: 57 x 10 x 7 cm, courtesy of a private collection, Australia.

Recently she was invited to contribute to an artist’s project: Spakenburgse Divas, a combination of photo-series, theatrical documentaries, performances, workshops and publications about the inspiring role of Dutch traditional women’s costumes in Dutch art and how incorporating them into contemporary art, though the tradition is being lost, may help them to live on in a certain way.

The artists have been working together for 16 years with three women from Spakenburg who have committed themselves to art. They regard these women as guardians of traditions. Lucy is one of eight artists working on the project and was asked to enrich two of the kraplappen with her signature style and the artist Joseph Beuys as an inspiration. The two force-fielded kraplappen are meant to signify eight professors from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. The project is scheduled to be exhibited at the end of May.

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Lucy Sarneel, Juggler’s moment #6, necklace, 2016. Materials: zinc, part of metal plate from thé flea market,wood (back side) bio-bamboo, acrylic paint, varnish, polyester ribbon, foam clay. Dimensions: 55 x 10 x 8 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

 

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This is an image of a woman in the traditional costume of Spakenburg, wearing Juggler’s Moment #6. Part of the project Het Wilde Oog/ Wout Nooitgedagt. Image provided by the artist.

Lucy is curious about people’s fascination with branding – a word initially deriving from burning an owner’s sign into the skin of an animal. Just like traditional tribal tattoos (indicating to which tribe one belongs to), people surround themselves with logos and brands, communicating who they are and which corporations they belong to. “They work hard to be able to buy things or services that they don’t really need. It’s a strange situation…”

Society becomes structured in a tribal way, now the light of the computer replaces the light of the campfire. We have evolved, but not as much as we think we have. We are still driven by prehistoric instincts. Lucy would like to think that we are all somehow searching for significance, and for her making jewelry is a way to communicate this need and to share it with others. It’s also a matter of playing for her – putting the seriousness of life into perspective and enjoying that moment. A smell, a sound, a flower or the sun on the face – all reasons for wanting to make. “…the idea that this thing that I make has the mission to be intimately connected with a person gives it an extra dimension; the giving.”

We also talked about materials. “The value that is attributed to jewelry (still) is strongly connected to the belief that its powers lie in the qualities of the form (symbol) and of its materials”. Zinc is an important element for her. The grey-tone reminds her of the Dutch sky and sea, it’s not a color, but the reflected light between black and white, light and dark, it relates to the subconscious. Zinc (or most often zinc-plated steel, because zinc protects steel from rusting) is omnipresent in urban environments, used as architectural details like turrets, dormers or rain-pipes. In the past, in domestic environments – buckets, washboards, and bathtubs were often made of zinc. For her it is an association with daily-life and “secure feeling”.

Making constructions of this kind is a challenge. Zinc easily tears and burns and the tin solder that is used has a very low melting point. When soldering one part there is a risk of another part collapsing, because the solder melts throughout the piece.

She also explores other materials. They seduce her and “it is a pleasure to apply them, to make them on my own and give them a meaning in a piece of jewelry. Sometimes the materials are autonomous objects; like for instance antique chest-patches of traditional Dutch costumes or objects like wooden knobs and peanut bowls.”

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Lucy Sarneel’s studio. Image provided by the artist.

Gradually materials we associate with “the exotic” entered her work; like bamboo, seeds, wood and bone. She feels drawn to cultures with rituals, magical thinking and close relations to nature giving shape to something beyond ourselves.“There’s an aspect of strange and at the same time familiar, looking at for instance, a nkisi mpya, which has to do with an affinity for Catholic artifacts.”

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Nkisi mpya. Image provided by the artist.

She plays with the suggestion of pure, natural materials, which are in fact artificial or come from commercial products that use nature as a marketing strategy. Another reason for applying artificial materials with a natural appearance is that we mostly see what we want to see, not what is actually there. It’s about the relation with matter through a body of thought.

The raffia is plastic, the wood is micro-paper or plastic, the bamboo comes from a fly-screen, the dried fruits and seeds from a perfumed potpourri mixture one can buy in home-decoration shops, the drawings on the metal are made with a permanent marker, zinc is painted in a zinc-grey tone, etc.

Imagination is the magic matter for Lucy.

 

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Food offering in Bali. Image provided by the artist.

“Balinese people make these food offerings daily to thank the gods for every new day. Although they are ephemeral, they are made with a lot of attention and dedication.”

This series of Daily Offers are referring to this tradition and at the same time to the commercial world with its seductive daily offerings in the shops.

