Tag Archives: jewellery

How Jayne Wallace helps unlock the past

Jayne Wallace 'Jewellery Box, My Dresses Brooch', 2010, photo by Bill Shaylor

Jayne Wallace 'Jewellery Box, My Dresses Brooch', 2010, photo by Bill Shaylor

One of the works for the Signs of Change exhibition as a jewellery box by Jayne Wallace designed as a memory prompt for those in the early stages of dementia. As a work of functional jewellery, it demonstrates how the intimacy of ornament can provide a powerful stimulus for recovering memory.

She spend a long time with her participants exploring their memories and how they might be triggered. This includes use of a camera, soft clay, prize rosettes, preserve jars, seed packets, dress patterns, pearls of wisdom and a ‘self-tree’. From these exercises, Jayne was able to fashion objects that could evoke strong past memories.

How did you become involved in the memory project?

The relationship between memory and jewellery has always been fascinating to me. We use jewellery objects as vessels so often – to hold memories, as objects to pour our feelings into about an associated ‘other’ be that a person, place, experience… or as comforters – something that connects us to other people or is comforting because it has physically accompanied us through our experiences. The nature of jewellery as such means it has rich potential when we think about ways to help someone hold on to or share aspects of their experiences – this relates to all of us – and naturally suggests people who are experiencing difficulties in doing this. To this end we wanted to work with people who were living with dementia and their close friends/family to make pieces of jewellery that could potentially help them share aspects of past and current experience and hopefully hold on to these over time.

Have you found out how the memory box has been working with Gillian and her family?

They have used the box to record music to each of the dress fabrics – music from the holiday when the dress was worn etc and are using the fabrics and songs as stimuli for further conversation and reminiscing to also record to the box. You’ll see from the film that the dress fabrics also prompted memories about the letters they used to write to one another when they were courting and they have been re reading these and storing those in the box too.

See a film with the participants in this project, Gillian and John.

Some other memory pieces by Jayne Wallace include:

Jayne Wallace 'A locket that can forget' (image degrades a little each time it is opened)

Jayne Wallace is Research associate on the Newcastle University Digital Research Hub, centring on social inclusion in the digital economy. For more information, visit her website

Katheryn Leopoldseder’s ‘For God so loved the world…’

Katheryn Leopoldseder ' For God so loved the world...(70 x 7 Used, Disposable Communion Cup Necklace)' 490 recycled communion cups, fresh water pearls, 18ct gold, Gold plated sterling silver, stainless steel, 2008, 260cmL x 8cmW x 3cmH, photograph by Jeremy Dillon

Katheryn Leopoldseder ' For God so loved the world...(70 x 7 Used, Disposable Communion Cup Necklace)' 490 recycled communion cups, fresh water pearls, 18ct gold, Gold plated sterling silver, stainless steel, 2008, 260cmL x 8cmW x 3cmH, photograph by Jeremy Dillon

Katheryn Leopoldseder is a Melbourne jeweller who came through RMIT Gold & Silversmithing and now works at Abbotsford Convent, in a shared studio with Phoebe Porter.

While supplying e.g.etal with quality production jewellery, she has also managed to produce epic jewellery works for exhibition. In her six years since graduation, Leopoldseder has shown a capacity to wreak weighty themes from what might otherwise seem a purely ornamental medium like jewellery.

Her work is disarmingly ambivalent. She manages to express great beauty in what appears to be the wastefulness of much contemporary life. Recently she produced an elaborate pendant in the shape of lungs beautifully punctuated with white cigarette filters.

Her work for Welcome Signs is ‘For God so loved the world…’ It features 490 tiny plastic communion cups threaded in a necklace with pearls. Leopoldseder collected these cups from a church she attended, reflecting on the contradiction between the sacred ritual and its profane outcome. For her, it was…

an acknowledgement of how far we fall, that even within this most sacred and enduring of rituals we have somewhat missed the point. Morphing communion into a convenient, disposable, individual, sanitized and, I believe irresponsibly wasteful version of its former self.

