Parts of the Story
Christel van der Laan
29th Oct – 22nd Nov 2014
Contemporary jewellery is often concerned with the personal stories and journey of the maker. The selection and composition of materials to give form to thoughts, feelings and memories, is often the most challenging and exhilarating part of the process of making.
“Collecting, arranging and making things have been a part of my life since I can remember. It is a passion I have shared with my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who between them have (had) careers or interests in everything from antiques, tribal art, textiles, photography, contemporary art, furniture and design to plant and animal life”.
Born in the Netherlands, van der Laan emigrated with her family to South Africa as a child, returning to the Netherlands to complete her secondary education, then moving to Australia. “Ours was a childhood of dazzling natural environments and exotic cultures. Often my extended family would visit and trips into the “veld” and later, “bush” would yield unexpected booties and a wealth of impressions, while second hand shops and roadside vendors were a source of many extraordinary finds. These items or later finds with associations to particular times and places frequently find their way into my jewellery”.
Her recent work evolved out of the spontaneous exploration and experimentation with materials with an emphasis on making parts and components that only later were combined into complete works. “I have become more interested in achieving subtle dynamic tension between compositional elements in my work and by spending time focusing on creating poetic visual language without the constraint of having to make finished pieces, I hoped to stimulate my process and enrich my practice”.
The concept of preciousness in jewellery and the search for beauty in the discarded and overlooked in our everyday lives has interested van der Laan for some time. In 2008, she was drawn to a piece of ceramic honeycomb that for years had been sitting unobtrusively on her workbench. Usually a soldering aid on thousands of jeweller’s benches around the globe, she began to imagine and explore the new world of possibilities concealed in each 15 x 10 x 1cm block. Experiments followed and tools were trialled before her first real pieces Holier than Thou were created. Pure, white, pristine, perforated and entirely precious, the title was an obvious choice. From an occasional inclusion, this unlikely stuff is now the dominant focus in her work and thanks to grants from the Australia Council for the Arts and the Department of Culture and the Arts, Western Australia she has been able to spend months cutting, carving, comparing, contrasting, constructing. Collected materials some dating back to her childhood, were also incorporated into the works, among them stones from her collection of Victorian fob seal blanks. Others included antique cut steel beads vintage glass buttons and plastics, mother of pearl, building materials and electrical parts.
“There is something incredibly satisfying in creating these entirely hand-made objects. It is a slow, labour intensive process: The delicate honeycomb must be carved carefully to avoid chipping and breakages. Once painted and/or sealed, it becomes more robust. I agonise over the choice and final placement of all elements in the composition. But as I rhythmically file and sand, with every movement revealing more pattern, line and form, I feel I have found my place in jewellery world”.
Christel van der Laan