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Lucy Sarneel, Daily Offer #4, necklace, 2015. Materials: zinc, plastic, bamboo, acrylic paint, varnish, nylon thread, nylon raffia. Dimensions: 32 cm x 14 cm x 5,5 cm. Courtesy of a private collection, Australia.

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Lucy Sarneel, Daily Offer #6, necklace, 2015. Materials: nylon raffia, nylon thread, zinc, artificial ivory, plastic, acrylic paint, varnish. Dimensions: 30 x 17 x 5,8 cm. Courtesy of the collection of the China Academy of Arts-Folk Art Museum, Hangzhou, China.

“An offering also indicates a sacrifice, which is more and more real in our world when you think about the difficult situation that many people today are experiencing. I’m currently working on this aspect.”

This is a piece she recently made, Waiting for the Sun.

 

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Lucy Sarneel, WAITING FOR THE SUN, necklace, 2016. Materials: zinc, leather, nylon thread, 33 x 15,5 x 2,5 cm. Courtesy Galerie Marzee, Netherlands.

“It’s about shutting yourself off from the misery in the world. The shape of the pair of glasses derives from a plastic part from a pair I found on the street. Whose eyes looked through it and what intent did they have in mind? Although, at the same time, it’s about the lust for life which makes us look for the positive sides of it.”

Her advice for someone finishing their studies and entering into the professional field of contemporary jewelry is that you need an inner necessity and passion for your practice as a jewelry artist. We need each other to make ourselves visible; artists, collectors, museum-directors, curators, gallerists, writers, teachers, colleagues, audiences, bloggers etc. “It’s wonderful to be in charge of your own cosmos, but it’s also a tough job.” Lucy encourages us to take chances, push boundaries, and try to connect with others through the work. Concentrate on what we expect from ourselves instead of what others expect from us. We need to give ourselves time to grow, because it’s a never-ending, enriching learning process. In this sense, a profound lesson in Lucy’s story, work, world-view and teaching is that we should allow ourselves the freedom to see and take in the simple and honest aspects of daily life, whether good or bad, and react to them in a natural and non-self-conscious way in our work.

Marissa Racht is a jewelry artist based in Florence. She is currently attending the second year of the MFA in Contemporary Jewelry and Body Ornament at Alchimia, tutored by Lucy Sarnee

 

 

Alchimia’s second year MFA team of students visited Schmuck 2016 with its curatorial studies tutor Antonia Alampi. They spent their time analyzing and closely discussing a select number of exhibitions among the more than 70 organized for this year’s event.

Our team of experts has been asked to act as critics: by reviewing an exhibition from the perspective of its infrastructure, by tracing and discussing parallels between exhibitions, or by discussing this year’s jewelry week in relation to previous ones.

With the participation of Lillian Mattuschka, Marissa Racht Ryan and Francesco Coda.

What you are reading is Part II of the study. To read Part I, please click here.

 Marissa Ryan Racht

There were a few trends that I noticed this year as apposed to last. I should note that last year was my first one visiting Schmuck, so everything was new and impressive to my virgin “Schmuck eyes”. This year I noticed that in several exhibitions there were many of the same exact works as last year. Some of those who offered the same pieces, also put less effort and care into their actual display, hence they were doubly disappointing. I can’t imagine that this is a great career move for the artists. It almost seems a better policy to not show at all rather than reshow the same pieces for several years consecutively.

Thematically, something that really stood out for me at the 2016 Schmuck Fair was the presence of the smart phone. It seemed like something emerging from an anthropological study. Not only was every person you encountered taking photos, using apps, navigating with their smart phones, but the concepts behind several of the works were based on the use of them in contemporary society.

A prime example of this trend was one of the three winners of Schmuck at the fair. It is by a woman artist from New Zealand, Moniek Schrijer. What I gathered from the information provided at the awards ceremony is that this piece references the Rosetta Stone. With it, she is imagining a future far from now, where our smart phones have long since ceased functioning, and when we happen to question their meaning and past function as we encounter them as an archaeological discovery.

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“Tablet Of”, Neckpiece, 2015, Porcelain slate, gold, black Nephrite beads, steel wire 8.5 x 13.08 cm

The piece “This is the approximate size of an iPhone screen” by artist Emil Gustafsson, also in the main exhibition of Schmuck in the fair, is another example of this trend. Predictably enough, when doing a little research to find out a bit more information on this work’s concept, I gleamed that one of the artist’s main inspirations are the studies by anthropologist Edward T. Hall titled “The Hidden Dimension” (1966), “a study of the physical distance people maintain between each other in different contexts and cultures”. [To read more about it click here]. What this piece seems to be talking about is the fact that our focus on digital communication is robbing us of the natural, physical and visual cues that helped us develop as a species.

