Interview at the Art Jewelry Forum-blog:



Documentation over the studies at Research Lab, Konstfack 2013/2014
with “Close to me, a project about carrying” by Lena Olson


The intention for apply to this course was mainly my interest and urge to find out more about researching. That is something I have been curious about since my student years in the 90ths. Like most artist I already have a kind of a researching approach in my work with trying, experimenting and of course digging deeper into problems that may occur during the creation of the art piece. But as that is something you do just by yourselves, there is a risk never to deal with the more difficult and uncomfortable issues. I was attracted by the challenge to leave my comfort zone and ready to learn more.
The next step was to formulate a project and an investigation that would be suitable for one year studies. I started with examine my own working process and new insights appeared. I realized that I since several years could recognize a sense of not getting further and deeper in my art, as I just been stuck spinning around both in a physical and intellectual way. This fact made it easy to decide to use the opportunity Research Lab was offering as a way of getting closer to my own practice. It seemed to me that I somehow during my usual process lost contact between my hands and my mind and needed to find a way to verbalize and make it visible. By choosing this starting point, to begin with myself, I also thought it would be natural to then open for a wider perspective in a future research.

I found out that the overall question I wanted to investigate in my project had to do with the relation I as a jewellery artist create between an object and the human body.
With this in mind I also understood that it was important to clear out initially what the actual meaning of the term “jewellery” is to me and why the result of my work ends up as just that.
In order to take my art further, it also seemed relevant to the project to investigate the origin and story behind the forms and aesthetics in my work.


When the course started up in September a lot of questions suddenly began to occupy my mind and a state of confusion entered. To get that kind of reaction was of course not so surprising considering the unfamiliar situation of being in a new context, as well as approach these in the beginning rather abstract and difficult questions.
Initially my project also felt a bit too personal, almost private. My chosen subject put a focus on myself I did not expect and to be able to relate to things outside I started with reading a lot.
At first I tried to find out what was written and said about other jewellery artist’s way of dealing with the body. I went through my own rather big collection of publications from artists and exhibitions with the result of getting very little back for referring. Often the body is only mentioned in a passing kind of way, in short and few sentences and never as the main topic. An example of this I found in the book “Wearable” from 2011 about Lisa Walker’s jewellery, where Liesbeth den Besten writes in her text on page 19 …”
Bringing materials and objects together with the aim of wearing them on the body, to see them in interaction with the wearer, and challenging the wearer to put on forms that are not very “jewellery-like”. She overcame her own inhibitions, she tried not to work with the respect of the properities of the material. She even used materials she disliked, such as stereo-typed girlish and feminine pinkish and glittering things.”
It is obvious that the material in its social context in this case is getting all the attention, while the roll of the body is secondary in the analysis.

With this a bit sad experience of not having the support and inspiration from texts I was hoping for, I started to work with models in three dimensional forms in my studio. It felt important to try out what the issue of carrying is about in an active and physical way. The questions I decided to work with in a concrete manner was “how does it feel?”, “in what way will a person wear it?” and “which thoughts will arise while doing it?”.



I looked for all kind of situations where carrying is involved in life. Mostly it is of course a practical thing; you need to bring something somewhere. Human beings have invented things and methods to make it easy. We carry just in our hands or attached to our bodies as well as with different kind of containers that increases the options. Although many times people chose to carry items of unpractical reasons. We pick up and hold the furry kitten, keep chestnuts to touch in our pocket or carry a soft stone in our hand. These are all examples of emotional driven issues.
There also exists a social view of the theme. It is not so uncommon to see very small handbags, worn more for the look than for their practical function. This brought me back to jewellery and the fact that we chose to wear jewellery, we don’t “need” to.
I got curious to find out more about the purpose of bringing unnecessary things around and began to read again with this in mind. This time I chose texts with psychological and philosophical contents.
One book I found very interesting was “Kroppens fenomenologi” (“ Phénoménologie de la perception”) by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The author, a philosopher, writes about the body from a “being” point of view. In his text he discusses the experience of the body as a whole, both as a physical fact as well as a personal one. By looking into the body from this angle gave me a more objective and clear insight to the subject and helped me ignore the sentimental and emotional filter I tend to see thing through.

