Julia Maria Künnap: Interview

Aaron Decker

Julia Maria KünnapAaron Decker is a recent graduate from Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine. He is using a grant from the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design (CCCD) to travel in Europe and interview artists. Aaron has been traveling in Portugal and Estonia, and in this, the fourth interview, he talks with Julia Maria Künnap. Aaron is now back in the US and living in Maine with plans to return to Estonia in the future for school. 

Aaron Decker: Julia Maria Künnap is an Estonian artist whose work I can only characterize with the word ‘wonder.’ Striving for perfection, she utilizes techniques that are time consuming, laborious, and intensely meticulous. Her work bridges the gap between the instantaneous and infinity, catching time like a snapshot in a material as eternal as stone. Not looking for words to describe her work, she hopes viewers see it in person, but not just see but look and let the work hit them at their core. Julia Maria Künnap is a graduate from the Estonian Academy of Arts and a practicing artist in Tallinn, Estonia.

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Manuel Vilhena: Miss Amelia & 1001 Rings

Gallery S O, London, England

Gallery S O Felix Flurry owns two galleries—one in Solothurn, Switzerland, and the other in London, England. The AJF interview with him is in our collection of dealer interviews. This month in his London gallery, Flurry is showing the imaginative Portuguese artist Manuel Vilhena. This jeweler studied in many places and with a number of well-known teachers, and he has come up with a very personal and very intimate way of being a jeweler. See if you agree as we discuss his show Miss Amelia & 1001 Rings.

Susan Cummins: As I understand it, there are two parts to this show. Is that correct, and can you describe the two parts?

Manuel Vilhena: Yes. One part is Miss Amelia, a story about a girl in strange and curious lands. The story develops over a period of seven days and is basically a voyage. During this voyage, Amelia meets many people and has conversations with them. (Within these conversations lie my working philosophical principles.) This story gave rise to jewels that represent characters in the plot, and subsequently, the jewels themselves created deviations and new pathways for the story to unfold. As such, the jewels and story created each other.

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RE:WORK Sculpture and Accessory by Emily Bixler

Gallery Lulo, Healdsburg, California, USA

Gallery Lulo Gallery Lulo in Healdsburg, California, is a collaborative effort between artist Karen Gilbert and Anne-Katherine Schjerbeck. Their gallery has grown in the past three years, and recently they opened an additional space. This month’s show Re:Work Sculpture and Accessory is the first one in the new space and features the dexterous artist Emily Bixler. It has been interesting to observe the blurring of the lines between disciplines in contemporary jewelry, and this show is an excellent example of it.

Susan Cummins: Your work is a blur of sculpture, craft, fiber, and jewelry. Would you explain your educational background?

Emily Bixler: I entered Pacific Northwest College of Art (Portland, Oregon) as a painter but quickly shifted focus after my first welding class. Form and the placement of objects in space mesmerized me. I started experimenting with installation and the way an entire room creates a composition. Sculpture opened up a whole world of materials and textures as well. The school I attended did not have a proper fiber department, however, so I would lug my sewing machine around with me to class. Post college I had several jobs that I sought out as opportunities to explore methods of craft—working in the knitwear industry, as a milliner’s assistant, seamstress, and jewelry designer.

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Mirror, Mirror: Curated by Ben Lignel and Jo Bloxham

Velvet da Vinci, San Francisco, California, USA

Lauren Kalman Velvet da Vinci in San Francisco, California, is a wonderful place to see international exhibitions. Taking on the role of a museum, as a few art galleries (and even fewer jewelry galleries) do these days, Velvet da Vinci is a leader in featuring this kind of themed exhibit.

The international team of Jo Bloxham from England and Ben Lignel from France (our new editor) curated this exhibition, and Velvet da Vinci is its only US venue. Gallery owners Mike Holmes and Elizabeth Shypertt have a large and active international network from which to draw this type of show. Lucky for those of us who live near them! A beautifully designed catalog is available from the gallery.

Susan Cummins: First, please explain your background and in particular your interest in contemporary jewelry.

Jo Bloxham: I was initially a maker until I accidentally fell into curating during my masters degree. I curated an exhibition called Romancing the Stone, which became the main submission for my MA. I soon realized I was better at curating than I was at making, so decided to put my toolbox away and concentrate on producing themed exhibitions on an international scale. Curating involves lots of dialogue with like-minded people, which suits me better than sitting alone in a studio with my cats for company.

I am also an avid collector, so jewelry is a big part of my life.

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Quintet: A Conversation In Design

Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h Currently at Galerie Noel Guyomarc'h is Quintet, a traveling show featuring the work of five jewelers who teach at George Brown College Centre for Arts and Design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Shona Kearney, Martha Glenny, Paul McClure, Wing-Ki Chan, and Katharina Möller‎. The group established a website and published a catalog designed by the graphics department at the college.

Quintet opened at St Mary’s University Art Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It then traveled to L.A. Pai Gallery (a new AJF gallery member) in Ottawa, Ontario; the George Brown College School of Design in Toronto; and now Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h in Montreal. The exhibition’s final stop will be at the Toronto Harbourfront’s York Quay Centre.

Susan Cummins: Please explain the idea for this exhibit and who was the curator and the instigator?

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BUGGY: Taweesak Molsawat: The Missing Elements of Democracy: Art Jewelry As A Political Critic

ATTA Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand

Taweesak Molsawat Given the recent political juggernaut in the USA it is only fitting that we consider what is going on in another part of the world. This time it is Thailand. The AJF gallery ATTA is in Bangkok and Taweesak Molsawat is the artist who is questioning the politics of his country with a show called The Missing Elements of Democracy: Art Jewerly as a Political Critic. This is an excellent example of an exhibition that attempts to use jewelry to political and critical effect. See if you think it succeeds.