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“This is the approximate size of an iPhone screen”, brooch, 2015, acrylic, steel, silver, rubber, aluminum, 5 x 8.9 x 1.6 cm

There were a few other works referencing the smart phone topic, but I also want to mention a glaring, even if probably not intentional, parallel. At the end of a grueling day, having visited what seemed like hundreds of exhibitions, we made a brief stop at Gallerie Thomas Modern. This exhibition featured the works of two prominent 20th century artists. It honored the 30th anniversary of the death of Joseph Beuys and the 10th anniversary of the death of Nam June Paik. Both artists’ practice heavily focuses on the technological advances of their generations and their psychic effects on us as people.

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JOSEPH BEUYS Erdtelephon (Earth Telephone) 1968 Telephone, cords, clump of earth with grass on wooden board. Signed and dated in pencil on wooden board, verso: “Joseph Beuys 68” (photo courtesy of: http://www.zwirnerandwirth.com)

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Nam June Paik: Lächelnder Buddha (Buddha Looking at Old Candle TV), 1992. Metallmonitor, Bronze, Kerze © Nam June Paik Estate

As two key contributors of Fluxus (an artistic movement that started in the 50s whose political aim was to have an agency over society through their art): “They focus on the events of everyday life and reject the concept of “high art” for new, more accessible forms that can be interactive and even playful in their irony [Fluxus, Joan Rothfess, 2005].” As jewelry artists we are constantly trying to consider our works’ physical interaction with the wearer and viewers. Now, I’m not sure if the pieces I mentioned are trying to change the world, but they certainly seem to be addressing our cultural dependences and the proliferation of this particular technology. Maybe they are “poking” us à la Facebook in an attempt to look up from our digital/screen worlds and take notice of the material world in front of our eyes – or maybe I’m just reading into things like an old lady talking to the kids about how things were back in my day…

Lillian Mattuschka

 After two weeks of dwelling I finally came up with a personal view, the prism of a student that, for the fourth year, flies to Munich to see what is new in the jewellery world and ends up wondering where this field or little community wants to go, and even asking what this field has to say anyway.

I’ll walk you through an example, the exhibition “Everyday Epics”, taking place at the Kunstpavillion. The artists were Alexander Blank, Kiko Gianocca, Jing He, Sophie Hanagrath, Jiro Kamata and Florian Weichsberger. We arrived at the exhibition on Friday after lunch, with a beautiful weather, the sun was shining over the squared pavilion and we were lucky because we were almost the only ones visiting at that time. We were immediately overwhelmed by the natural light shining trough the glass ceiling. The room was filled with wooden tables, used to show the work of Munich Academy’s top former students. The only things not on a table were a more conceptual work and a video both realized by Jing He and presented and screened on a wall.

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“everyday epics”, exhibition view, photo from jirokamata.com

 

Flashback to last year: same place, same people, same pieces?! The only difference was the display (shiny tables instead). In 2015 this exhibition was the favourite of almost every Alchimia student. Clearly last year’s setting table captured attention, so my question at this point is: was the table stronger than the pieces? This year’s setting was indeed less glamorous than the previous one – maybe the artists wanted to give more attention to their pieces?

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“Lux is the Dealer”, exhibition view, photo from photo from http://www.jirokamata.com

Just as in 2015, all you had as exhibition hand-out was an A4 paper with titles, dates and opening hours, numbers related to the works with very synthetic information and especially with no artist statement, nor any kind of introduction to the show more generally. My obvious questions relate to why these artists, why together, why this title, and if (or not) there was anything they had in common except for having shared the same professor during their studies. Think with me. Last year’s show in this space featured the same artists, almost the same pieces, but with the title “Lux is the Dealer”. So what becomes clear is only that (YES!) it is the table (and the lights) that making the difference.

A show is made up by different elements that should work together in order to enhance the works, to tell a story or transmit a statement. In this show I had a hard time understanding what the artists wanted to say. I am a jewelry student, so who if not someone like me should be able to understand this language? In essence I think that the artists should be more generous with information, and in exhibition making, helping generic visitors, peer artists, collectors, readers, etc…making the substance of their work more legible, and not change direction in random order, depending on the moods (and colors) of the weather (or the tables).

