This piece was mentioned recently as one I hadn’t gotten around to photographing before delivering it to its new owner. Well the owner kindly let me borrow it for a few minutes.
As I began in Mr Daniels, this is the continuing saga of this jewellists life.
More thanks must go to my high school in Lesmurdie, LSHS – home of the first jewellery workshop I had ever laid eyes on – for unwittingly adding to my foundation of jewellery knowledge by changing the ‘gridlines’ between year 11 and my final year of high school, year 12.
Everyone at the time liked to emphasise that you were making a de-facto career choice, when selecting your subjects for years 11 and 12. Your subjects had to get you into tertiary education, and would not change for your final two years. There was huge pressure to ‘get it right’, to the point that the school made compulsory meetings for each student with a deputy principal to ensure the units you selected would meet your intended career objectives.
I chose my subjects based on the prerequisites for architecture (nil compulsory units, physics and higher maths desirable), and was told that my timetable could not be accommodated. (I also chose ancient history and Italian, and kept up with tech drawing as I enjoyed it and figured it could only help.) So I changed a couple of subjects, and encountered the chagrin of at least one senior teacher when she discovered that I would not be taking English Literature due to another clash.
Then in year twelve, after settling on second-best in my primary choices, I was told that the grid had shifted again, and that I would have to change out of chemistry (a poor substitute anyway for the physics course that I had intended on doing to aid my chances of getting into architecture) and fill the gap with a course without prerequisites. (On the flip side, I was also then able to swap into the English Lit course.)
Lucky for me, applied art was about all there was available to me, at which time the heavens smiled on me, as my school had employed Sarah Elson to teach art that year. We had three art teachers, and we spent a third of our time with each. With Sarah we made works in recycled copper wire and did cuttlefish casting. I had researched career pathways in year 10 (yep, architecture was via UWA or Curtin, and jewellery was apprenticeship or a 3rd year specialisation at Curtin), and knew vaguely the school-leaver pathways to become a jeweller. It got around fairly quickly that Sarah had specialised in jewellery, so eventually I had to ask how she planned to continue – would she be aiming for her own jewellery shop? She told me that working for/in a shop was not really what the degree equipped you for. This I didn’t understand, and so I was disappointed that the work prospects seemed so dismal.
After high school I went to university and did a bachelors degree in interior architecture (after a year off – oh wait, they actually call what I did that year ‘first year computer science’…) But jewellery found its way back to me, or maybe, I to it. When I eventually came back to it, I felt like I had found something dear that I thought I had lost for good.
to be concluded…
from the Bettina Speckner workshop I did last year.
The centre work alters recycled objects, while the other two work with large black beads which I took from my small collection of large beads (I had three in black, three in red and three in white, all acquired in Albany, WA, while I was on assignment down there for a few days, years ago.) These were bought specifically to wear to a 20’s theme party held by my littlest sister.
The necklace recycled an umbrella handle (from an umbrella I ‘borrowed’ from my mum/dad, and which later collapsed in a Melbourne storm – hey, it was originally from London, so don’t talk to me about a Perth umbrella not living up to a Melbourne shower…) and an electrical power cord. I sliced everything (yup, one trick pony…) and then reconstructed the parts.
I flippantly dismiss my slicing as my ‘one trick’, but in this case I was looking at my practice from a different angle, and created some particularly self-reflecting work. For whatever reason, I ended up working in reverse. I usually design a bunch of shapes, and then slice them. For this I sliced a bunch of objects, and then designed with them.
I was reminded of this project this morning, when I opened a parcel from Jasmine Matus for the Box Project. It’s going to be an interesting experiment, whichever way I slice it.
On doing some thinking on the chief question posed by Helen Britton in her recent “where do I come from?” workshop, I had cause to ponder how I got here. And while pondering, I got to writing the story down. It’s a long yarn, so this is just part one.
As I mentioned a while back, my high school taught jewellery, well, at least when I was there. Classes were held in a special purpose demountable classroom, that was hinged off the back of the other ‘manual arts’ buildings. The classes were mostly populated by girls who liked the idea of jewellery as a title for a course, and boys who wanted to add another period of bumming around in the manual arts areas – close enough to woodwork and metalwork to still be ‘not a real subject’.
