Reconnections and Place

This posting is intended as an ongoing visual and textual reference library of works that address the theme of reconnections and place in support of my current studio project intent, which is to provoke a reconnection to a specific site that enriches the viewers understanding of that site in order to highlight the importance of preserving its historical, social and cultural values.

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Jacqui Chan is a contemporary jeweller from New Zealand.  She began studying jewellery while working as an architect and later teaching in Design at Unitec, Auckland.  In 2009 she was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship to undertake a practice based Phd in the School of Art, RMIT, Melbourne.  The provisional title of her work is Jewellery in the urban milieu: Explorations in emergence.  The research explores the relation between jewellery and the urban milieu where the making and wearing of jewellery are used to engage with specific urban situations.  The emergent artefacts are then released back into the urban milieu and the affect of this is examined through wearing projects. 

2009 – Urban Metabolism Series                                                                                         

from top to bottom, left to right
Brooch,   vegetable oil tin, stainless steel,   
Brooch,   vegetable oil tin, stainless steel,   
Brooch,   galvanised steel, stainless steel,  
Brooch,   aluminium flashing, stainless steel,
Brooch,   vegetable oil tin, stainless steel.

2010 – Situation Palestine

This series of brooches were made while Jacqui was living in Palestine, they are made out of Olive cans.  Ironically these cans have been imported from Israel as the Palestinians have no Olive trees left having been cut down by the Israelis. 


2011 – Host A Brooch Project

Host A Brooch is a jewellery exhibition with a twist. The project transforms urban debris into wearable artworks and explores how these work in the world. The public are invited to ‘host’ a brooch on an excursion through the city to see how it activates connections their surroundings

The Host A Brooch ‘depot’ is located in a converted shipping container. Operating like a bike-sharing system, the public are invited to ‘host a brooch’ on an urban adventure. Just as bicycle transforms our experience of a city – producing new sensory experiences, routes and encounters -, jewellery also alters how we encounter a city.

Walking around the city, the body becomes the vehicle for a mobile intervention. The brooches claim a prominent position on the body, demanding attention and provoking conversation. As remnants of the city, they also draw attention to overlooked aspects of one’s surroundings, evoking material histories and connecting us with the material ecology of the city.   Taking part, the goal is to wander the streets aimlessly: see where the brooch takes you; see what happens – like a Situationist psycho-geography. On your adventures, take photos showing how the brooch connects you to your surroundings. 

Over the six weekends, each brooch is worn by multiple people, resulting in myriad different experiences. Wearers are asked to document their experiences with photos and notes. These accumulate in the exhibition, becoming cartography of these jewellery-led adventures.

Host A Brooch is one of many projects that currently exploring ways of reinvigorating Christchurch city through the arts. Although architectural and infrastructural change will take time, the arts can respond more immediately to reinject life into the city.

JEWELLERY AND THE CITY:  How can jewellery alter our engagement with the city?

Cities are vast conglomerations of matter that evolve over time to meet the human need for protection and resources. They operate as elaborate ecosystems animated by flows of matter and energy.  As highlighted by the recent earthquakes, notions of the ‘urban’ and ‘natural’ dissolve in a field of interacting geological, biological and social processes.

By attaching ‘bits of the world’ to our bodies, jewellery has the potential to connect us to this world. Beyond assertions ‘Self’ (signifying relationships, social groups, personal identities or memories), jewellery opens us up to the world we inhabit and the processes that constitute it. Jacqui Chan explores how jewellery can engage with the material ecology of the city.




In her practice, Chan fosters reciprocity between jewellery and the urban condition using the analogy of a saprophyte – organisms that live on decomposing matter and release vital nutrients into ecosystems . In In Praise of Saprophytes, Flavio Albanese advocates that architecture becomes ‘a saprophytic machine capable of incorporating and metabolising at different levels the physical and cultural materials of today’s space, in order then to put them back into the cycle of life reassembled in different sequences’. With such logic, jewellery practice becomes a process of feeding off and feeding back into the city. This shapes a practice where materials are diverted from their course towards landfill, transformed and recirculated in wearable configurations.


Marian Hoskings is one of Australia’s foremost contemporary jewellers with almost 40 years professional experience and is a highly visible and influential contributor, mentor and educator to the contemporary crafts movement in Australia in the genre of jewellery and silversmithing.    Working almost exclusively with silver, Hosking has developed a distinctive vocabulary of techniques including casting, drilling and saw piercing.  She translates specific elements of the natural world into the language of silver, creating jewellery and objects of beauty.

“It is an innate capacity of humans to assign values and sentiment to objects and jewellery in particular.   Jewellery being an object worn or carried close to the body is redolent with significance and layers of meaning for the maker, giver and owner.” – Marian Hosking, 2007.

Souvenirs of Place and Meaning, is a text which is particularly relevant to my research and includes a section on Hosking’s interpretations of Architecture, Commemoration and Identity.  An important rationale in Hosking’s practice is the commemorative potential of jewellery commenting “Primarily, to me jewellery is about people … to me, jewellery is a performing art requiring a wearer.”