Francesco Coda

I will focus on the exhibitions “everyday epics” and “Lux is the Dealer”, realized in 2016 and 2015 respectively, both taking place at the Kunstpavillon in Munich, and both featuring works by former students of Otto Künzli.

“Lux is the Dealer” had been set up on one single very long table in black plexiglass, crossing diagonally the entire room. Light was generated by several light bulbs on the table that reflected light in reverse – a perfect method for pieces such as those by Jiro Kamata, mirror necklaces whose colors became even brighter and more fluorescent during the evening. The exhibition’s title was hang on the wall in a blue neon, adding to the suggestive environment, bearing a quite strong visual impact.

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All photos: “Lux is the Dealer”, exhibition view, photo from photo from http://www.jirokamata.com

Based on last year’s experience, my expectations towards the 2016 edition of the show were very high, given it was featuring basically the same artists. Surprisingly, many pieces were just the same as the previous year’s, the exhibition was very sober, all was arranged on several plywood tables, accompanied by a leaflet with only very basic information. Fortunately many artists were present and generous when talking about their work. In the evening the space was re-organized to host a party, and it was quite amazing how much more interesting the space looked in this different configuration.

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All photos: “everyday epics”, exhibition view, photo from jirokamata.com

All in all I think that too often in jewelry exhibitions we find tables or plinths as a main solution for the display of our pieces, while I really hope we will put a little more effort in finding new creative ways of presenting our work.

 

Dates: 25 to 29 July 2016
30 hours
Cost: 700 euro + 22% VAT
Deadline for enrollment: June 20, 2016

Due to popular demand and success, Alchimia offers again a workshop on filigree from July 25 to 29 2016, with Susanne Matsché (www.susannematsche.com), an Austrian-American-German jeweller, specialized in this very particular method adapted to contemporary jewelry.

Take some time, just like this ancient technique requires, to carefully read Susanne’s account over her encounter with filigree, and the richness of its possible creative uses, in contemporary jewelry and beyond.

* When I went studying to Moscow as a young exchange student from Vienna (previously I had studied design for 2 years), I came across filigree which was hugely popular in the jewelry department there, and at first it seemed oddly exotic…but a good teacher managed to draw my attention to the magic of it. He taught me its secrets and I dived into the world of silver ornaments – one year of intense technical training. When I came back to Austria I experienced a cultural shock, and the pieces I had made were shocking for the department (not their style at all)! It took me a while, but after creating a few special pieces, I processed this clash. 

Ever since, filigree has played an important role in my works. Up to this day I am directly or indirectly influenced by this experience. Handing on my knowledge in the filigree workshops I teach, and introducing the technique to students of contemporary jewelry, is so interesting because I can perceive the wide variety of approaches to this ancient technique and the amazing different paths on which the students are taking the fine wires.

* The fine silver wire with which we work in the workshops is very soft, it has an almost textile quality, suggesting associations with techniques usually untypical for metalwork, like stitching, weaving, binding, wrapping…

Due to its softness the wire/the fine silver elements can also be used in a very organic way, as if the parts of the piece of jewelry were growing and flowing. Sometimes I see a vine and I think of various wires winding around the rigid structure of the fence…

* I find it intriguing to start out from a thin plain wire, like a first line in a sketch, and to first build a two dimensional surface from there, then moving on to the third dimension. Working with filigree is also about the excitement of working up all the elements from scratch (even the special solder) into a delicate, three-dimensional piece, which is a great source of inspiration for the students’ work and an opportunity for them to integrate this knowledge into their own previously acquired set of skills.
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* In contemporary jewelry there is an overall tendency to create large, sculptural pieces. Working with this fine technique is definitely a challenge, because one’s attention gets drawn to the detail. A colleague of mine, who had never seen my work in real life, was amazed to find that some of the pieces he had seen in pictures were actually smaller than he had thought. The intricacy of this technique and the effort and time it takes to create large surfaces, can be an interesting motivation to “think smaller” (and this doesn’t necessarily have to always refer to the physical size of the piece).
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* The roots of the filigree technique in jewelry lie in ancient mediterranean cultures (the Phoenician, Etruscan and Greek Empires). With the rise of the Constantine Empire in the first millennium BC, the technique was introduced to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Filigree was, and still is, used in many parts of Latin America (as introduced by the colonial powers) and the Oriental world (from Northern Africa all the way to the Arab peninsula) as well as Asia. Filigree was also practiced throughout Europe (from Portugal, Spain and Italy, through the Alpine regions, all the way to Scandinavia, the Baltic states and the Balkans). In many parts of central and Western Europe today however, the technique is barely used anymore. The high cost of labour made it hard to produce and its distinctive style became generally unpopular in mainstream jewelry in Europe during the 20th century. 

