As I am slowly delineating my design proposal, my research has thrown up some interesting avenues which have really aided me in gaining a much greater understanding, firstly of what perhaps I was trying to achieve in some of my earlier work and secondly, what I want to accomplish going forward.
As I am mulling over one of the questions which is written all over my sketch book; Can I encapsulate the past and the present? I start reading Sisse Tanderup, Design School Kolding, PHD paper titled, From memory to jewellery – perspectives on memory in Italian and Danish jewellery design. Tanderup discusses how design objects, specifically jewellery hold collective cultural memories, communicating our historic identity as well as who we are now individually, in the present.
‘Memory is the past in the present. It is nurtured and passed on, shaped and added to, by each generation. Memory is about making the past relevant to the present, but it is also about creating a memory filter so that some things can be chosen and other things forgotten.’
‘Alessandro Mendini suggests that the second life of objects is important. The objects first gain qualities of humanity and compassion with time by the people who use them. Many objects today are rapidly devalued. They are intended to break and change quickly. It is a fast culture as opposed to a slow culture. You need a slow culture, which is what memory is about. (Mendini, 2013). The jewellery examples chosen for this paper get a second life through the conversations about and around them. Memory in jewellery design concerns the creation of “slow jewellery” in opposition to ”fast fashion”. (Hines & Bruce, 2001) Slow jewelries are precious as they can form and transform our identity. They possess the potential to last and thus to become a part of our cultural memory.’
I have started to run with the concept of unlocking and narrating the stories and provenance attached to sentimental jewellery. In my years of working in the auction world it was always the conversations with the vendors, taking the time to talk through their memories which was important and significant to me. And it’s one aspect of the working world which I certainly miss. I would go as far to say that sometimes, the physical object was irrelevant, but maintaining the social history it represents, for me should be paramount.
In Mah Rana’s Meanings and Attachments project we see a written and photographic testimony publishing individuals personal connections to their jewellery. I wonder if it is viable to push this concept further, physically representing a reconstruction of the past memories that is relevant in the here and now, firstly to the subject or owner, but then also with the option to open this conversation up and engage with a wider audience when worn.
Between my partner and I, we have one grandparent still with us. My partners maternal Grandmother is 92 and in recent years Dementia has taken a grip on her life. When we visit her, we often take some of her family photograph albums with us – They seem to soften the agitation that Dementia has given rise to, acting as triggers and gateways into a lucid clearer mind of her past.
Jayne Wallace, a design researcher & Professor at the Design School at Northumbria University, describes her work as ‘exploring the potential of jewellery, digital technologies and the act of making to support sense of self’. Her Personhood in Dementia project in particular resonates with me. Here we see Wallace creating and tailoring jewellery as memory prompts and digital supports in Dementia.
‘It has been argued that jewellery objects have a particular intimacy, distinct from many other kinds of object, both in terms of their physical connection with the body, and their human-relational contexts (20, 29). Thus, as a symbol of self, identity and inter-personal relationships, jewellery has the potential to act as a conduit to transport us to other times, places and people and also a container for our feelings about that associated ‘other’ (23, 28, 33).’
In a technologically led world it’s effortless to find a story but much harder to uncover the real story. I think we easily overlook documenting genuine social history and instead we filter and supply a continual stream of content we project to our online communities. The photographs below and featured in the header are from my own family, I like to think that if they were still with us today, that I would ask more questions.