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.

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