Since ancient times the challenge of this technique was “to use minimal amount of precious metal to create an object of maximum size” (Oppi Untracht, “Traditional Jewelry of India”) and it remains an interesting challenge for today’s young jewelers and a sure source of inspiration!

*Among the things I always find inspiring is to look at traditional pieces and costumes from all around the world. Often they involve filigree. It is not only inspiring to study the actual pieces, but also the context and the way they were worn. One of my favorite examples is the national costume of Zeeland (a region in the Netherlands) where women wear the most amazing headgears.

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* In today’s world full of efficiency and simplifications, it can be rewarding to take some time for a closer look at such an ancient and intricate technique, which is so slow and so loaded with ornaments. I find that taking this step “backward”, can lead to unexpected steps forward/sidewards/inwards,… or it can lead to an in-depth examination of the present (work), with its underlying ideas and approaches.

* The word “filigree” is often used not only in relation to jewelry, but in general to poetically describe something fine, light, fragile and delicate, regardless of the dimensions. Many things, from sugar decoration for cakes to the work of the ingenious engineer Gustave Eiffel are all associated with “filigree.” When entering the German word “filigran” into an internet search engine, apart form jewelry one finds entries about insects, botany, tattoos, even construction of concrete bridges. No matter what size, “filigree/filigran” is a fascinating principle dealing with the use of the structure’s lightness to create space. Therefore, I believe that inspiration for fine pieces can be found anywhere, on the streets, in a hardware store, on a map, in a forest…

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BY THE 2ND YEAR ALCHIMIA MFA STUDENTS

Alchimia’s second year MFA team of students visited Schmuck 2016 with its curatorial studies tutor Antonia Alampi. They spent their time analyzing and closely discussing a select number of exhibitions among the more than 70 organized for this year’s event.

Our team of experts has been asked to act as critics: by reviewing an exhibition from the perspective of its infrastructure, by tracing and discussing parallels between exhibitions, or by tracing parallels and discussing this year’s jewelry week in relation to previous ones.

With the participation of Carla Movia, Lumy Noguez, and Chumeng Weng.

Check out our blog for next week’s Part II.

LUMY NOGUEZ

I’ve selected three exhibitions that have particularly interested me from different perspectives.

Hibernate – Helena Lehtinen, Eija Mustonen and Tarja Tuupanen

Beautifully made, featuring exceptional pieces in terms of technique, with a very straight-forward display: each work had next to it the pages of a book focusing both on the piece itself and on the exhibition as a whole, sewing together the different elements. Even
though it was a group show you could experience the strength of the individual practices by having in depth information about each one of them. The display was simple but tasteful and it related well to the show above by Ketli Tiitsar & Kristi Paap, with the organizers and artists being particularly warm and generous in responding to questions or clearing out doubts.

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Hibernate, photo by Lumy Noguez

By Royal Appointment – The Dialogue collective

This group really curated every detail! They transformed or created furniture in a cheap, but striking way. They thought about themselves as part of the exhibition, dressing up and performing in it, and had a thorough explanation about each artistic approach, and their display stratagems were always personal, but also relating well to the overall group decisions. The mode of (free) distribution they found via the use of funny brochures/pins was ingenious. The only weak point I found were the pieces themselves! Which I believe is one of the most important aspects. I had the impression that some of them focused a lot on making a good exhibition, but ultimately didn’t develop their own pieces as much. I think that all elements should be balanced, because what is the point of making a great and complete display when the quality of the pieces is missing and the exhibition ends up swallowing up your own work? Unless of course your intention is making of the exhibition itself a piece, but then it is necessary to make sure that the public understands that. This highlights the difficulty of being the artist and the curator of your own show.

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By Royal Appointment, all photos by Lumy Noguez

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Unbearable lightness – Federica Sala

This exhibition, more than anything else, was an inspiration for me. It was great to see this place completely transformed since last year. Even though the place is very characterized, it was conceptually related to the pieces. The light and the rough tables highlighted the elegant and striking contrast and tension that the works are all about. The artist did a good job in advertising her work inside and outside of the exhibition space, and in realizing “valuable” and “affordable” versions for everything so as to address and target different audiences. Such as the two versions of the book, or by realizing edition pieces (that were successfully very quickly sold) in addition to the more expensive ones.

