The Personal Precious by Louise Mazanti
Makers Move is a mobile jewellery workshop on a converted carrier bike. Gitte Nygaard and Josephine Winther created this transportable studio in 2012, as a way to renegotiate the relationship between maker and wearer, and wearer and object. They wanted to get out of the confined workspace where jewellery objects are created, completely detached from the meaning that will be ascribed to them, once they are presented in a gallery space – sold and worn. With Makers Move they add a very important missing aspect to each end of the life cycle of objects. An aspect that has largely been ignored by both the world of commercial and art jewellery, that tends to see jewellery as an ‘image’: as a static object with a static meaning and a fixed aesthetic expression. Makers Move open up our awareness to that vast field of meaning that exists before and after life in the gallery, and to the magic of creation and the power of connection.
By taking the workshop into the public space, they have found a way to bridge the creation of objects with the lived experience of possessing them. The mobile studio acts as a contact point between the makers and ordinary people passing by. With Makers Move, Gitte Nygaard and Josephine Winther invite people to share their stories about a piece of jewellery, or a small object that has a special meaning to them. In return for their stories, people receive a small pewter cast of their object, or jewellery, made right there on the spot, and mounted in a pendant as an amulet. The mobile workshop becomes ‘a medium of exchange’, and the amulet becomes a symbolic representation of the story, as it was shared.
This moment is crucial. In the moment of exchange, the story of the original object becomes alive. People have a very rare opportunity to reflect on the meaning that the object holds for them, and share it with someone else. Space is created for the most intimate, sensitive, emotional, personal meaning to emerge that almost always speaks of memories of time past, and bonds with a loved one.
By bringing connections and attachments alive in the conversation, Makers Move open the original object to the emotional value it is holding for the wearer. It is the preciousness that cannot be created by any predefined precious material, but can only grow from lived experiences of meaning, love and connection. In this regard, it is significant that the sharing of the story is oral. In the moment of exchange, happening between wearer and maker, the object becomes secondary while the sharing, and caring for people’s most precious stories is given attention. It is establishing a meeting between human beings, around something of great importance to the individual.
This is very different from the solitary paradigm of the conventional practice as a goldsmith-jeweller-maker, who is usually working isolated at their bench in the workshop. By receiving people’s stories, they are given back the aspect of their creation that they never got to see: the meaning that objects gain in lived life, gained over time.
This means that the space of openness and sharing is reversed back to the maker as well. By functioning as a mobile workshop, where not only stories are shared but also objects created, Makers Move bring to the light what the wearer is rarely aware of: how the objects actually come to life. Gitte Nygaard and Josephine Winther have created a space for the untold story of the relationship between maker and material. This usually invisible production process is brought back to the wearer. They can see with their own eyes how objects are born; almost out of the maker’s own body, as the close relationship between maker, tool and material is revealed for the spectator. A hitherto unconnected aspect of the life cycle of the object is completed: the life before and after the gallery space.
In this way, Makers Move is breaking new ground in the world of art jewellery. Jewellery becomes a process: a noun, something alive in a state of constant change. This is in opposition to ‘jewellery as image’ referred to earlier in this text, where an object is displayed as a fixed, timeless object in a glass cage, detached from its life cycle of creation, wear, projected meaning, and change. With Makers Move objects gain a history.
This focus on process, instead of image, creates space for an openness that cannot be controlled by the maker. The creative process becomes collaboration with chance, with the person passing by, the object they bring, and the story they are sharing. Having created the space and opportunity, Gitte Nygaard and Josephine Winter have to surrender to serendipity, and work with what the moment brings. This element of surprise is in opposition to a traditionally conservative profession, where precious and only meticulously and slowly mould-able materials put a natural limitation to the allowance of chance. With Makers Move, this engagement with the present moment is reinstalled, and creates objects and stories that could not have been foreseen.
Another aspect that is interesting is the way they engage with jewellery as an art form traditionally dealing with ‘precious materials’. With Makers Move ‘precious’ gets a different meaning, as the emphasis is not on the material, financial value of objects, but the emotional value of objects that are loved because they hold meaning for us, and are symbolic representations of memories and connections. In this way, Makers Move touch on the very spirit of jewellery: it is made with precious materials not as a display of economic power that it can easily be confused with, but as a symbolic manifestation of the preciousness they represent.
It is from this place they are able to reach the public in a new way. Usually when moving in a public space, there is so much information we are trying to filter out: other people, advertising, charity workers and general noise. Everything is bidding for our attention, and semi-consciously, we withdraw to a space where the outer world cannot ‘take’ from us. At a superficial glance, Makers Move is another project that wants to pull us in, but here it is with the intention of creating space for the personal precious; the things we are holding closest to heart. There is nothing to protect us from, but rather a space to open to: something of personal meaning and value that we often disconnect from amidst the invasive public space, and the business of our doings. Makers Move reminds us about who we are as human beings, our relationships, memories, and what we hold dear. They create a bridge not only between past and present, but with the new object that emerges, a token is created that will hold the memory of the story shared, and the connection that was formed in that moment. What meaning will this new jewellery hold for the wearer who carries it into the world, for the people who hear the story, and for the people who made it? New jewellery relations and stories have been created. A new sensibility to the material world and the richness of meanings has been established. Untold stories have been made visible.