In the early 1990s, Hosking started to make vessel forms such as Pair of wine cups, 1991 and Sheep Shed Box, 1995.  These larger sculptural objects were associated more directly with silversmithing than jewellery, and also began to speak of her interest in architecture.  Significantly, Hosking had initially begun training as an architect before transferring to work with metals and jewellery, and her interest in the discipline has been long standing. 




Heather Skowood is a jeweller who draws much of her inspiration from urban terrain and industrial sites in search of unsuspecting beauty that she infuses in her contemporary jewellery.  Using bold geometric forms in contrast to the human body Heather’s jewellery celebrates the union between maker, wearer and voyeur.

Skowood’s introduction to Manchester and the US prison system came to her as a teenager growing up near Philadelphia in the US. It was then that she first heard the dark-humoured and sarcastic music of The Smiths and just a few years later that her best friend would be incarcerated, and spend the next 15 years fighting for his innocence as well as his release.

After finishing her jewellery and sculpture degree Heather worked a few summers giving historic tours of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP), America’s first prison (1829). ESP was built by the Quakers as an alternative to corporeal punishment and the death penalty and quickly became known around the world for its radical new theories on criminal rehabilitation as well as for its architecture, particularly its radial design plan.


 The design of the radial plan consists of a central rotunda where usually the guard tower is located and from here each cellblock radiates outward like a spoke on a wheel. This radial design has been used in designing some 300 prisons around the world and most likely influenced Strangeways Prison (1861) in Manchester.

Heather chose the knuckleduster, a jewellery/device often associated with criminals, as the foundation for her visual commentary on bridging the gaps between law, politics and social responsibility. This 2-fingered ring is titled “Strangeways We Have Arrived”, a take on the title of The Smiths final album, “Strangeways Here We Come” but it also tempts the viewer to ask “…we arrived…What now?” What happens to criminals once they are incarcerated is something seldom discussed and when it is, there is usually a debate. The two pearls were chosen to represent the humanity of inmates caught in the cycle of crime and poverty. Prison is represented by the two rotating cage-like elements with their thorns that threaten the pearls to remain motionless yet keep the wearer safe. When turned, the two radial cage-like elements do so simultaneously like gears, one propelling the other.

Heather uses this as a reference to comment that in today’s society, particularly in the US, prisons are often no more than a revolving door between crime and prison that really is no longer a deterrent against crime.  In the spaces between each other lies a responsibility to better understand one another and grow.


Nicole Polentas is a currently researching for a Phd in Philosophy, Gold and Silversmithing at RMIT University, Melbourne and is a contributor to the publication Australian jewellery topos: talking about place; 18 contemporary Australian jewellers.   

‘This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.’ – Plato

Jewellery objects can initiate an engagement with and understanding of cultural place, re-creating the diachronic characteristics of the Cretan urban landscape.  The objects are a materialisation of improvised folk songs known as Amanes, Mandinades, and The Rizitiko.  They examine the transcultural evolution between the East and West, constructing narratives of cultural identity.   They encapsulate language as a foundation of form, projecting the false utopia and bereavement of old and new civilisations, challenging the socio-political preconceptions of symbolic place. 

 The jewellery objects establish a period and locale, set within an unfastened social framework as opposed to a fixed historological perspective, which empowers the viewer to determine a personal assimilation of truth.  Through the pain of history, a distortion occurs by which notable heroes or characters are chosen whose ambitions and actions depict the desires of the people to integrate into the established ideal of the standard reality.  The objects both exemplify and distort fragments of history embedded in the landscape, and embodied within the layers of time and place.







Kirsten Hayden has a PHd in Fine Art (Gold and Silversmithing) and was the first jeweller to become and Antarctic Arts.  Kirsten spent her PhD years combining Antarctica as subject matter with a technique she has devised to give her work texture and reflective qualities, incorporating the commercial material used in road marking and it is this thesis Antarctic Landscapes in the Souvenir and Jewellery which I find I continually return to.

“My PhD research looked at Antarctic landscapes in jewellery and souvenir objects, so I was looking at different ways I could depict Antarctica. I wanted to use enamel because of the surface qualities: it could be glossy, it could also be rough, it could look like snow, depending on the firing of the actual material,’’ Kirsten says. Her main research questions were:

“How can my experiences of the Antarctic landscape be reinterpreted for the creation of souvenirs and jewellery?

In what ways can I use contemporary technologies to reinterpret historic processes to be used in the construction of jewellery and souvenir?

 Souvenir of a person; relic, mourning and remembrance.         


Kirsten Hayden, Poppy’s poppy (detail), 2001
Kirsten Hayden, Jewellery as vessels of small stories, 2010

The Everyday Collective Laboratory: The Old North Shore

Two collaborative projects on Auckland’s North Shore were undertaken to illustrate that shared experience, especially in planning and design, will deliver results with much greater potential with the resulting exhibition held in Unitec’s Snow White Gallery.   One of the outcomes of this project was the discovery that three heritage sites and four heritage buildings could be linked to create a heritage walking trail  (Centennial/Memorial Ave)

Alessandro Mendini

This striking chair is one of Mendini’s best known work’s.  La Poltrona di Proust is one of his re-interpreted “classics”, modified by the addition of structural or decorative elements that change the dynamics of the original.

