Tag Archives: charm

The Joyaviva project – ‘live’ jewellery that changes your world

Joyaviva has recently opened at RMIT Gallery, Melbourne. So begins a journey across the Pacific, to explore how the power of jewellery might be renewed for contemporary challenges.

21 jewellers from Australia, New Zealand and Chile draw from their cultures to create objects that can change our lives. Others will join from Bolivia and Mexico when Joyaviva is in Latin America, and the stories will grow as more people host the charms.

Objects in Joyaviva were created for issues relevant to the jeweller’s world, including recent earthquakes, road deaths, school exams, fertility, managerialism or sheer exuberant sociability. The exhibition combines the charms themselves with documentation of their use, including diaries, photos, videos and drawings.

To find out more, go to www.joyaviva.net, where you will find ways of tracking the journey.

Artists:

  • Australia: Roseanne Bartley, Melissa Cameron & Jill Hermans, Caz Guiney, Jin ah Jo, Blanche Tilden, Alice Whish
  • New Zealand: Jacqui Chan, Ilse-Marie Erl, Sarah Read, Gina Ropiha, Areta Wilkinson, Matthew Wilson, Kathryn Yeats
  • Chile: Guillermina Atunez, Francisco Ceppi, Analya Cespedes, Carolina Hornauer, Massiel Mariel, Angela Cura Mendez, Valentina Rosenthal, WALKA STUDIO

The exhibition is at RMIT Gallery until 24 March. Make a wish…

Wellington charm school–power jewellery for today

Wellington charmers relaxing after a two-days of intensive talking and making

Wellington charmers relaxing after a two-days of intensive talking and making

Peter Deckers’ jewellery course at Whitireia Polytech has been producing a generation of particularly active contemporary jewellers. With projects like See Here, they have been not only making engaging art works but also finding new contexts for them to be seen.

The Wellington Charm School was one a series held in New Zealand, Australia and Chile. Around 24 jewellers, mainly from the Wellington region, spent a sun-blessed weekend in Porirua designing new charms for specific contexts. We had four particular themes: disaster, illness, travel and love.

One of the highlights was the session where each participant brought out their example of an existing charm. Most had objects of extraordinary poignancy that created links across generations, often to deceased parents. For the Maori participants, it was interesting to hear stories of how their charms were ‘activated’ through pilgrimage. It’s tempting to think that ‘power objects’ are a particular feature of the New Zealand upbringing, for both Maori and Pakeha alike.

An especially poignant moment when Vivian Atkinson laid down a seemingly endless charm bracelet

An especially poignant moment when Vivian Atkinson laid down a seemingly endless charm bracelet

Another notable feature of this workshop was the plausible medical applications of charms. The relevance of such objects to conditions such as blood pressure and asthma make it seem quite reasonable to imagine jewellers-in-residence at health clinics.

A charm for bushfires made by the workshop technician Matthew Wilson in trans-Tasman solidarity

A charm for bushfires made by the workshop technician Matthew Wilson in trans-Tasman solidarity

Typified in the Bone, Stone, Shell exhibition of 1988, modern New Zealand jewellery has been defined by the adaption of materials and techniques from Pacific adornment traditions to Western culture. The children of that generation seem interested not just in the process of material translation, but also the spirit of the taonga, the empowered object.

The world needs your luck

Southern Charms: New Power Jewellery across the Pacific

Call for Expressions of Interest

How do we make luck where it is needed today?

Southern Charms is an exhibition of ‘power jewellery’ that demonstrates the relevance of objects to hopes and fears. It includes work designed by jewellers, designers and artists from Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Bolivia.

The exhibition will open at RMIT Gallery in February 2012. You are invited to submit an EOI, due by 4 December 2010. Please download the EOI details from here (or Spanish version). For more information about the project, visit www.craftunbound.net/projects/southern-charms.

Melbourne Charm School: Luck at the bottom of the world

What really is a ‘lucky country’? And how can we nurture that luck for the future?

Local inspiration has long been a focus of craft practice, and now increasingly design. The default source in many cases is landscape: often a prominent natural feature such as mountain or a unique material like mineral or flora. But landscape does not exist in itself. It is charged with the hopes and fears of the people that dwell in it.

Southern Charms looks for local inspiration in the hazards that define the aspirations and fears particular to communities across the South. It aims to demonstrate how the practice of jewellery design can assist in navigating through uncertain futures.

In Chile, the predominant concern was the recurrent earthquake, which has the potential not only to destroy homes but also to break the social fabric. How to look confidently to the future when it could all collapse at any moment?

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In Australia, there are alternative issues. The Melbourne Charm School was run as part of the State of Design Festival and was situated in Social Studio, where recent African migrants come to learn skills in dress-making, hospitality and management. During the festival the studio demonstrated some of its re-made clothes at a fashion parade.

In the workshop, we explored the anatomy of a charm – how to design for luck. Each participant nominated a particular situation where they thought luck was badly needed.