The necklace is joined by a clasp in the shape of K’ruvim, as angels are known in the Hebrew story of the covenent. She quotes the Bible:

He (B’tzal’el) made the arc of pure gold,…. He made two k’ruvim of gold: he made them of hammered work for the two ends of the arc cover – one keruv for one end and one for the other end; he made the k’ruvim of one piece with the arc-cover at its two ends. the k’ruvim had their wings spread above, so that their wings covered the arc; their faces were toward each other and toward the arc cover. – Exodus 37: 6 – 9 Complete Jewish bible

Katheryn Leopoldseder ' For God so loved the world...(70 x 7 Used, Disposable Communion Cup Necklace)' 490 recycled communion cups, fresh water pearls, 18ct gold, Gold plated sterling silver, stainless steel, 2008, 260cmL x 8cmW x 3cmH, photograph by Jeremy Dillon

Katheryn Leopoldseder ' For God so loved the world...(70 x 7 Used, Disposable Communion Cup Necklace)' 490 recycled communion cups, fresh water pearls, 18ct gold, Gold plated sterling silver, stainless steel, 2008, 260cmL x 8cmW x 3cmH, photograph by Jeremy Dillon

The number 7 x 70 of cups corresponds with a later Biblical story:

Then Kefa came up and said to him (Jesus), “Rabbi, how often can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?” “No, not seven times,” answered Yeshua, “but seventy times seven!” – Mathew 18:21-22 Complete Jewish Bible

An important element of this work is the way it leaves its references incomplete. Rather than the whole angel, only the wings feature on the clasp. And the title, engraved in the first cup, only hints at the complete quote:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.-John 3:16

It is quite unusual today to find jewellery based on religious meaning, despite the strong history of association. There’s a danger that it might limit the interest in the way to those of the same faith.

While ‘For God so loved the world…’ does certainly respond to particular Christian themes, I think it also has a broader appeal. The need to care for the planet has become a sacred cause in contemporary life, yet there is little formal structure to underpin this value. Is environmentalism a matter of enjoying our time on the planet a little longer, or does it rest on a deeper sense of ourselves as custodians of something greater? These are questions left unanswered by contemporary politics. While I don’t think this work provides an answer, it does ask the question.

In relation to Welcome Signs, Leopoldseder’s work engages with the history of the garlands as a ritual neckpiece that mark important occasions. While we might have taken for granted the abundance of nature in supplying the materials for these garlands, today we are alerted to the sacrifices that attend any celebration. Hers is a garland for our fraught times.

‘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.



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.



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.



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.

Every brooch has a catch

Vicki Mason Oregano, Wattle and Rose brooches. Photo by Bill Shaylor

Vicki Mason Oregano, Wattle and Rose brooches. Photo by Bill Shaylor

Vicki Mason Oregano, Wattle and Rose brooches. Photo by Bill Shaylor

The other day, a curator from Papua New Guinea was telling me about a particular custom of hospitality she grew up with called ‘hamal’. In certain circumstances, if a visitor expresses a liking for something that you possess, you are then obliged to give it to them. Clearly, this is a custom suited more to villages than cities. It’s hard to imagine it happening in an urban context, or is it?

At the end of the Signs of Change exhibition, three lucky winners will have their names drawn to receive a brooch by Melbourne jeweller Vicki Mason. The brooches are modelled on the wattle, rose and oregano plants, beautifully rendered in powder-coated brass (sourced from a scrap yard) and recycled flexible plastics sourced as remnants from the stationary industry. These plants are common features of suburban gardens in Australia, but Mason argues that they represent a common bounty, which she links to the elusive prospect of Australia becoming a republic. As she says:

If Australia is one day to become a republic then a new style of gardening to accompany a new style of governing seems possible. The work for this exhibition has the symbolic potential to promote the social value of gardens as reflecting notions of community, that is the essence of republicanism.

So if you receive this brooch, you also take on a republican vision. But there’s a catch. If someone praises the brooch while you are wearing it, you are obliged to give it to them – as long as they will agree to the same conditions as you. Easy come, easy go. Members of this chain are encouraged to leave comments on a website to record the transaction and reflect on its meaning.

The exhibition still has a couple of weeks to run. Tune in to her website at http://broachingchangeproject.wordpress.com/ to monitor progress. Who knows, you might end up as one of the links in the chain.

