Denise Reytan – Plastic Poem Workshop

Before the Easter break I was lucky enough to secure a place on a 4-day workshop with Berlin based Jeweller Denise Reytan titled ‘Plastic Poem’. The below quote is taken from the artists statement on Klimt02 and sums up Reytan’s work and approach perfectly.

‘I have an intuitive approach to jewellery. My jewellery making is like material painting. I paint collages with various materials, different shapes and colours, assembling them and letting them play and communicate together. I use important objects from my life: things from childhood, jewellery from my family, objects collected from different times and countries. By the use of cast plastic, I capture all of them in one moment.

With the silicone casting method, I found a way to connect these diverse elements and transform them into one single piece of jewellery. Unify all these objects in the same colour, the same materiality. So afterwards everything is in harmony, has the same value and equality.

Seeing things with new eyes, turning them around, turning things on their head, and seeing what happens – questioning the old and familiar and the boundaries between precious and non-precious. I am interested in their transformation. 

Making jewellery is a very personal way of expression. My pieces are the reflection of myself, my ideas, thoughts and feelings shaped into form, material and colour. Jewellery is my language, my means of expression. The transcription of me and my surroundings into material.’

Reytan’s work on first look with her use of resin in bold and bright colours and editorial appeal is aesthetically vastly different to my own practice. But when I dig a little deeper I see similarities in her use and preservation of personal and family jewellery. The transformation of these living memories from a precious material into a non-precious material initiating a new narrative and traditions reimagined.

I knew the workshop would be out of my comfort zone, but I hoped it would stretch my boundaries working with poor materials on a larger scale as well as enjoy the opportunity to work collaboratively. The brief, was to work in response to a poem, song lyric or quotation. Working with Chloe Henderson we decided on Amanda Palmer’s song Trout Heart Replica – we centered in on the ethics and awareness of the food cycle. Using this as a starting point we were encouraged to work instinctively with ‘poor’ materials, expressing our core message in large sculptural body adornments and assemblages.

After a day of plotting and drawing up ideas, we began building up our ideas in paper, focussing on the analogy of burying your head in the sand – or our often comfortable unawareness of the food cycle and the reality of where our food actually comes from. Over the next two days this began to materialise as a large-scale head piece and the concept of being blinded by many watching fish eyes. The fourth and final day of the workshop culminated in a photoshoot capturing our poetic inspiration and creations – many thanks to Chloe for modelling!

The workshop was a gentle reminder of how much you can accomplish and develop an idea when you are not overly precious. There is a definite place in my studio practice to work more instinctively. As well as the professional photoshoot being a fantastic learning opportunity, I also really appreciated documenting this intuitive design approach through photography, and again this is something I will be including in my own development processes.  Finally, after months of working on my own MA project, it was really nice to work in collaboration with Chloe and to share the decisions involved in the design process.

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