Beyond the Maker

During my first semester on my MA at the School of Jewellery, I have scoped out my direction and identified a clear focus to my work. Entering semester 2, it’s now time to explore this in much greater detail, contextualising and finding a place for my practice to grow within the real world. At the start of this enquiry we are encouraged to consider the following questions; How do I communicate my ideas? How do I find or draw in an audience? And what is experienced by the user? On a recent trip visiting my family and whilst walking around the desolate landscape of Dungeness, I was left thinking, not about the questions above but about the lack of control the maker has once their product has left their hands and becomes somebody else’s responsibility or property.

Dungeness National Nature Reserve is a headland on the coast of Kent. It’s an eerie place, and like no other with a vast expanse of shingle, plants that look like they have landed from foreign lands, dotted with decomposing wreckages of the sea, evidence of an odd working fisherman and a juxtaposition collection of dwellings to include old railway carriages and containers. All within the shadow of a nuclear power station. The aesthetic of the landscape, coupled with the natural light have long been a draw for artists, the most famous is probably Derek Jarman (1942-1994).

Jarman, was primarily a film director, his former house Prospect Cottage and shingle garden continues to attract many visitors. The modest timber cottage is adorned to one side with lines from John Donne’s‘ poem, The Sun Rising.

Utilising the unique environment of Dungeness, Jarman curated his garden with sculptures, driftwood and pebbles amongst hardy endemic plants. The garden isn’t perhaps what it once was, but over 20 years since his passing, his art is still alive and his legacy continues. In researching further on this relationship between the artist and audience, I am reading the book, which accompanied the exhibition, Maker Wearer Viewer: Contemporary narrative European jewellery, and curated by Jack Cunningham. Here I learn more on the triangular relationship between the maker the wearer and the viewer.

‘A strong motivational factor in the production of contemporary narrative jewellery would suggest that makers invite or seek a response to their work. However, the narrative object can be ambiguous in its communicative character. It relies on the viewer’s subjective interpretation. A dialogue is consequently established between the maker, the originator of the artefacts statement, the wearer, the vehicle by which the work is seen, and the viewer, the audience who thereafter engages with the work. For the wearer, the person on whom the artefact is physically carried, there exists a certain authority to re-interpret the object. The potential to make his or her own personal statement is therefore significant, it enables the wearer to become part of this process of communication with a wider audience, a part of the history of the piece. A triangular relationship is therefore formed between: maker, wearer and viewer.’

The above quote is taken from Cunningham’s assay Contemporary Narrative European Jewellery, Why narrative Why European? I was also taken with Professor Elizabeth Moignard’s assay, Narrative and Memory, specifically her quote below discussing the potential fluidity, perhaps as time passes, or the further the artefact geographically moves from the artists hands, but how the viewers interpretation can and will change.

‘Whatever the maker though he or she meant by the artefact is one component in what becomes a network of intentions and readings generated by the wearer and the viewers; all the work in the exhibition has that starting point, and a large part of its fascination is that its meaning cannot remain static. What may start with the maker as a brave emotional exposure, or a discussion of a treasured theme, or an act of provocation, or a joke, soon acquires archaeological deposits of other thoughts about it.’

I have handled many antiques, some were loved and cherished, but some were also discarded as waste. This preservation of art or objects and the social history they imbue is really important to me. But not every custodian feels the same obligation, and this I have limited control over. When I appraise an antique and it bares all the signs of being witness to personal historical markers, it’s so frustrating when there are no clues to decipher them. This is something along with my ethical considerations I would like to reconsider as my responsibility as a maker when thinking beyond the initial exhibiting or sale of my work and further than the metaphorical interpretation by the viewer.

When not using traditional precious metals and hallmarking isn’t an option, it’s easy to overlook just using a maker’s mark, or a signature.  In my view, the box for a jewel isn’t just packaging and shouldn’t be an afterthought but perhaps a hint to future audiences as to the provenance.

I am left thinking how can I interrupt or disrupt this usual cycle between the maker, viewer and wearer.

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