Mason’s work is a bold attempt to engage with the relational dimension of jewellery as a precious object that can link people together. Her work resonates back to situation in PNG. The anthropologist Malinowski describes a parallel arrangement called the kula, where villages organise their world around exchange of shell necklaces:

Perhaps as we read the account of these remote customs there may emerge a feeling of solidarity with the endeavours and ambitions of these natives. Perhaps man’s mentality will be revealed to us, and brought near, along some lines which we never have followed before. Perhaps through realising human nature in a shape very distance and foreign to us, we shall have some light shed on our own.

Perhaps the past has a future too.


Bronislaw Malinowski Argonauts of The Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes Of Melanesian New Guinea London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987 (orig. 1922), p. 25

Upcoming Charm Schools

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



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?



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’.



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.



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?

Grass to Gold – Delhi Feb 2011



“Grass to Gold”

WCC—International Jewellery Convention, February 2011

Jewellery through the ages has mirrored society. How jewellery is worn, the reasons for wearing it, and the material it is made of—all are reflections of the societal values, and prevalent beliefs of the times. From Sumerian queens, Egyptian pharaohs, and Indian royalty, to the Cleopatras, Princess Dianas, and Grace Kellys of the world—the annals of history are replete with stories and pictures of ornaments used to adorn the human form.

Grass to Gold is intended to capture this diversity, symbolism, and artistic form. Last held in 2004, the convention is to be held again in 2011 in New Delhi, India. Featuring tribal, traditional, and contemporary jewellery, this event is to be sponsored by the World Crafts Council. The idea is to bring together artisans and jewellers from various parts of the world, and to encourage an open exchange of ideas, methodologies, and technologies. Above all, the forum is intended to provide a platform to learn about changing consumer trends.

The convention will explore how common, everyday material (grass) can be transformed into artistic masterpieces (gold) through the skills of the craftsperson/designer. Metal, wood, bone, shells, gems…these are just some of the raw materials that offer the potential to be transformed into exquisite pieces of jewellery.

A collaboration

Grass to Gold is intended to be a collaboration—a collaboration of artists, artisans, and designers; a collaboration of ideas; a collaboration of the traditional and the modern; a collaboration of the functional and the aesthetic. It is, above all, a coming together of skills under one roof.

Why India?

Enthused by the success of the Grass to Gold Convention in India in 2004, New Delhi has been chosen as the venue because of the consumer profile and the mindset of the consumer. Delhi offers promise as a lucrative and international market for diverse ranges of jewellery.


All five regions of the WCC will be represented in the convention, with jewellers and designers participating in the events.


The convention features the following:

  • Seminars covering tribal, traditional, and contemporary jewellery—A forum that allows people to understand innovations in the field of jewellery, materials, design, and fashion as they adapt to changing consumer trends.
  • Exhibition—A special International event having 5 participants from each region i.e. Asia Pacific, Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America.
  • Sales of Jewellery—Ranging from traditional, tribal, and contemporary using materials as diverse as fibre, metal, and recycled material. All will be specially designed for the event.
  • Workshops—On the design and finishing techniques in jewellery; made from fibre, metal, and recycled material; interactive with craftspeople from all the regions.

About the World Crafts Council

The World Crafts Council (WCC) is a non-government; non-profit organization founded by Mrs.Aileen Webb and co-founded by Ms. Margaret Patch and Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay in 1964, in New York. What began as a single entity in the United States eventually got structured in to five regions—Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and Latin America. WCC is the only international NGO working in the crafts sector and is affiliated to UNESCO in a consultative status.

As a unique honour, India from the APR Region was elected to take over the Presidency of the WCC in November, 2008 with Mrs. Usha Krishna of the Crafts Council of India (CCI) at the helm.

The objectives of WCC are threefold:

  • To strengthen the status of crafts as a vital element of cultural and economic life
  • To promote a sense of fellowship among the craftspeople of the world
  • To encourage, advise, and nurture the crafts communities

Email: wcc.sect.in@gmail.com; Web: www.worldcraftscouncil.org

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)

Subscribe to Craft Unbound updates to be notified of future posts on the charmed theme.

Taking Chilean pride to heart

The jewellery scene in Chile has been growing strongly in recent years. A large number of new outlets for art and designer jewellery have opened in Santiago, including work that draws from distinctively Chilean forms, such as the horse-hair weaving known as crin.