After about a month and a half in my studies I had a tutoring with Karen Pontoppidan. She gave me some more texts she found suitable for my project to read, suggested me to associate while reading and start making objects out of that. In the studio an interesting process commenced. I read and took notes, reflected and did a lot of thinking and went back taking notes again. A dialogue started between the text material and my associations. Sometimes the mind worked so fast that I barely had time to make the sketches. Some of the ideas are never to be realized, but will as important parts of the process be stored for another time.
I recognize a pattern:
-The text gives me an impulse; passion and energy to want to realize my vision in an object.
-I grab the material and start to use my hands. In making the form I work in a kind of an intuitive way safely supported by former experience and skills with the tools and the material.
-Then there are the recurring moments of reflection, taking me back for decisions and to analyze the achievements.
By formulate these steps and keep them in mind, I got a method of working that make me stay aware. Thanks to the notes and sketches made during the process I can always find my way back if I get lost. It is an inside process that become visible in material and objects.

Three themes
In the process with reading and working very openly with forms and associations, three strong output modes eventually became visible; Layers,  The hole/cavity and Activity.
Parallel making physical illustrations in different materials, I also try to verbalize my thoughts and findings concerning these points out from three different texts.

Aspects of why, by whom and in what way to wear jewellery is discussed in the essay ”Holding Objects: The Psychoanalytic Mechanisms of Wearing Jewelry” by Rock Hudson.
In the text describes how jewellery is used, with focus on modern contemporary jewellery, and make also comparison with traditional jewellery as well as jewellery related rituals.
What I found interesting and reacted on was the description of the different contexts and points that jewellery acts within.
The author focuses on three central performers around a piece of jewellery and gives an image of a triangle where the corners consists of ”The Maker”, ”The Wearer” and ”The Viewer”. In addition to these another part is mentioned in the text, “The Collector” with the roll of buying and then also showing the pieces. Furthermore, as this person often is a Wearer and a Viewer too, the Collector’s position in the triangle form should be in the middle of the whole.
Previous I have not personally given the collector any particular consideration, but realize that they are for sure important parts of the field. Through their choices and purchases the collectors, together with galleries and museums, got the power to direct and impact the following generation’s perception of the jewellery of our time.
This argument might be a bit outside my project, but as it concern jewellery as a social actor in society it has a point in consider. I believe it is important to find out more about the various roles and aspects of jewellery to be able to understand and establish my own position in the jewellery world.
As an emotionally loaded item and communicator jewellery acts in different levels in different formations and contexts.
This fact made me associate to layers, which can appear in a very concrete way like material just overlapping each other. It can also be figured as theater scenes, with layers thick and impermeable or sheer and transparent.
The thought of the staged room take me further into shapes and material. The stage is replaced by the theater of life where the body, the room and the jewellery is the actors; material and forms in meeting with the physiology of the body, which constantly is moving around in reality. In my triangle this communication is central.

The cavity
The book ”Contemporary Jewellers” by Roberta Bernabei opened my mind towards the different placements and functions of jewellery.
The author has chosen to make interviews with 25 international renown artists and in the text many aspects of making and wearing jewellery is dealt with. While reading, one thing especially caught my attention and was about the role the hole and hollow form plays. It brought my thoughts behind the actual pieces and made me think around the connection between body and objects.
The cavity is not only central as a pure functional qualification for jewellery but plays an emotional role as well. It can be a space, a frame and something embracing. It assumes a body, or at least the thought of a thing occupying the space.
The body itself can of course also be seen as a cavity, but for me it was more the matter of what we experience meeting and interacting with an object that I found interesting.
The cavity can describe a passage with a “before” and a “after” you enter without remaining.
It can also be a condition, a state of being both inside and outside and where the hole itself create the dividing line.
Children tend to spontaneous try the body’s relation to holes and hollow spaces. There is an enticement as well as a claustrophobic fear facing the close and narrow room. Caves and hollow trees almost demand to be entered and investigated and fingers need to be stuck into bottle mouths. Most children have created a little hut to hide in. It is not only a question of trying if you actually fit, but also to experience and sense a surface perhaps hidden inside.
By being within something and look out we experience a change in our perspective. There is a security in the enclosing, a comfortable feeling of a perfect fit, but at the same time; a concern of getting stuck not able to break free. 

In his text ”Punctuations… Towards a Philosophy in Jewellery” Marko Gylén initially claims there is a lack of philosophical theory within the jewellery field. He raises issues about how to define the term jewellery and discuss what actually makes us understand objects as pieces of jewellery.
Further on he tries to answer these questions from a philosophical approach where he describes art as a special kind of actor in the society. Art, he claims, expose us to a communication outside the normal and make us act and react on another level. This argument, that an object by only existing has the ability to activate, felt really relevant and opened up for new thoughts on my own practice.
Marko Gylén uses the term suspension and explains it as ”The affect of being pulled into making sense.” He continues with following reasoning:
“In this suspension we suddenly do not know for sure what to do, but instead we are in the openness of possible actions. We are in the front of the undecidability of our deeds. Our next moment gapes open in front of us as a chasm. What to do with this object, with this work of art, with this situation?”
The fact that jewellery has to do with activity is not new, it is incorporated in the carrying itself. What inspired me in the text was that he pointed out the wider non outspoken communication of art and brought me further into questions of what activate us in our relation to jewellery. Some pieces really demand an effort both by the wearer as well as the viewer. The jewellery initiates and demands a continuing involvement, merely by its existence. The activity becomes more than something physical.   

