The Outermost Layer

Casts by Renate Dahl. Photo by Celine Bergundhaugen.

Questions connected to body adornment, and its function and potential in society, are a vital part of everyday discussion in our roles as artists and educators in the field of contemporary jewellery. For this edition of The Vessel, we have aimed to map thoughts and ideas from our own field onto the theme “The Outermost Layer”. We were interested in how this concept is understood, and how it manifests itself through different practices. An open call seemed a good way of starting the exploration. As with every open call, we had to make a selection. We were both stunned and very excited by the large number of applications that we received.1 After reviewing and discussing all the proposals, we chose to give space to an upcoming generation of artists, as well as emerging researchers and first-time writers. Voices from experienced educators and writers from related fields such as fashion and art are also represented.

Researcher and craftswoman Vivi Touloumidi discusses wearable signs and adornment, their ability to carry sociopolitical messages, and the impact they can have on forming subjects and identities. Touloumidi has studied the black triangle, used during WWII to persecute and label so-called "asocials", and through this, investigates the power of subverting symbols of oppression as badges of honour and protest.

Jewellery, like anything else we wear or attach to the body, is an exceptionally defining choice in terms of how other people recognise us, even though it may just be a wedding ring, a small pendant, or a pin. In a collaborative article, Katharina Dettar and Julia Wild give us the possibility of revisiting preconceptions about the common wedding ring and its significance in relation to identity, status, materiality, absence, and loss.

As a contrast to the concept of eternity and an everlasting object, artist Olaf Tønnesland Hodne presents three colleagues – Kristine Ervik, Sayo Ota and Íris Elva Ólafsdóttir – who are engaging with impermanence in their practices and challenging presumed norms about permanent, solid jewellery. Given that Tønnesland Hodne himself has specialised in working with stones, this is an interesting counter idea to his own area of interest, where permanence is a key feature of his materials.

Curator and researcher Johanna Zanon focuses on the topic of the human body through an interview with artists Renate D. Dahl, Judit Fritz, and Lauren Kalman. Their three artistic practices differ, but they all highlight the Western view of human bodies, and the societal forces which shape and affect it. In the interview, Zanon offers a reflection through the lenses of philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari and their idea of “body-without-organs”.

Sometimes, the subtext in conversation about the surface directs our thoughts to a superficial phenomenon, something that conceals an inferior inside, a hideout for no content; however curator Anne Klontz states in her essay that ‘the subjective qualities of the façade came directly to her mind in response to the editorial theme’. As Klontz puts it, ‘The outermost layer is an expression of life that extends beyond the edges of the surface, and the artists reveal this through narratives of the self, identity, and desire, but also through bridging fantasy and reality into mystical and non-human relationships.’ The artists Klontz refers to are Ingvild Reinton, Miriam Johannesson, and Sofia Eriksson.

In addition, silversmith and PhD candidate Linn Sigrid Bratland gives an insight into surface treatment, a time-consuming and often tedious part of any metal craft process, which today is being transformed by emerging technologies and automation. Bratland contemplates how the rapid development in different software blurs the line between virtual and physical reality. She points out that ‘it is very easy to forget that this development is also at the mercy of materials and the knowledge of refining and processing that material’. Surface and jewellery have an essential and intertwined relationship. When discussing the concept of surface, one can refer to the physical properties of a piece, for example used materials, texture, colour, and finish, but simultaneously suggest the outermost layer of the human body and jewellery as the final statement or signal. Through the outermost layer, we define ourselves to the world. We send out signals about who we want to be perceived as.

Blacksmith and artist Jokum Lind Jensen introduces us to ancient techniques, which he masters to create sculptures in mild steel. Jensen’s method, a reciprocal dialogue between him and the material, is laborious and time-consuming. The artist’s aim is to capture the certain state of the hot iron and visualise all the hidden properties of the material, which appears during the very few minutes of the working process. It’s a way of encapsulating a short moment of time and bringing it to others.

We hope that the essays, interviews, and artist presentations published in this edition of The Vessel give the reader an indication of how the theme “The Outermost Layer” can be discussed in the field of contemporary jewellery and metal art. At the same time, we are aware of, and humbled by, the fact that these seven articles represent just a few selected voices, which co-exist with many others.

We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the contributors to this edition. Thank you for sharing your ideas relayed throughout the magazine. We are also deeply thankful to the large number of applicants who sent interesting proposals, but who we have had to leave out — with a heavy heart. Our gratefulness goes also to the Norwegian Crafts team for their eminent work, and for giving us this opportunity.