A Therapeutic Step Back

I never thought I would say this, but blogging has become addictive. It really forces me to slow down, enabling a deeper analysis and aiding me to make better sense of the task at hand and effectively action what to do next.

So, now I’ve got the hang of blogging, and with a little hindsight, I thought it was a good point to stop, summarise and really take stock of some of my earlier work. Although I try and embed this in my daily work, I really want to attempt to dig a little deeper, gain a deeper holistic understanding of my work in progress, as well as challenge how I will push my work forward. This will also ensure my scheduling over the next few weeks in the run up to my summative assessment is focused and achievable.

OMI Jewels

It feels like a long time since my formative assessment, the hours spent at the kiln and the production of my first ‘memory’ box. Looking back, I was clearly overly involved in the process of enamelling before I had really started to realise the direction and focus of my research. I struggled to let go of my working life, but at the same time relished not being chained to my old desk. It was a funny limbo and one that enamelling seemed to therapeutically fill. I think it’s called running before you can walk! I was immersed, thrilled to be free to just enjoy the process of making, but I got carried away and it resulted in a product which was ill-conceived. The scale was wrong – too fiddly. The introduction of found objects here was forced, it just didn’t gel and the mode of connections was just clumsy.

It wasn’t all bad, I really do love enamelling, the historic qualities but expressive colourful applications ensure it can be relevant today. For me, this nods towards informing passed memories or experiences, making them pertinent in the here and now. Other strengths included the subtle scalloped borders, hinting at historic outlines of cartouches, or scroll rims.

Drawing back into the enamel was really effective, I really liked the aesthetic but also the potential for a hand drawn or written element, which really gives rise to the possibilities for personalisation. Also, texturising and marking the metal surface prior to enamelling. I also introduced the idea of applying photographs of sentimental jewellery as well as portraiture through decals, this wasn’t executed well at this stage, but definitely had potential and probably was a big factor in sparking the steps that followed.

I also need to acknowledge the technical approach and process that is involved in enamelling. I recognise that I really thrive using hands-on process-led making. This has also been really evident in our weekly technical workshops with Karen Bartlett – Even though wire can be easily pre-bought in all manner of shapes and sizes, I’m much happier drawing out and forming the wire myself.  Being invested, in control and having a hands-on connection in moulding the material has come to the forefront of my studio practice. Perhaps this touches on my working ethics, man verses machine – But this is something I will go into more depth in another blog post.

I have also noticed that through our weekly lectures and workshops, as I am armed with more and more information, the need to quickly move on and abandon ideas that are not quite working is diminishing. This also applies to my studio work, as I dust away the cobwebs on my bench skills, I am in a much better position to realise my ideas and access the means to translate from 2D into 3D. This has meant that I have travelled back in my sketch book and taken a second look at some of my earlier sketches.

With the help of Rebecca Steiner pointing me towards; The Meaning of Things: Domestic Symbols and the Self, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Eugene Rochberg-Halton, I have also been able to work towards contextualising my work and explore how emotions and thoughts become embodied and symbolised by our jewellery and wider belongings.  In the assay, The Most Cherished objects in the Home, I was interested in the discussion of kinship.

‘of the ties that bind people to each other – that provides continuity in one’s life and across generations.’

As I am investigating narrating the stories embedded in sentimental jewellery – This nearly always links to our ancestors, loved ones or our own past experiences. In handing jewellery down through a family, we breathe new life into it whilst staying emotionally connected to our families. For a similar reason, my interest was also sparked in the assay, Object Relations and the Development of the Self.

‘When a woman attends to a chair in which she has nursed her children long ago, or when a man looks at a trombone he played in college, the past experiences that used to define the selves of these people are again activated and recreated in the present’

The assay goes go on to discuss how within a family we can be sentimental about the same object but for very different reasons. I have also started to consider when making a piece of jewellery based on an individual’s sentimentality, how will this then be received by the wider audience? I drew comparisons to my own life and the different attachments my siblings and I have to the same objects or experiences.

‘Another generalization that the findings suggest is the enormous flexibility with which people can attach meanings to objects, and therefore derive meanings from them. Almost anything can be made to represent a set of meanings.’

By continuing to use, iconic and recognisable forms nestled in my work, I hope the wider audience will be able to draw on their own experiences of sentimentality. This has also confirmed that I would also like there to be an aesthetic appreciation which resonates beyond the individual who’s story I am narrating. Both assays refer to the differences between the attachments of men and women – This is something that I would like to consider, I have subconsciously been concentrating on the female perspective, a woman’s jewelley box. In the assay, The Most Cherished objects in the Home, it discusses how men look at furniture as aspirational or the embodiment of a personal achievement. 

So, what if I apply the same framework I am using with jewellery and respond to a broader range of objects?

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