The Autumn Months
November 12th, 2014
TIME TO REFLECT
Wisps of grey and orange tremble outside our windows this morning, as the wind pulls in fresh breaths of ocean air, sending leaves tumbling from their summer homes. It’s the beginning of November already (how?), and this wild Nova Scotia morning is perfect for reflecting on the past few months of living.
With most of my summer on fast-forward this year, preparing/showing the new jewellery collection ‘The Gardens We Carry’ at L.A. Pai Gallery in Ottawa, – September ended up being the slowdown. Luke and I each gathered up a few essentials and headed overseas for a meandering, adventure-break.
I’ve come to understand that life’s best moments (and this extends to travelling) are seldom planned. You can have a pocket full of ideas, but leaving plans loose – with a few anchors of interest – seems to work out best. So, with only our flights and a few spots to safely lay our heads – we enjoyed many un-plans along the way. It was fantastic. It felt like one long exhale as we basked in the last golden days of our marathon summer. Here are a few highlights of the trip that inspired my growth & life as a practicing artist and human being.
THE NETHERLANDS & THE CODA MUSEUM & SOME DREAMS COME TRUE
There are a few artists whose work I’ve followed since my early days of jewellery, but the work of Terhi Tolvanen has always stuck a place of resonance with me. Shortly after we’d booked our flights to Paris, I had realized that just two country’s away – (and really, we know how close countries are compared to the distances we travel in Canada) was an entire retrospective exhibition of this artist’s work. I had to go.
And so, a special side trip was added to our trip from Canada to France, time carved out to visit Holland, specifically the town of Apeldoorn, and more specifically the CODA Museum that is housed there. Among other work, this museum has over 5000 pieces of jewellery in their growing permanent collection, making it one of the largest contemporary jewellery strong houses in Europe.
Anticipation at new heights, my dreams of seeing Tolvanen’s work was on the cusp of being realized. The days leading up I kept having dreams that we’d missed a flight or train connection and botched the chance of seeing it, but on the afternoon of Sunday, September 7th, 2014, we walked through the doors of the museum, on the very last day of the 6 month exhibition. We had just 3 hours left to absorb all the awesome that was ahead of us.
Let me just state, that my excitement was at unparalleled heights. Perhaps a slightly naïve level…it spilled over in the weeks leading up to departure, when friends asked innocently about our plans in Europe, I’d generously explain about this exhibition (perhaps too generously?). About this artist, who crafts pieces with finesse and such natural vision that they were already of nature, yet somehow not, plucked from a space between understanding and deep appreciation of both detail and material. I am naturally somewhat quiet, but I would talk.
It may be obvious by this point, but her work has had a large influence on my own appreciation and creation of art jewellery. This chance to see it all in person, was so high on my anticipation charts, it nearly trumped all things delightful we saw in Europe. Not quite, but almost.
The main exhibition NATUURKRACHT (which translates to Nature Power), featured a variety of Dutch artists working in various disciplines and mediums. I circled the perimeter of the exhibition wanting to run directly into the dedicated space of the jewellery exhibition, but I held back – making myself follow the path that was laid out with such beautiful, curatorial care.
I was particularly enthralled with Jasper de Beijer, who meticulously constructed diorama’s of natural scenes of overgrown interiors – jungle-like to some dilapidated architectural interior landscape. Each constructed out of highly patterned paper, which was then photographed. Eerie and unsettling, they entranced with a trippy, generated feel, details that caught your eye bringing to question just what it was you were viewing. A genius use of medium and play of perception.
And then, there, at the centre of NATUURKRACHT, was the reason for this Holland excursion. Nestled in within an interior exhibition was 80+ glorious pieces (the first time her work had been shown together in one place) collected together for, ‘Reinventing Nature’, a retrospective show for art jeweller, Terhi Tolvanen.
There are moments that strike oneself occasionally, as being unlikely, impossible even. I felt this as I stepped into the room of Terhi’s collection. The attention to detail and surprising uses of natural and alternative materials, are merely starting points in Tolvanen’s visual vocabulary. Finally able to see these works after pouring over photos for so many years, was – at the least – a bit surreal. Each piece contained a variety of material, from wood (both painted and natural), raw stones, textile elements – to a backbone of meticulous metalwork. A visual poetry is sensed when viewing the work, as it gently arcs as a dialogue with materials to a measured spontaneity gathered up in the final details. And then – Me. There. Walking amongst it all. Unbelievable.