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Unsurprisingly, the bushfire turned out to be a popular choice. Like the earthquake in Chile, it is a shared collective threat particular to place. While both represent inexorable forces of nature, social cohesion is vital to survival. Everyone needs to help each other to be mindful of the threat. But there are contrasts. With weather reports, we have greater warning of a potential bushfire and it affects people in the countryside more than the city, while an earthquake can happen at any time and is of greater danger to those living in crowded neighbourhoods. Still, in both cases, the local threats are as much what binds people together as local landscape, such as wattle or lapis lazuli – perhaps even more so.

It was also natural that, given the context, the plight of asylum seekers was nominated. This is a journey from a violent homeland, via ‘people smugglers’, on a leaky boat to an suspicious country. Would it be possible for Australians to send a charm to those waiting in detention camps to help them sustain hope? Could there be something that provided a token of the welcome that they might eventually receive – an object on which to pin hopes during the endless months waiting for bureaucracy to move?

But there are also many personal circumstances that require good fortune. Surprisingly, a number of nominations concerned the hazard of parents growing old. Would it be possible to design something to fill the ‘empty nest’ – a sign from the departing children of gratitude for the care so far extended and best wishes for the freedom gained with less responsibilities?

Each participant made a charm specifically to assist with the issue nominated by someone else. Given the time limits, and variation in skill , there were some amazing neckpieces produced. There would need to be much more work done to ensure that the charm could ‘work’ properly, but it was a most auspicious beginning. Some examples:

charm[14]

charm[14]

Certainly, there are other challenges ahead. Clearly one of the challenges that defines our global identity at the moment is climate change. Can a charm be useful in galvanising action? Maybe not. It would seem that trusting in luck to help with climate change works against an active response to the problem. Nonetheless, no one knows exactly how the earth’s weather will be affected by high concentrations of carbon. The risk of catastrophe is large enough to warrant a radical response. An object that reminds of this predicament may well have a role to play. But what would that object be? And how would we use it? That challenge lies ahead for another charm school.

‘Shaky’ start for charm schools in Chile

The Southern Charms project had a ‘shaky’ start in Chile. The workshops were very popular and produced wonderful new forms of power jewellery, but the recent tragedy of the earthquake was a dominant theme.

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The Valparaiso ‘clinic’ attracted around 100 participants, thanks to the good work of Professor Patty Gunther, who has been leading innovative programs in social design at the Universidad de Valparaiso. With such a number, I was very grateful for the assistance of local jewellers Omar Luengo and Nicholás Hernández.

Omar Lunego talking to participants

Omar Lunego talking to participants

Our task was to identify problems that required something more than a simple practical solution to be resolved, and then to design objects that might fill that void. Patty had provided boxes of the fragments left after the earthquake had destroyed so many precious things. How to turn this destruction into beautiful jewellery was a subtext of this workshop.

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The workshop addressed this with great gusto and overnight amazingly well-formulated objects emerged. As usual with Valparaiso, the tenor was idealistic: broad problems were identified such as loneliness and environmental change. The results tended to take the form of objects that could be broken up, with the parts distributed to people who would then have a point of contact with each other. One of the pieces responding to the threat of tsunami used the Mapuche myth of the sea serpent tren tren to great effect.

Santiago Charm School

Santiago Charm School

The Santiago ‘escuela de encanto’ was more specialised in jewellery. The workshop was organised by local jewellers Francisco Ceppi and Valentina Rosenthal and took place at the Museo Bellas Artes, the august national art gallery. Participants included 34 of the city’s top jewellers. Their problems were more concrete than those at Valparaiso, including the job interview, school examination, chemotherapy and overseas student exchange. Earthquake related problems included the emergency bag kept by the door and protection for the house. Over two intense days, groups developed designs for objects to help us cope with these challenges. The charm for examination was based on the tradition of the torpedo, where students insert a scroll of formulae into their pens to help get the right answers – though in this case the paper contained messages of encouragement. The charm for chemotherapy used the very plastic tubing that makes this procedure so uncomfortable, transforming this into a colourful bracelet form. What worked particularly well were the performances, where groups enacted the power of their objects.

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We all learned a great deal from these workshops. We learned how important it was to have a tradition on which to build – something that provides ‘roots’ for the object. And the performances revealed the choreography of giving that helps charge the object with its ‘power’.

The seed has been sown. We’ll see what results from this when the Southern Charms exhibition arises next year, hopefully now touring back to Chile. The present challenge is to extend the Latin American component to include Bolivia, with its global voice on climate change. But more immediately we have the workshops looming in Sydney and Melbourne. The focus on earthquake in Chile could have an interesting echo with the issue of bushfires in Victoria. Both challenges demand more than just technological responses, they require contexts in which people can come together, rather than fend for themselves.

  • For updates on the Southern Charms project, tune into #charm101 on twitter.
  • Visit the Santiago blog here.
  • Bookings for the Melbourne Charm School here.
The scene directly outside the Museo Bellas Artes where something was always happening.