Woven together the three themes create a verbal frame and something that formulates my point and thoughts; the essence of what my jewellery is about.
Working in the studio the challenge is to communicate this through my pieces, and deepen my insights into the processes that lead me there.


Working process
With the support of my collected discoveries around my three themes I started out working physically with how to carry. Trying to avoid the obvious, using the hands to hold, I began to think of the possible options for the rest of the body.
To be able to make quick three dimensional sketches I searched for suitable materials that could give me volume and size without too much weight. The models that were the most useful I made with iron thread, building up transparent forms in different sizes. I wanted to examine how and when you experience a form as a restriction of the body and how much effort it takes both physical and mental to wear such a piece. The necessary activity some of these forms demands is that you have to make sure not to drop the piece, while other forms restrict the position of for example the arm or the leg. The common thing to be noticed is that the body needs to be in a tense position and that you are aware carrying the object.



In the previous examples I found out that the fact of keeping the piece in its place was the first to concentrate on even if you also got a sense of the weight and surface. When I started working with things to hold in the hands instead it was obvious that the tactility was primary. But also that the activity involved in these pieces has to do with occupying the hands that force the wearer into a state of passivity.



The hollow forms and holes is something that keeps emerging and seems endless to examine. We find it in objects like the ring, the bracelet, the necklace and the crown as a traditional way of wearing. Experience and pre-understanding direct the emotions and actions when we come across an object. In my tryouts I have deliberately made the holes in the pieces different in shape, size and surface to see what they might signal. This investigation made me curious to find out if it is possible to single out one specific thing that create a certain action. So far, I see that it is primary the size of a hole and secondary the shape of it that direct how you first proceed when trying it on.
Many of these objects, especially when presented by me in a jewellery context, immediately are seen as rings or bracelets. My experience is that even in almost un-wearable cases, this is a fact as long as the hollow form has some kind of a finger- or arm size.



When presenting objects with more undefined forms you get a different approach. Questions like “what is this and what to do with it?” need to be answered and initiate an action of more creative kind. One way of getting a conclusion in the matter is by touching and trying the object and it has been interesting to examine how to make the piece attractive enough to start that process.
I find that if the undefined object doesn’t carry something to catch the attention and wake a curiosity, it will be ignored.



About the objects and the material
As the result of discussions and tutoring together with text studies and personal experiences in the studio, the main features of my work can be formulated in five subjects:
The carrying
The placement
The tactility
The visual part
How to handle the material

These subjects represent the steps that form a red line in my creating process.
Since the art pieces I make are meant to be worn, they accordingly hold an issue of carrying within. For all the objects made during the research, the wearing issue has worked as a starting point. To be able to put the piece into a context and decide size and proportions the placement on the body is the next thing to consider. The tactility creates a link between the material and the body and keeps activate the senses. That intimate communication the object’s shape and surface have with the wearer is essential for me to distinguish.
How to finally comprehend the result will most likely affect the way of approaching and interpretation. Therefore I claim the importance of also keeping awareness of the object’s visual signals through the whole process.
Wood, the main material I express myself artistic, constantly keeps me curious in the making. In this project the material itself has not been the main topic, even though it has clearly influenced the research and being an important part. My decision to stay put using wood through the investigation gave an opportunity to widen my experiences both technically and emotionally. By choosing new kind of wooden types and also working with other tools and methods than usual, I forced myself out from the comfort zone and created a new starting point.


Final words
I have through the documentation formulated a process that from time to time seems to have jumped in all directions. With the help of daily notes written during the research period it has been possible to single out a pattern of steps and experiences made along the journey. That pattern has formed the method for making my process visible and more concrete, a tool that I believe will be essential in future work.
While doing the research, the method of examine my working process from different angles have made me aware of my own intension with making jewellery. It is clear that I interpreted every work I have done within the project as being a piece of jewellery, despite initial concerns over my object’s roll in a jewellery context. Since I claim that my work is about how objects relate to the body, I can only conclude that it is precisely what jewellery means to me.