Opportunities in the Wind

You know, the jewellery community in New Zealand, as in many places, is ontoit! But particularly here because of a number of factors into which I shall delve later. More importantly, what they are doing is invigorating their art form beyond measure. Regular conferences that encourage fresh thinking, engender debate and stimulate further activities are thick on the ground. In recent times there have been three major conferences, numerous smaller gatherings, a boot camp, a mentoring programme joining international with young local artists and now a large scale international conference taking place in Wellington next February.

Of all the Applied Arts areas currently funded by CNZ, it is jewellery and jewelers that are granted the lion’s share. And fair enough, the applications are sharper and better presented and more importantly, the ideas for which funding is sought, are better. Better from the point of view that the outcomes will carry more heft, feed into the culture more constructively and assist individual artists more constructively. And better again from a point of view that compares applications from jewellery practitioners with those from other media.

Take a couple of recent ideas…

Damian Skinner put together a ‘Boot Camp’ for a bunch of practitioners – (this one was done without support from CNZ but was funded by the attendees). Done at budget level, sleeping and catering marae style, it nevertheless gathered a small coterie of experts who ‘booted’ the practices of a dozen jewelers from conceptual, technical, photographic and positioning one’s practice internationally, angles over a hard working long weekend that while exhausting for all, was also most satisfying.

Peter Deckers has started a programme asking young jewellery graduates to nominate a ‘hero’ or two, (anywhere in the world). He then contacted the nominated art star and asked them to be mentor for the young jewellery graduate for an extended period with correspondences mainly by Skype. The result is an on-going, one-to-one mentoring programme, an international exhibition in Sydney for both parties and also some of the mentors arriving here in New Zealand for a forthcoming conference and to meet their mentees. Surprisingly, none of the ‘art stars’ approached refused to comply – all being charmed by the idea and willing to try it. One or two were too pushed to help but said ‘try me again another time’ and so the second hero was approached. Who would have thought it?  Such a generous idea responded to with enthusiasm.

Deckers now is putting much energy into a symposium in Wellington in February. Called JEMPOSIUM it has a lineup of stellar practitioners and speakers from off-shore who will present their ideas via a series of formal and PechaKucha presentations. The lineup includes practitioners with major reputations as well as international curators and commentators such as Elizabeth Den Besten from Think-Tank. The four-day gathering will also encourage taking discussions further by offering master-class workshops with the international speakers. http://www.jemposium.co.nz for more news as it comes to hand but it would not be a bad idea for ceramic practitioners to attend and scope the differences with our own national and regional gatherings.

I do know we ask various internationals here for our ceramic conferences but I would offer that the sort of event the jewellery community gets together on are a long step up. At least those reading CNZ funding applications seem to think so. It’s a bit like having (say) Betty Woodman, Garth Clark, Edmund de Waal, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Bodil Manz, Walter McConnell, Carmen Dionese and Philippe Barde (to sample some of the best in the world at their various genres) all together at one time and in one place. Not only that but things set up so that these artists and thinkers bounce off one another in a way to make two and two make five. Something synergistic happens and everyone benefits.

We have our chance for at least an airing of issues and what might be done to clarify and address at least some of them when Objectspace puts together a day for ceramics as part of its SEVEN-UP programme later this year. Panels and talks are planned. Do give the opportunity some thought and perhaps send in suggestions to this blog and they will be co-ordinated and forwarded when the time comes.

What are our issues? How to do a better CNZ application? Placing our practices off-shore? How to make a better conference less often? Too many separate regions not co-operating one with another so repeating things to little advantage? Education, or lack of it? Improved knowledge of our histories? Better methods for aligning ceramics alongside fine arts? Information about residencies and how to get them? More visits from art stars? Less, while we elevate our own? Cracking it into a white cube gallery? More of the same comfortable thing we have always had because we’re all right Jack? This is all worth thinking about.

What do we need to return ceramics practice in NZ closer to its formerly pre-eminent position?

Your thoughts are welcome.


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