Bonnie Levine is co-owner of Hedone Gallery. She has loved and bought contemporary studio jewelry for many years, determined to become a gallerist when she left the corporate world. That has now happened!
Farrah Al-Dujaili, a maker from the United Kingdom, won the 2011 Art Jewelry Forum Artist Award for an Emerging Artist for her bold, unique mix of drawing and making that crosses over and intertwines. Working with drawing materials, such as pencil, crayons, and watercolors, she applies them to the surface of enamel paint to create works that are like 3D sketches. AJF’s Bonnie Levine caught up with Farrah to understand how winning the AJF emerging artist award has influenced her work and career in the past two years.
Bonnie Levine: It’s been several years since you won the emerging artist award. Looking back on it now, how did you come to apply for the award, and what was your reaction to winning it?
Farrah Al-Dujaili: At the time of the call out, I was trying to build up my profile within the art jewelry scene, having only graduated the previous year. The emerging artist award seemed like a great opportunity to do that. I entered never expecting to win, so when I received the email it came as a great surprise. I remember reading it multiple times to make sure I had understood it properly!
How did you get started as an artist?
Farrah Al-Dujaili: I discovered jewelry as a medium during my art foundation. My first explorations were concerned with the personal nature of jewelry and its association with memories. Once I discovered the school of jewelry in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, I knew that was where I wanted to go. I completed my degree in 2009 and continued on to my masters, graduating in 2010.
Farrah Al-Dujaili: Looking back, drawing was always a recurring tool and theme within my work. But I think my time working on the MA and the conversations I had with both Jivan Astfalck and David Clarke about my working practice had the greatest impact. Their advice to not be precious with my making and to work intuitively enabled me to transfer all the qualities of my two-dimensional drawings into three-dimensional pieces, to draw directly with the wire. I continue that way of working to this day.
How did the monetary award help to move your work forward? Would the award have been as significant and meaningful without it?
Farrah Al-Dujaili: The money I received gave me a security net for my working practice. It enabled me to take extra time in my studio to create new pieces that explored scale, function, and materials. I was also not financially limited on how many exhibitions I could apply for, and this led to my work being shown in multiple exhibitions in 2012, building on the success of receiving the award. For those practical reasons, the monetary factor is important for the appeal of the award. On an emotional level, I think for any artist to be named “emerging artist” would be incredibly meaningful, as it would be an acknowledgment of the quality of the work and future potential of that artist. That was for me, the most important aspect that I took from receiving the award.
What impact and influence did winning the award have on your career? What have been some of the highlights of these past two years?
Farrah Al-Dujaili: I think my work is more widely known from winning the award, and I can only guess which opportunities I have been invited to take part in came along as a consequence of that.
Going back to the school of jewelry to give a lecture to the BA jewelry and silversmithing students after receiving the award was a highlight for me, as it showed me how far I had come. Another highlight was having my work take part in the prestigious European Prize for Applied Arts in 2012.
How has your work changed and evolved, and where do you see it going in the future?
Farrah Al-Dujaili: I think over the past two years my work has become more focused in terms of what I am trying to achieve when I piece them together. I am always seeking to create the sense of life within the inanimate pieces that they could move or grow before your eyes. Therefore, my palette of forms is more refined, using a mixture of plant and skeletal structures to create these hybrid forms.
I have also created jewelry and objects that explored the application of drawing materials to the surface of my pieces as an interactive aspect, for people to be able to remove my chalk marks and replace them with their own.
I have recently begun working on creating small-batch productions of pieces from my Into the Garden at Once collection using 3D printing in nylon. At the moment, I see the future of my work split between creating one-off pieces and small-batch productions of selected designs using that process.
As a former winner, you were a juror on the 2012 AJF Artist Award panel. What was that like? Did you have a unique perspective to bring to the process?
Farrah Al-Dujaili: Being a juror was a great experience for me. I really enjoyed the discussions amongst the jurors, and seeing the high number and quality of the entries really gave me perspective on what I had achieved the year before. As a previous winner, I was determined to seek out an individual whose work was different and had a strong personal aesthetic.
What advice do you have for emerging jewelers who are getting started in their careers?
Farrah Al-Dujaili: My advice would be to realize success comes as a slow and steady build up of your career that can take many different routes. Be confident in your work, and enter it into competitions and exhibitions, as you never know what opportunities will come your way. Keep making, keep questioning that making, and enjoy doing it!