Corazón de Loica

Corazón de Loica

Marcela Bugueiro

Marcela Bugueiro

At the end of 2009, Chile held its first national jewellery competition. Organised by Galeria Ceppi, this competition took its context from the Bicentenary of Chilean independence. The inaugural winner was an established jeweller based in Concepción, down south. Marcela Bugueiro won with Corazón de Loica (Heart of Loica) including particularly Chilean elements, including feathers of the Loica bird and lapiz lazuli. Here is her statement about the work:

Throughout these 200 years, Chileans have travelled a unique and special path. This represents 200 years of love for the land in which we were born, grow and live. So how does a piece of jewellery reflect the importance of our mother land and the identity that we have forged from it? From this arises the idea of a reliquary, containing within itself a portion of our land, stressing its value and importance to us who have lived there already for 200 years. The bicentennial demands a homage piece adequate to the occasion. This evokes the image of a Chilean woman who carries on her chest this tribute to our country with pride and as a token of our country’s identity. The identity, the heart of Chile, is reflected in the traditional Chilean legend of the red Loica bird, and how chest of this little bird became red due to its nobility and generosity. This work is jewel is inspired by our people, in the nature of our earth and the elements that we draw from it, such as silver, copper and lapis lazuli. We find a piece that combines these elements to represent the noble heart of Chile and the sacredness of our land, in thanks for 200 years of support.

How did you become interested in jewellery?

Travelling and meeting places and experienced jewellers. I am captivated by the beauty of the stones and bright metals and their infinite combinations. I consider items of jewellery almost magical elements that remind us of the wonders that are within the earth. I think of each gem as representing someone in particular. That’s why do I care about individual pieces, rather than jewellery made in series.

Where do you get the skills in jewellery?

I started over 20 years ago, doing the finishing work for jewellery in a family workshop. At my first school, you received the raw piece, which you filed, sanded and polished until you could see an object that is lustrous and full of beauty, often crowned with gems of extraordinary brightness and colour. Then I developed on my own with endless hours in the workshop where I discovered how the metal could be adapted to the forms that would emerge in my designs. I also sought to learn from experienced jewellers who allowed me to observe and work with them so I could mix craft jewellery techniques with other more classic styles.

Now, where to sell or display your jewellery?

Joyería Bugueiro is in the center of the city of Concepcion in southern Chile. You can see pictures at www.marcelabugueiro.cl

What are your three main influences on jewellery?

    1. The ancient jewellery that joined symbols and stones, from cultures like the Egyptian, Mayan, Incas, Etruscan
    2. Importantly, Rene Lalique, (European jeweller early 20th century) with its organic beauty and delicate lines and magic,
    3. and now the Japanese design for its extraordinary success in simplicity and harmony of forms.

What is most important to you: to find a market, to search for beauty, to fit the body, or to make a statement about the world?

If only they could all be combined … It’s important to me to make jewellery of excellent quality, which reflects the mark of the author, a person. I prefer that the result is beautiful, although I am open to admire other forms of aesthetic beauty beyond the obvious. 

How would you like to develop your career further?

Marcela Bugueiro

Marcela Bugueiro

To promote the development of jewellery design in the region where I live, through personal achievements as well as joining with other goldsmiths to create a core of identity making jewellery from southern Chile. My intention is to achieve a balance between sustainability needed in my shop-showroom and the development of a clear artistic practice, where you can take advantage of opportunities and present my designs in international fairs (I have been invited to "KARA Exhibition" in Paris, however for economic reasons is a difficult project to do). I wish I could have more time to create unique designs. a good way to combine sustainability with design and art could be to create a line of cufflinks (W Hotels in Santiago have sought an order from me)… "Business versus art" a complex formula.

Jewellery is a particularly important medium for countries like Chile and Australia that are faced with the challenge of finding their own identity. While European traditions of ornament favour precious metals and stones, such as gold and diamonds, it’s ex-colonies look to privilege elements unique to their world. In Australia, German modernism played an important role in wiping the slate clean of tradition. It’s fascinating to see how Chile engages in this common quest.

Loica bird

Loica bird

Horse hair – the new Chilean gold



Crin is one of Chile’s most distinctive folk crafts. In markets around the country you will find delicate forms, often taking the shape of insects, woven out of dyed horsehair. Despite its distribution around the country, almost all Crin originates from a small town called Rari.

