Wearing it around Your Neck: Sydney Jewellers Craft their Impressions of Architecture and the City

Anuradha Chatterjee, Sydney Correspondent

Walking along the Historic Rocks precinct in Sydney, I was lucky to come across a lovely exhibition titled Architextural, at the Gallery of Arts and Crafts NSW (31 July-19 August 2012). Curated by Mike Ripoll, the exhibition is of jewellery based on architectural inspirations, featuring works by jewellers/artists Carolyn Delzoppo, Val Aked, Ksenija Benko, Beth Spence, Maret Kalmar, Rosanne Antico Hall, Mike Ripoll, Margaret Conway, Robin Phillips, Laura Haszard, June Higgs, and Ruth Kerrison. While the connection between architecture and fashion, and more recently wearable art has preoccupied design publications, jewellery holds a precious position in its relation to architecture. Architects love and wear jewellery as well as partaking in designing and making it. It is the tactility, the craft value, and the alchemical properties of materials afforded by the object that holds the attraction.

Maret Kalmar; Ksenija Benko, Elements (sterling silver, 9ct gold, rubber), Photos: Michael Rippol

The collaboration between Frank Gehry and Tiffanys and Co is well known. Other examples include HK+NP studio, a Vancouver based jewellery design studio that ‘utilizes techniques and forms derived from the architectural backgrounds of the partners, Hiroko Kobayashi and Neil Prakash’ (source) and Sydney-based collaborative, Venerari. What is sometimes absent though is the designer/maker’s commentary of the built world. Ute Decker’s Architectural Jewellery exhibited in the London Festival of Architecture 2012 explores the ‘relation of ethics and aesthetics in artefacts and the built environment’ and the concept of ‘social beauty’ in her work with recycled silver, fair-trade gold, and bio-resin (source). Put in this context, Architextural is a great discovery – perhaps as yet an undiscovered event in Sydney.

Mike Rippol, curator and jeweller, notes that while nature has served as the source of metaphors and inspiration for jewellers/artists, surely the everyday occupation of constructed and interior worlds informs the artistic imaginary. Conversation with Rippol strengthens my initial view on the connections between the disciplines of architecture and jewellery making – both involve careful material selection, precise processes of joining materials with specific chemical properties, and finish. The exhibiting jewellers/artists adopt distinctive approaches that acknowledge international architectural icons, historical buildings, city, room, home, and gardens, as well as narratives and experiences connected to the built environment. Hence, it is not the copying of forms of iconic buildings but the acknowledgement of the unconscious, incidental, trivial, and experiential dimensions of the built environment that informs these jewellers/artists.

Michael Rippol, Lonely Terrace (in sterling silver, copper, and ebony); Robin Phillips, Walt Disney Concert Hall 1, Frank Gehry (sterling silver), Photos: Michael Rippol

Site Lock Up and Wrecking Ball 1 by Kalmar (and number of other pieces, most of which are versions of necklaces) is a re-telling of her partner’s experience of construction sites, as destructive, volatile, and unstable territories. Kalmar’s Birds that Lost their Tree is a story of the removal of the bird’s nest, containing within it a profound commentary on biodiversity. Rippol’s After Mackintosh focuses on the recognisability and scalability of the motif. His Lonely Terrace (in sterling silver, copper, and ebony) is a reflection of the MCA façade as the Fallingwater, a take on the overlapping planes by Frank Lloyd Wright. Other recognizable icons are featured in other works such as the Robin Phillips’s Walt Disney Concert Hall 1, Frank Gehry (sterling silver). Rippol’s City of Man presents the cityscape as overlays as do other works like Laura Haszard’s City. Benko’s Elements are a play on the geometric forms that must be negotiated in architectural compositions containing within it also the element of perspectival distortion. Rippol’s Room with a View is also about forced perspective. My interest in Architextural is underpinned by the spoken and unspoken commentary on the built world by other disciplines and frameworks of imagination and it is really encouraging to discover this hidden body of work.

Additional Sources: Please also read Melissa Cameron, ‘Examining the connections between architecture and jewellery’, Craft Australia Library series: Conference presentations (14 May 2010)

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