In an allusion to the description of time and space in Marcel Proust’s writings “In Search of Lost Time”, the old-styled armchair is painted in the pointillist style of Paul Signac.

In Proust’s novel, the narrator states…  “memory – not about the place where I am right now, but about a couple of places I had lived before and have been before – descends upon me like a saviour from above and rescues me from the emptiness which I cannot escape by myself”. 

In other words he is suggesting that from our memories we can rediscover ourselves and help lead us to remember our identities and revive the significance of our lives.

The “points” of colour in the chair then are not only intended for visual delight  but they also represent little fragments of memory which together form a uniform identity.

Proust also states “a travel that truly lets us discover something new is not to see a new scene, but to have new eyes to see the scene”.  Similarly,  Mendini does not want to create something new, instead he redesigns from an existing form and successfully transforms the inherent essence of the object to give it a new significance.

Len Lye

I just had to document these brillant short films by Len Lye, amazingly created in the 1930’s  for the GPO as an early informercial type series.  Why can’t today’s infomercials be as creative (no more barbie presenters telling us “but wait there’s more…”   enjoy  !!

A Colour Box, Len Lye (1935 )

Rainbow Dance, Len Lye (1936) 

Trad Tattoo (1937)

Jacob Lawrence

As part of our Studio we were asked to look at an artist and one of their images.  The work I chose was from a series of paintings by Jacob Lawrence. 

Jacob Lawrence ( 1917 – 2000)


Between 1915 and 1920 as many as one million African Americans moved from the rural south to the northern cities, in what became known as the Great Migration.  During this milieu of mass migration and the depression of the 1920s and 30s black culture was able to flourish, culminating in the Harlem Renaissance.

Jacob Lawrence was born in 1917 and moved to Harlem, New York City, in 1924 with his mother and siblings, it was here that Jacob Lawrence was first involved with art and others artists,  He eventually, in the late 1930s, was one of many artists who were employed and trained by the Federal Arts Projects in New York.

The art work that first drew my attention is from his migration series, I like the simplicity and use of colour, though it portrays much more.



“The female worker was also one of the last groups to leave the South”

The Migration of the Negro Series, panel no.57, (1940-1941).

Casein tempura on hardboard, (45.7 cm x 30.5 cm)

This relatively small sized painting on hardboard is part of the Migration of the Negro series (1940 -41),  in which Lawrence uses his own distinctive style of Visual Narrative to depict the mass migration of blacks from the South in a 60 panel series.

The Great Migration was not just an economic but also a social and cultural event, in which millions of African Americans took over control of their own lives which had been denied them in the South.  From an early age Jacob Lawrence had been surrounded by family and community stories of the Migration, giving the series as a whole a genuine authenticity that is clearly apparent.

 “ I don’t think in terms of history about that series. I think in terms of contemporary life. It was such a part of me that I didn’t think of something outside. It was like I was doing a portrait of something. If it was a portrait, it was a portrait of myself, a portrait of my family, a portrait of my peers. “  Jacob Lawrence

Although black women did want to migrate North, they were paid such poor wages that it would take them much longer to have enough money to move, frequently husbands moved ahead of their wives and families until they had enough money for the whole family to migrate.

Lawrence called his style “dynamic cubism”, although the figures in most of his paintings tend to be quite static like even though you can see there is movement.  The simplicity and restraint in the images portray more to the viewer than if further details were included. 

In this image, Lawrence portrayed a woman engaged in her work at a commercial laundry. She is washing clothes. Rugs and blankets hang behind her. The red handle of the woman’s washing stick creates the painting’s focal point and divides the composition down the centre,  it is a dense and well balanced composition, suggesting a resilience and perseverance that is an underlying theme in this series.  

He said about this work in 1945  “The human subject is the most important thing.  My work is abstract in the sense of having been designed and composed, but it is not abstract in the sense of having no human content… [I] want to communicate. I want the idea to strike right away”

I think he has achieved this goal admirably in this painting in its own right and most certainly when viewed as intended as part of a series.




Author Unknown, “Jacob Lawrence”. n.d. American Art, Vol 8, No. 3/4 (Summer – Autumn 1994), pp 134-136.  23rd March 2009. <;

Harkins Wheat, Ellen.  “Jacob Lawrence and the Legacy of Harlem”. Archives of American Art Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1  (1986), pp. 18-25.  The Smithsonian Institution. <>

Powell, Richard J.  “Jacob Lawrence: Keep on Movin’”.  American Art, Vol. 15, No. 1  (Spring, 2001), pp. 90-93.  The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  <>

Johnson,David.  “Important Cities in Black History: Atlanta to Washington, DC: landmarks in African-American history”. n.d. FactMonster Database, Pearson Education, Inc. 23rd March 2003. <;

Nesbett, Peter T, DuBois, M, Hills, POver the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence.  United States, 2001.