I wandered her show for a long while, trying to be as present as possible with space and time in front of me. It was a captivating collection spanning a period of over 15 years, with more than 85 individual works with most of the pieces being gathered from international private collections, museums and galleries.
An extraordinary exhibition overall, both Luke and I left the museum on clouds of inspiration and warm feelings. I was immediately longing to start fresh work of my own.
After the highlight of the show, we enjoyed a few more days in Amsterdam filled with bikes, beer, cheese, flower markets, parks, a few gallery escapades including the lovely contemporary jewellery Galerie Rob Koudijs. Then back to France on a speedy train. Many of our in between days were filled with quiet hours climbing and dreaming in the filtered light of the Forests of Fontainebleau, just south of Paris. The last few day we spent in Paris, and another altering shift was had at the Musée de l’Orangerie, as we sat and gazed about at Monet’s wondrous water lilies – oh, the deep and soft colors. I ate it up.
THE PARIS MEETUP
A few months before the trip I’d been harbouring a very exciting meet-up, and finally as our trip neared the end, Terhi Tolvanen herself met us at a café close to our apartment in Paris. As much as this was exciting for me, it was nerve-wracking too…but she proved to be as delightful her works – full of compelling conversation and long-time-artist wisdom.
Also returning from a trip of her own, Terhi lugged with her a several bags of new materials. I had to smile, as it seems a common trait among artists to stow inspiration and new materials – always packing them someplace special in our carry-on. Tolvanen’s work has unquestionable connections to nature, both in inspiration and material choice. These materials are not merely purchased, but are collected from natural places, hand selected and re-interpreted. She spoke about the process of finding and selecting the materials as being an important part of her practice.
Sweet and easy to speak, Terhi was lovely to chat with. I asked many questions, on both her work and her process. When viewing the show, I felt there was evidence of joy to her making. She agreed and explained that she understands that a maker’s thinking extends from the head, but gets much further once the hand is involved – this is when the joy happens. I’ve experienced this, it comes quietly after one has had time create under the circumstances of experimentation and intention, an extraordinary perk of being able to create with time to spare. The importance of giving yourself time to experiment, letting your hands wander into new techniques and new ways of combining elements. This has got to be one of my favourite aspects of making art.
We parked the extra bags at our apartment, and headed out making our way towards the Centre Pompidou. On the way Luke spied a local comic shop, in his element, we left him amidst narrow space filled with amazing French illustrators and words he could not comprehend.
Terhi and I wandered onward to Pompidou where we checked out the studio gallery of Atelier Brancusi, a Romanian sculptor who spent most of his career in Paris. In his will he bequeathed to the French state the entirety of his studio, on the condition that they recreate it exactly how he left it. Chatting as we cruised around the perimeter of the glassed in studio space – enjoying his forms and the beautiful space he chose to create in. It’s amazing to me, how commonalities between makers can be so universal, the daily practice of life and art are so entwined – this was evident in Brancusi’s spaces.
STEPS FORWARD & NEW THINGS
Having just returned, I am extremely grateful to be funded by Craft Alliance to attend an extended weekend trip to the 21st annual Chicago Sofa Expo Show. With close 65+ international galleries in attendance this retail show was an extremely important trip as an emerging artist. Beyond speaking with various galleries and artist’s, I was able to attend various workshops and lectures helping unlock some of the mysteries associated with export. Chicago really is a windy city, but the warmth of the people make up for it. Took in some piano bars and some cool jazz at a champagne bar – an amazing opportunity overall, with a lovely set of artisans from various atlantic provinces.
Currently in full swing production, preparing for the first of a few local retail shows. Come check out the new limited production line in the ‘Fresh Catch’ section of the Halifax Crafters Society 10th Annual Holiday Show. I’ll be there this Dec 5th, 6th & 7th held at the Olympic Centre.
Also this week, preparations are being made to launch an additional pop-up shop at a VERY SPECIAL & local Dartmouth venue this December, so stay tuned for posters and invites within the next few days! As usual there a million and one things to learn and do, but I’m pretty excited by it all. Designing and making my first line of limited production work (based on The Gardens We Carry) sorting out displays and lighting, organizing new photo-shoots, designing and printing promotional materials, packaging – and, as always – taking a few naps.
Happy November all – hope to catch you at one of the shows!