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Unbearable Lightness, all photos by Lumy Nogues

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CHUMENG WENG

The exhibition (IM)PRINT left some imprints on me. It took place in easy!upstream, a project space that is clean, quiet and elongated. It featured twelve artists, which is a lot of people, with different cultural and educational backgrounds. The exhibition discussed the act of leaving an imprint on something in life, through different medias. The artists’ individual works remained autonomous and undisturbed by each other thanks to the dimension, but also the coherent use, of the white exhibition space. The works presented were extremely diverse: books, posters, prints, videos etc, all sorts of expressions that are usually not attached to conventional ideas about jewelry, all tied by the same topic, imprint. Of course there were artists that use jewelry as a medium (e.g. Nils Hint’s forged iron cut out and David Clarke’s pewter cutlery),  interestingly and perfectly relating to the overall theme.

A work by Japanese artist Yuka Oyama closed the exhibition, “Helmet – River” a performance film in which a group of collectives wearing white coveralls and helmets paint a carpet sized canvas together, a video-installation without any apparent relation to jewelry. The effect was ambiguous, and I find it too ambitious to expect the audience to be able to trace a connection between the film and the rest of the exhibition, without any linguistic or visual explanation of it. Whether intentional or not, the video had been set up in the back of the space at a converging point – a possible good conclusion, if my mind hadn’t  just been too exhausted from looking into the details of all the other pieces. But details is what jewelry is about…

(IM)PRINT is one of the few exhibitions that triggered my curiosity about the artists and the idea behind each piece. Most of them were extremely legible, however it would have been an added value if there were some knowledge shared about the artist and the circumstances that inspired him/her in creating the works. Ironically, little information was presented not for conceptual purposes, but due to a lack of preparation. On the other hand if there were explanations about everything it would have taken forever to read through the exhibition. An alternative could always be to select fewer artists.

I found this information lacking also in many other exhibitions. I felt like everyone was trying to be ‘conceptual’ by hiding their statements. Whereas when there were people explaining the ideas behind the works, the quality of the pieces seemed to not be as interesting as their concepts. I found students’ works being more conservative in comparison to last year’s MJW, with the exception of the exhibition by the students of the Central Saint Martins at Vitsœ Munich, titled “Shelf-Life”. The exhibition space was beautifully utilized and the pieces were interesting. The handout was an empty book cover, a quite original idea working well with the exhibition.

The auction was something new this year. It is a nice idea to provide an alternative to galleries and to bring in different ways of selling works or bringing in a diverse audience to the scene, even though most bidders seemed still to come from the same contemporary jewelry bubble. Adversely, an auction really needs more professional auctioneers, more viewable display systems for the pieces and a better conclusion for the audience – in general, a better organization.

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(IM)PRINT, photo by Chumeng Weng

CARLA MOVIA

The exhibition Hibernate, located in the basement of the 84ghz building, for me was a great example of a capturing and coherent show. Hibernate is not only the name of the book, but also the name of the collective formed by Helena Lehtinen, Eija Mustonen, and Tarja Tuupanen, three Finnish jewelry artists who have been working together since 1999.The exhibition itself was only part of the event as its book-launch was actually its real purpose, a quite nice inversion of trajectory.

The space, with its silence and “emptiness”, immersed me in a special mood immediately upon arrival. The first thing you could see was a pile of books with a plain white cover, which immediately struck my curiosity. Images of landscapes, jewelry pieces, landscapes and pieces, all somehow subtle and quiet, populate the books’ pages; I could understand the jewelry pieces just by looking at these images, with their magic and peace. The book depicts the work of the three artists and their surroundings, what Helena, Eija and Tarja see and live everyday. I bought the book to continue my journey through the show.

The second room was the exhibition space. It was darkened; the only source of light being a line of plain light bulbs placed on a narrow white table on which the pieces and the open books were laid. Once again, even in the space of the exhibition, the images completed the pieces and vice versa. Walking through the space, while looking at the pieces, I felt the same peace and quietness that the book evoked just a few minutes earlier. There were objects and jewelry, both made by very contrasting materials, but still speaking the same language. The strength of metal talked to the fragility of the thin chalkboards, black and white talked to colors, creating a harmonious dialogical atmosphere.

After going through the whole exhibition Eija, one of the artists, approached us explaining what the exhibition and their collective are about. Once again, everything she was depicting was retraceable in the book, display and pieces. Her explanation was the closure to a pleasant and fascinating exhibition.