The scene directly outside the Museo Bellas Artes where something was always happening.

Upcoming Charm Schools

‘Luck is believing you’re lucky.’
Tennessee Williams

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Luck is not something that sits well with a modern way of life. Modernity is largely defined against superstitious practices of the past. Magical folk remedies have been replaced by far more reliable medical science. We no longer make sacrifices to rain gods; we have more responsible water restrictions instead. The only official acknowledgement of luck lies in the growing gambling industry on which local governments have become increasingly dependent.

So does luck still have a place in modern life? Are there occasions when we can still wish someone ‘good luck’ without appearing to be nostalgic for a more mystical past? Does carrying a lucky charm that someone has given you make any real difference to your life?

How might charms demonstrate the things that really matter to us? What might be the role of jewellery as counterbalance to the quantification of friendship in online networks like Facebook?

Towards the exhibition Southern Charms is a series of workshops to explore how to reconnect with the tradition of ‘power jewellery’ such as charms, amulets and talismans. The workshops will explore the culture of fortune:

  • its role in the history of the contemporary jewellery movement
  • its ‘social design’ elements, such as gift-giving and care
  • its potential in responding to the pressing demands in personal and public life

This workshop reviews the function of charms, particularly in jewellery, and considers their potential uses today. Participants will be able to develop new designs and test them out.

Related articles

A charm bracelet for our time?

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The charm bracelet was once a common gift used for the transitional age when a child looked towards becoming an adult. It was once the subject of fine craftsmanship as each charm contained delicate castings and intricate mechanisms. Today it has been largely replaced by the Pandora, which is a closed system of crudely manufactured components that emphasise fashion rather than meaning. Pandora is like the iPhone of jewellery. Components are all designed as modular units that fit together exclusively. A Pandora bracelet even comes with special ‘apps’.

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Older charm bracelets tell unique stories. On the verge of adulthood, the child is given a chain bracelet for the wrist. On the chain already are two or three intricate objects charged the meaning – a secret diary, a horseshoe for luck, a locket inscribed with the words ‘Travel time to happiness’ that opens to reveal a clock. Over the years, relatives returning from travels bring new component to fill out the bracelet  – an enamel ladybird, a turtle, a French horn and guitar…

It seems a to be world made to measure for a small person. It’s a way of inspecting the things of the world at close range. There’s also perhaps an element of magic involved, as though these were seeds for the eventual possession of real objects. But they are also public goods, that draw others into conversation – a magnet for the incidental praise that surrounds the world of a growing child.

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This may well be a good time to return to the roots of the charm bracelet. The Italian cimaruta is an ancient charm that takes the form of a ‘sprig of rue’, at the end of which are a number of symbols, such as moon, fish, dagger and flower. The cimaruta is associated with the goddess Diana and often placed on the breasts of infants as protection, particularly against the evil eye. Without getting ‘neo pagan’ about such pre-modern symbols, the cimaruta offers an interesting model for jewellery as a form of symbolic value to be invested in the future.

So should the charm bracelet be revived? There is reason enough for their return as testaments to craft skills in gold and silver smithing. But as cultural artefact they can be seen as consumerist trainer wheels, preliminary to the eventual acquisition of domestic charm bracelet, featuring a Wedgewood dinner setting, Scandinavian furniture, French car and Milan coat.

The principle, however, seems inherently marvellous. The charm bracelet provides the armature around which a family circle can pin their hopes and support on an emerging adult. We were to keep this principle, what might be the charms for our time?

Share your charms

Southern Charms: New Power Jewellery Across the Pacific

Exhibition in development

Announcing a project to reveal new developments in ‘power jewellery’ that bring together craft cultures across the Pacific ocean. ‘Power jewellery’ claims to not only to be an object of beauty, but also to have an effect on its wearer. Most commonly, it protects the wearer against ill fortune. While traditionally this has been associated with superstitions, such as the evil eye, in this case the ‘power’ is understood as the strength that is sustained through social relations, such as friendship, solidarity or hospitality. The project is to explore ways of re-casting traditional forms of the charm for a modern secular world.

The net is cast across the Pacific, including Anglo cultures in Australasia, Aboriginal indigenous jewellery, Pacific islander ornament and charms from the Andean cultures on the Pacific’s eastern edge.

As well as providing new tools for social support, the Southern Charms project also aims to foster new conversations and networks across the Pacific. You can find out more at www.craftunbound.net/projects/southern-charms.

For expressions of interest, please contact Kevin Murray by email at charm(at)craftunbound.net. At this stage, examples of work are most welcome. Please note, the works will include charms that are designed to be used by others, rather than purely personal reflections on culture. An important question to consider is how their power be released into the world. The exhibition is planned to open in 2012.

Future events:

  • Workshop in Santiago, Chile (May 2010)
  • Workshop with the Melbourne State of Design Festival (July 2010)
  • Grass to Gold jewellery conference in Delhi (Feb 2011)
  • Workshops in Pacific (TBC)

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