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

My Significant Thing – Metrosideros excelsa

Taking thDorothy de Lautour,   Dominion Rd Herbaria: Metrosideros excelsa, Pohutukawa, 2010e role of a 19th Century botanist, I have collected and catalogued the artificial plants found along Dominion Rd.  Using a variety of findings to create each brooch, this series, Metrosideros excelsa, Pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas Tree , is displayed in an herbarium style but are meant as a parody of these expeditions to create a commentary on the influences of post-colonialism, consumerism, economic and cultural global exchange, specifically here in Auckland.  Herbaria collections were often displayed in drawers and cabinets, so I have chosen to display the specimens in a jewellery cabinet as a reference to these ‘specimen’ now being wearable items.

From as early as the 16th Century, the practice and production of science depended largely on observational evidence.  Firstly tied in with medicine the study of the plant world began to branch out into its own scientific area which we now refer to as Botany.  A huge emphasis was placed on meticulous rendering of plants, not only the entire form but also complete with details of the roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits.

It was also around this time that Herbaria, which are the collections of preserved plants, became increasingly popular.  After 1700, compiling herbaria was considered to be a useful and educational past time where one went out to “Botanise”, exploring and recording one’s natural surroundings.   Toward the end of the 17th Century naturalists wanted to travel abroad to collect and document more exotic flora and fauna, one of the most notable being Sir Joseph Banks, (1743 – 1820).  Banks was a pioneer of modern plant hunting paying his own way onto the Endeavour on its voyage 1768 – 1771.   These early botanical explorers made many discoveries which they painstakingly preserved and catalogued.  Banks is credited with introducing over 7,000 new species into Britain, his herbarium attained national importance and is held at the British Museum of Natural History.  Large collections of plants were taken and introduced to England, observatories an almost obligatory feature of the larger Victorian garden.

It was in this context that I began ‘collecting’ along Dominion Rd, examining the influences that have affected the popularity and abundance of these cheap, often brightly coloured artificial flowers.  Globalisation has given us, the consumer, a far greater choice of cheap goods (particularly from around the Asia-Pacific Region) and here on Dominion Rd the ‘$2, $3 and more’ Shop illustrated this consumerism well.  Chinese lanterns, fake flowers and pacific lei, adorning the shop frontages, all made from cheap massed produced items, the majority of which coming from China.  Other cultural influences come from our closer Pacific neighbours, where the wearing of flowers as head decorations are a part of everyday clothing and a quintessential decorative accessory.

These brooches have been created from cheap mass produced items that are readily available, they have been deconstructed and made into something uniquely handmade, while at the same time giving me an opportunity to experiment with a number of joining techniques useful to my jewellery practice.  The influences of post-modernist contemporary artists Alberto Baraya, Areta Wilkinson, Lisa Walker and Judy Darragh, as well as my own interest in Botanical drawing, have all contributed to the personal relevance of my ‘Significant thing’.

The Everyday Collective laboratory

How can the practice of painting and drawing contribute to site analysis in Landscape Architecture?

This was the research question posed by Paul Woodruff, currently a lecturer in the Design and Visual Arts department at Unitec Institue of Technology in Auckland as he undertook his Masters Thesis – Master of Landscape Architecture.

The project investigates possible uses and applications of fine art to Landscape Architectural site analysis practice. It does this by actively promoting an inter-disciplinary apporoach when advocating for sites that are neglected or have forgotten narratives. Painted and drawn and crafted representations are employed to draw out these narratives from a site which further encourages community participation.

Woodruffe proposes that through colloaboration instead of specialization artists and artworks can connect history with the present day in an interesting and  thought provoking way which enriches our experience of landscape statesing “A shared experience usually carries more potential than a solitary one, and this is especially so when the experience is to be translated into planning or design. To illustrate this point two projects were undertaken on the North Shore of Auckland City, the first is Centennial Park in Campbell‟s Bay and deals with local history, the second at Kennedy Park also on the North Shore, explores boundary. In both cases it was move away from specialization as artist, historian, cartographer, photographer or landscape architect, it was the result of shared experience, collaboration, and as Gibson observes; “Information about the self accompanies information about the environment, and the two are inseparable.” (Gibson, 1979, p126).”

As an outcome of this collaboration there is now a Memorial Walkway that links these special previously uncelebrated places,  the everyday collective laboratory is continuing in its aims to use art as a way to document and celebrate lesser known parts of Auckland and is currently involved in investigating the Rosebank Road Peninsula.

JEMposium issue of Overview – another great read

The latest issue of Overview is jam packed with reflections of the highly successful JEMposium held in Wellington in February  (select the link on my Home page to connect to their facebook group).  It certainly was a who’s who gathering of Contemporary Jewellers from New Zealand and overseas, the highlight for me being the pin swap where we got to mix and mingle.  Having been caught up in the Ted Noten Ring Swap bedlam, Sharon Fitness’s monologue of the Miss Piggy frenzy that ensued is spot on.  Thank you Jewellers of Greater Sandringham.

Finding the Narrative

Dorothy is a third year student at Unitec in Auckland, she enjoys finding a shared narrative or personal connection within the work she is making,  She is predominately working with metal techniques such as enamelling, casting and etching and this year hope to continue her exploration with experimenting with raising, chasing and repousse. She is currently involved in developing ideas and responses to the Rosebank Road collaborative project.

Rosebank Road Project (Heart of the Whau)

This project is a collaborative between artists, residents, business association, historical society and others.  My intent is to create a contemporary series of jewellery pieces as part of this collaboration  that will enrich understanding of a chosen site,  in this instance Rosebank Road,  and the importance of preserving its historical and cultral values.

Amongst my aims is to research the historical and cultural values held regarding Rosebank Road and in what ways can they be reinterpreted. Central to my research are two on publications the first,  Heart of the Whau: The story of the Center of Avondale is written and compiled by Lisa J Truttman and is a central resource to my projec t and secondly Rosebank Peninsula Thematic Landscape Study 2008-2010. By Endangered Gardens have both provided me with a huge amount of invaluable factual and ancetodal information.  It is also important to mention the Timespanner blog, another wonderful online resource.