Crin appeared mysteriously around 200 years ago, as local women found they could weave poplar roots into figures. After discovering the flexibility of horse hair they combined a Mexican plant fibre Ixtle which provided structural strength. It’s not clear why this technique emerged there in particular, but the town’s proximity to a spa resort meant that there was a ready market for cositas (little things).

Crin is made entirely by hand. No equipment is involved, even knitting needles. But unlike the chunky results of finger-knitting, crin is exquisitely fine.

As a folk craft, crin was rarely taken seriously. However, it is now finding a niche as a versatile, colourful and particularly Chilean component in the burgeoning new jewellery scene in Chile. But its recent success comes with complications.

Women crin weavers from Rari

Women crin weavers from Rari

Women crin weavers from Rari

A Santiago architect Paula Leal has been exploring ways of collaborating with artisans from Rari. An earlier attempt with weaver Alba Sepúlveda led to the award for the 2008 UNESCO Seal of Excellence for Handicraft Products. The product incorporated modernist forms of crin into a hair clasp.

But the business of incorporating crin into jewellery is actually quite a political issue. In some ways, it parallels the movement of New Zealand jewellers who sought to include local materials and techniques such as jade carving into their work. In some cases, this meant reviving some of the lost Indigenous skills, while at the same time not simply imitating traditional Maori culture.

In the case of Chile, it is still the case that you can’t incorporate crin into your work without the willing cooperation of an artisan. It seems the nature of Chilean society that local skills are not easily generalisable. It would be extremely rare for someone in Santiago to teach themselves how to weave with crin. This division of labour creates an asymmetry, particular in the relative prices of crin sold in markets and jewellery featuring crin in fashionable jewellery boutiques.

Even for someone who has achieved success such as Paula, this can be difficult. She had to find some new crin weavers when her previous collaborator broke the partnership. Apparently, she felt resentment that she was sharing the stage with a designer who didn’t actually make anything herself.

Manuela Tromben and Paula Leal

Manuela Tromben and Paula Leal

Manuela Tromben and Paula Leal

Recently, Paula Leal formed a partnership with fellow architect Manuela Tromben in the development of an exhibition devoted to crin. Orígenes Y Atuendos Imaginarios (Origins and Imaginary Outfits) included jewellery and wall work that manipulated elements of traditional crin to create new works. For instance, the cylindrical form that normally is coiled to form the body of a snail was uncoiled and introduced into a necklace form. Local jewellers Walka Studio added the silver attachments.

Orígenes Y Atuendos Imaginarios installation

Orígenes Y Atuendos Imaginarios installation

Orígenes Y Atuendos Imaginarios installation

Crin has a long way to go. There’s potential for much experimentation. It seems inevitable that someone in Santiago will eventually learn to make it themselves. But I hope that doesn’t exclude the possibility that some of the women from Rari might themselves engage actively with product development.

But here, on the other side of the Pacific, a recent exhibition in Melbourne shows an alternative path. Vicky Shukuroglou recently completed her Masters in Gold and Silversmithing. Vicky had previously taken a South Project residency in Brazil and was interested in weaving with alternative materials. While at RMIT she had furthered her manipulation of horse hair to create extremely delicate woven structures.

Vicky Shukuroglou object [PW] steel wire, horse hair 60 x 90mm

Vicky Shukuroglou object [PW] steel wire, horse hair 60 x 90mm

steel wire, horse hair
Vicky Shukuroglou object [BHH] steel wire, horse hair [double bass bow] 150 x 130 x 130mm [variable]

Vicky Shukuroglou object [BHH] steel wire, horse hair [double bass bow] 150 x 130 x 130mm [variable]

steel wire, horse hair

Vicky’s objects are designed deliberately to appear insubstantial. They certainly are not made to function as jewellery, lacking solid form and metal clasps. But as such, they might seem to be true to the wispy material itself, allowing it to unravel freely. Some are likely to worry that she is taking the object out of the normal circuits of exchange that connect it with people’s lives – it can only live on a plinth. Is this a possible path in Chile?

In all, what’s happening with crin tells a story similar to other crafts across the South. Part of the post-colonial process involves coming to terms with the immediate world around us. This means not always looking North for what’s precious, but learning in how to find the beauty in what is at hand.

That process has barely begun.