I had decided at about age 11 or 12 that I wanted to be an architect, so I naturally decided that my compulsory manual arts course in first year of high school would be woodwork. (You had to choose out of woodwork or metalwork since plastics, mechanics and jewellery were optional extras.) I liked and enjoyed art (which was also compulsory in year 8 ) and I added in Technical Drawing owing to my future as an architect, but I threw in jewellery in second semester because I liked jewellery, and I liked working with my hands.
I enjoyed it a lot, so I kept it up. Not many people did. But you couldn’t do the subject every semester; in each of the junior grades they only ran it once a year, and they only offered it til year 10.
When I reached year 10 I was told that I could no longer participate, as I had done the two units they offered; if I continued I would be repeating the class from the year before. I told my family, and my Dad and I scheduled a meeting with the deputy principal, Mr Daniels. We asked a simple question, why not let me continue? We were told that he couldn’t add a class just for me. The scheduling was fine, (in later years I had to quit TEE classes when they shifted timetables on me) but repeating the course wasn’t allowed. My Dad went one further, and asked “well, what if she wants to become a jeweller?” We were effectively told that the Deputy’s hands were tied. The meeting ended
And now, a brief interlude in the story to contextualise. It’s pretty safe to say that in high school (and arguably, to this day) I was a nerd. In high school that meant that I achieved very good grades. I was never picked on for this, or anything else (aside from some brief notoriety when I was gifted with a baby brother at age 13.75.) As a general rule I was a fairly invisible student.
Later that day there was a general assembly in the gym, with the whole school. Towards the end Mr Daniels spoke, and concluded with “…and can Melissa Cameron please come and see me after this assembly.” This request filled the space that he usually reserved for summoning those he wanted to see to be disciplined for their behaviour during the assembly. My nearby friends looked toward me with question marks on their faces. I shrugged; I didn’t know either.
I met Mr Daniels outside the gym, on the verandah. He informed me that had changed the rule, and was allowing me to have my own jewellery class. In it I pretty much got to set my own agenda, but being the dutiful student that I was, I set about a semester long project, making something that I thought would be both challenging and special. I scoff at the set now, but I remember being very proud of it when I finished it.
There’s more to this story, but this ‘where did I come from?’ is in three parts, so I’ll tell part two another time.
Been doing some jewellery-exercise. A few sedate the rounds of the intertubes (there’s a public holiday in many parts of Australia today) looking at competitions that have wended their way to my inbox. Through one I found out that Damian Skinner is now writing the Art Jewelry Forum blog, for the US based AJF. And via a post by him, I landed on a documentary called Jewellery Talk made in 2006 by two Swedes, Daniela Hedman and Kajsa Lindberg. The premise is simple, and would have made for one amazing road trip. Get a bunch of formidable artist-jewellery heads on film responding to some probing questions about jewellery. At a little under 50 minutes, it does take a little time to get through, but it’s well worth wading right on in.
The whole premise reminds me a little of doing a winery tour, to the point that I’m conjuring images of James May’s latest tv series as well as the film, Sideways, from a few years back. These images are just popping into my head, as my brain rifles around the ‘ole filing system thrusting catalogue cards into the air, seeking a way to frame what I just saw.
It’s like going to see the makers and sellers of wine, on their soil, to ask them about the importance of their product. Obviously the answers vary. Makers respond on their own brand, though some seek to explain their chosen variety too. There’s talk of past vintages, cellaring and sales, and the time-line carries right on up to the current crop and how it handles, and how it might mature. Some go so far as to elucidate on what the future of their region, or even the business/craft/artform in general, may hold. It’s a very thoughtful piece, well edited, and most importantly, is underpinned by a great idea.
In the end what struck me most is how unfamiliar many interviewees seemed to be at being asked, and answering, these questions. But at the conclusion of the film I am more hopeful that these questions will continue to be asked, and answered.