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Photo sourced from Facebook

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Photo sourced from Facebook

What can we say, words are not exhaustive to describe how incredibly excited we are to share with you the pride about “Unbearable Lightness”, a solo-show of our recent MFA graduate Federica Sala in Munich, featuring her MFA collection. The exhibition was mentioned in the prestigious Art Jewellery Forum as one of the ten best presentations in the Munich Jewellery Week this year, and one of her pieces as one of the ten artworks that make the heart of experts skip beat.

In the Jury’s words:

“Fragility and strength are the main concepts of Federica Sala’s Unbearable Lightness collection. She creates necklaces that are extremely fragile, but at the same time pushes the limits of the material, as the combination of glass penetrated by stones gives us a poetic vision of the boundaries of jewelry. There are a very few pieces that blow your mind, that make your eyes sparkle, or give you so many different feelings and emotions that you can’t explain with words, because they are transcending our self-awareness: This is what I felt when I saw Federica’s necklace.”

Paulo Ribeiro, director and founder of Joya Barcelona Jewellery Fair.

“The Kunstgiesserei [art foundry] is one of my favorite venues in Munich and I have seen a couple of fantastic shows in this rough and powerful environment. Seeing Federica Sala’s show there makes one almost feel that she has been making pieces for this room—or like the room was built for her work. The necklaces and rings are made of glass and the light bubbles seem to be floating in the room. The contrast between the fragile glass and the stones set into the pieces is emphasized by the space, a contrast further hinted at by the exhibition title: Unbearable Lightness.”

Karin Roy Andersson, jewelry artist, manager of Four, and part of team Diagonal in Sweden.

Enjoy the visual ride.

x

Alchimia

 

 

invito mostra finale

Alchimia is very proud to present and invite you to two solo-shows by Daria Borovkova and Lavinia Rossetti, both happening in Antwerp at Hofstraat 1 and Galerie Hilde Metz respectively, opening on March 25, 2016.

Titled Being and Belonging and Madeleine, they are part of a series of solo exhibitions realized by the graduating students of Alchimia’s MFA program 2014/2015, each taking place in a different European city. During their last year of studies and for these exhibitions, Daria Borovkova and Lavinia Rossetti have been tutored by Belgian designer Nedda El-Asmar.

Read and see below a thorough insight into their work.

Daria Borovkova    

Being and Belonging      

25 – 26 March 2016

Opening: Friday, March 25, 6 – 10 pm

Saturday, March 26, 11 am – 7 pm

Hofstraat 1, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium

In her first solo exhibition, culminating the completion of the MFA program in Jewellery and Body Ornament, Daria Borovkova reflects on the multiculturality in the modern Western society.

The artist’s very physical process of creating pieces is a metaphor for the cultural identity formation – the unspecified metals are fused in a spontaneous personal alloy without any given proportions and rolled into paper-thin layers, then hand shaped and reshaped numerous times to become what at first glance seems a ring, each resulting unique. The malleability and the merging properties of the metals reinforce the idea of the constant shifting of our cultural being.

The artist also explores the circular shape and raises questions of where it starts and stops being a ring and becomes something else. Since a ring is a piece of jewellery strongly linked and connected to our body, it serves as a reference to the person’s natural sense and desire of belonging. The objects that some might not perceive as rings form another group which becomes a part of some larger but less identified context; the sole existence of which gives space for discussing the social and cultural integration. The work features 121 pieces and the visitors are invited to play an active part in interpreting them.

The exhibition is accompanied by a double catalogue with artist’s drawings and photos.

Daria Borovkova (born 1984, Moscow) has an international background and working experience as a visual merchandiser and interior designer. Educated in Linguistics and Intercultural Communication, and subsequently in Interior Design and Decoration, she got an MFA in Jewellery and Body Ornament at Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery School in Florence, tutored by the Belgian designer Nedda El-Asmar. Her work is dedicated to socio-cultural aspects and is expressed through direct involvement with natural materials that she carefully chooses for each project. Her jewellery has been exhibited in Europe and in the United States. She currently lives, teaches and works in Florence, Italy.

all photos: Daria Borovkova, Being and Belonging, 2016,121 jewelry objects, personal alloy, photos by Federico Cavicchioli, courtesy of the artist

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Lavinia Rossetti                                                                                                                    

Madeleine                                                                                                                             

25-26 March 2016

Opening: Friday, March 25, 6-10 pm

Saturday, March 26, 11am-7pm

Galerie Hilde Metz

Hofstraat 5-7 2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Madeleine is an homage to the famous petite French pastry, which in Proust’s life is a metaphorical key to open up his own memory. The Madeleines represent opaque and faded fragments of life lived, worn out by the slow passing of time.