Susan Cummins: Taweesak, would you describe some of the missing elements of democracy in Thailand?

Taweesak Molsawat: The word democracy originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) or ‘rule of the people.’ This is the direct democracy system. The core concept of modern democracy is ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth’—this is indirect democracy. This concept has not worked as it is supposed to in today’s political system in Thailand. There are many significant factors that cause problems, but this body of work focuses on two elements: the politicians and the people (citizens of Thailand). These two elements—the real representation of the people and an understanding of the true concept of a democratic electoral system—have been missing in Thai government. The politicians are not representatives of the people, and democracy is not just a vote for personal gain.

You say in your artist’s statement: ‘In this body of work, I am particularly interested in exploring jewelry and the body of the wearer as a way of communicating a political message.’ Why did you settle on jewelry as a form of communication in this way? What are its strengths as an art form?

Taweesak Molsawat: Art communicates through visual and non-visual means. The subject matters of art originate from culture and society, therefore art is an instrument to critically and creatively examine culture and society.

In today’s commodity society, one is constantly moving. The way one dresses is the way one expresses oneself. Therefore, and unavoidably, one’s body has become a moveable channel for cultural communication. One cannot change the politicians and the political system, but one can influence the individual and people around them at intimate levels. One can communicate and educate people about the missing elements in democracy. Jewelry is an effective art form for direct and emotional communication to the public on a deeper personal level than other media. Jewelry can communicate to one person at a time, saying a lot without speaking.

Taweesak Molsawat Susan Cummins: Taweesak, would you describe some of the missing elements of democracy in Thailand?

Taweesak Molsawat: The word democracy originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) or ‘rule of the people.’ This is the direct democracy system. The core concept of modern democracy is ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth’—this is indirect democracy. This concept has not worked as it is supposed to in today’s political system in Thailand. There are many significant factors that cause problems, but this body of work focuses on two elements: the politicians and the people (citizens of Thailand). These two elements—the real representation of the people and an understanding of the true concept of a democratic electoral system—have been missing in Thai government. The politicians are not representatives of the people, and democracy is not just a vote for personal gain.

You say in your artist’s statement: ‘In this body of work, I am particularly interested in exploring jewelry and the body of the wearer as a way of communicating a political message.’ Why did you settle on jewelry as a form of communication in this way? What are its strengths as an art form?

Taweesak Molsawat: Art communicates through visual and non-visual means. The subject matters of art originate from culture and society, therefore art is an instrument to critically and creatively examine culture and society.

In today’s commodity society, one is constantly moving. The way one dresses is the way one expresses oneself. Therefore, and unavoidably, one’s body has become a moveable channel for cultural communication. One cannot change the politicians and the political system, but one can influence the individual and people around them at intimate levels. One can communicate and educate people about the missing elements in democracy. Jewelry is an effective art form for direct and emotional communication to the public on a deeper personal level than other media. Jewelry can communicate to one person at a time, saying a lot without speaking.

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ATTA Gallery

Sam Tho Duong: lemitcA

Ornamentum Gallery, Hudson, New York, USA

Sam Tho Duong Stefan Friedemann and Laura Lapachin, owners of Ornamentum Gallery in Hudson, New York, trained as metalsmiths in Pforzheim, Germany. It was there they met fellow student Sam Tho Duong. Now these many years later, the three are still connected—one is an exceptional artist and two run an exceptional gallery.

Sam Tho Duong has developed a very clever way of using yogurt containers to make elegant necklaces with surprising variations. His show is called lemitcA, and no I didn’t make a mistake with the name. All the images in this article are of the same piece—how fascinating is that?

You can find the story of how Ornamentum Gallery came into being, Stefan and Laura’s thinking about the jewelry market, and their favorite pieces on our website.

Susan Cummins: Sam, for a number of years you were working on a series called Frozen, which consisted of necklaces and brooches with branch-like forms covered in tiny pearls. This new work looks entirely different. Can you tell us how you started working on it?

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Unexpected Pleasures: The Art and Design of Contemporary Jewellery

Chloë Powell
This relationship to the body was again emphasized in the display of the large neckpieces, which were shown at neck height so that one could view them at the level they would be worn. Transparent displays had the effect of suspending many of the works in space, allowing the viewer to see the pieces from all angles and perhaps imagine wearing it. This was also important from the jeweler’s perspective, as any maker knows how valuable it is to see the back of a piece, to gain insight on how something is made or to learn the secrets often hidden to all but the wearer.
Exhibition Details
Exhibition Title: 
Unexpected Pleasures: The Art and Design of Contemporary Jewellery
Exhibition Dates: 
April 20 – August 26, 2012

To have an international exhibition of contemporary jewelry in the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) – the first it has ever hosted – is quite a coup.

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Bibliography: 

Unexpected Pleasures will be shown at the London Design Museum from 5 December 2012 until 5 March 2013.

Liisa Hashimoto: Light Fiction

Shibumi Gallery, Berkeley, California, USA

Shibumi Gallery April Higashi’s Shibumi Gallery, in Berkeley, California, is having a wonderful show by Japanese artist Liisa Hashimoto. The installation of the show is very energetic and imaginative, like a playground.

I understand that you live in Osaka, Japan, but went to school to learn metalsmithing in America. Is that correct, and if so, can you tell me who you studied with and where?

Liisa Hashimoto: Yes, I live in Osaka now. I have my studio here, too. After graduating from high school, I went to America and learned metalsmithing under Ms. Yoshiko Yamamoto at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

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