Lavinia Rossetti, reminiscent of Proust’s Madeleines, uses oval shapes with the same intent, hosting a world of memories into them. In this collection of pendants and brooches Lavinia layers thin strips of wood worn out by time, as if they were layers of memories. These jewels are to be worn in that impalpable space between the mind and the heart where our memories are kept. Each piece comes with its own box, another piece of art on its own, and almost engages a dialogue with it. Thus, the outer and the inner become a whole entity.

Madeleine lends itself to various interpretations: on the one side, it is a metaphor of the traveller carrying his emotional and cultural baggage; on the other, it reminds us that no object can exist in our life without establishing a connection with our body, our emotions and memories.

Lavinia Rossetti (b. in 1985) is an Italian contemporary jewelry maker currently based in Florence. She holds an MFA in Contemporary Jewelry and Body Ornament from Alchimia contemporary Jewelry School in Florence, where the designer Nedda El Asmar mentored her through out a year. She obtained a BA in Art History with a special focus in Art jewellery from the University of Pisa, which was followed by a three-year program in Contemporary Jewelry at Alchimia, where she was tutored by many international artists such as Peter Bauhuis and Ruudt Peters.

She worked as an assistant for Ralph Bakker in Rotterdam and as a teaching assistant with Peter Bauhuis at Alchimia. Most recently her work has been exhibit in Europe and United States. She is currently working as a teaching assistant in the intensive courses at Alchimia and working as an independent jewellery artist.

 

 

 

A workshop led by Doris Maninger with the students of the second year of the BFA program.

“Proust said something to the effect that we only see beauty when we’re looking through an ornate gold frame, because beauty is very much about familiarity and it’s reinforcing an idea we have already. It’s like when we go on holiday, all we really want to do is take the photograph that we’ve seen in the brochure. Because our idea of beauty is constructed, by family, friends, education, nationality, race, religion, politics, all these things.”

Grayson Perry, The Reith Lectures*
* By clicking here you can listen to all of them.
Between the 1st and the 11th of February 2016, the students of the Alchimia BFA Program participated in a workshop led by Alchimia co-director, jewelry maker and artist Doris Maninger, titled How Much of You is in Every Me?.

Through this workshop I stimulate students in thinking about the formation, the weight and the role of their own cultural identity and how much it influences their work, and the conceptual and practical decisions they take. Via a variety of exercises they reflect on how much their biography (influenced by history, context, gender, etc.) affects everything they do, whether consciously or unconsciously. This workshop is also intended to wash away the fear of not being original (I believe we are always and never original), of copying, of not being knowledgeable enough. My aim is to make them aware of how everything they make, the repetitions they happen to produce, the patterns they create, all deeply relate to their persona, so why certain forms and thoughts always reappear, and what it is they are staying away from…”

Doris Maninger

To fill the gap between course descriptions and actual experience, Alchimia asked Margaret Munchheimer, one of our participating students, to write an account of the workshop from her perspective.

“Interwoven into each one of us is a unique combination of collective memory, cultural references and personal experiences loosely defined as ‘Identity’. This month, Doris Maninger guided us towards an in-depth investigation of this topic. Using photography, sketching, and model- and jewelry-making, this workshop looked at the forces and currents that shape and define us, and how they resonate and return in our practice. As a starting point for the analysis of the patterns, shapes, numbers and themes that recur in our work, we realized freely-interpreted presentations of our cultural identity and shared with the group the images that inspire us.
By identifying a single shape to represent ourselves, we built 3-D models, dissected and reassembled the same form, used and worked on the shapes of others, and deconstructed everything in multiple ways,  contemplating how much of ourselves we project on the other. We finalized the worksop by realizing a self-portrait as a jewelry piece,  critically discussing our choices regarding both form and function, via the new lenses of how and why we define ourselves through what we create.
The results were challenging and also emotional, especially in relation to the definition of the Self via the use of one image, and the interpretation of someone else’s gaze over our own work. A final exhibition of everything we realized showed a very cohesive insight into each student’s aesthetic, revealing yet another link between our personal artistic vocabularies, adding another narrative thread to the reading of our work.”

Margaret Munchheimer

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