PLAYTHINGS – The essay


PLAYTHINGS – A Spin on the Merry-Go-Round of Contemporary Jewellery.

Jewellery is in good heart in New Zealand. Of all the craft practices, it is jewellery that has the strongest dialogue, one that has evolved, stretched and keeps pushing boundaries. It has gone from being serious and grown up to infantile to more profound than one may always want. Questioning itself and pushing the wall down and kicking in the doors.










(S)CRAP is an exhibition of paintings by Yvette Byrd, drawings by William Henry Meung and jewellery by Stella Chrysostomou.

Drawings - set 4.  Artist: William Henry Meung Set of 4: $820

Acrylic on board $560    The show runs for one more week – see  more images here :                                                  (S)CRAP slideshow

Chance encounters at airports

Chance encounters in the airport loos are hardly the thing of inspiration one would think! Twice in the last six months I’ve had chance encounters in airports and both times in the airport loos. Both times I have been en route to board meetings and  bumped into a fellow artist.

Encounter 1: Was with Hilary. Very funny – we didn’t even realise we were on the same flight from Nelson. I was on the way to a board meeting and she was on the way to a friend’s Auckland opening. It was an excellent encounter and we chatted while we waited for (me) a colleague and (Hilary) a friend at Auckland terminal.

Encounter 2: Was Renee – a fellow jeweller. Last time I saw her was at Jemposium in 2012. While our conversation was brief it was delightful, and made me feel a part of the jewellery fraternity for a lovely moment.  airport vintageIt was a real pleasure to re-make that connection. And it wouldn’t have happened if my flight hadn’t been delayed by almost an hour. Thanks AirNZ!

I’ve always loved airports for people watching and I enjoy travelling. It fulfills my desire for change. (something that doesn’t happen that much in a settled family, full-time work, mortgaged existence unless you make it so) . So it’s a bonus when that people watching converts into meaningful interaction.

It’s always interesting to meet people unexpectedly. It triggers different shared memories and experiences. It stops you in your tracks. It’s easy to become absorbed in your day-to-day grind and lose sight of your artistic ambitions. I’ve just been writing an exhibition proposal this week. (Something I haven’t done for a while) and noticed as I was updating my exhibition history that 2014 was a bit of a drought.

2015 looks more promising. I started the year with a 3-week hiatus from work. It was bliss having a concentrated amount of time off which enabled me to do some serious bench time. I’m working on some new work for a planned group exhibition with Yvette Byrd & William Henry Mueng.  And out of the blue I’ve been invited to participate in a show in Australia later this year.  So best intentions this year and so far it is starting well.


Lost things and jinxed travel

Today I lost a brooch. And even though I can re-make it I’m still having a ‘missing you’ moment. I think I lost it on the aeroplane from Auckland  – the flight was delayed by an hour because someone had packed a container of petrol(!) in their bag which leaked. (Which meant they had to unpack all the luggage and take out the contaminated bags). Funnily enough the brooch had fallen off once already that day  in a taxi. – I should have seen the writing on the wall! Somehow I missed the clues and popped the brooch back into place on my garment. Duh!

The brooch I lost was a simple empty silver circle. A brooch that explored (or showed off)  what it contained in its space inside the frame rather than what it was  in itself. Quite a while ago I had  a show called HOLE (Hidden, On Loan, Lost) which explored the ideas of loss and connection, of missing elements and withheld objects.  It’s interesting how strongly we connect with objects we wear. I’m reading a book at the moment about the relationship we have with clothes and other things we wear, Women in Clothes – Why We Wear What We Wear.  It is a great book filled with interesting ideas, images, explorations of personal collections, candid discussions and intriguing questions & responses.


Blissful for you

What does one do with the accumulated works from exhibitions? I’ve got bundles of carefully wrapped jewellery stored in boxes, exhibition furniture in the in-laws basement and display units stacked under the studio bench. Something has to be done and it may be Blissful for you. I’ll be selling some of the remaining works from the Bliss exhibition. Keep your eyes peeled for some monkeys and jewels….coming very soon to a screen near you!

2. Jewellery Objects x 9 - set 2

It’s quite fun pulling out the odd piece now and again – being quite surprised that you produced it and even more surprised that sometimes you’re quite fond of the work. (And sometimes I even start wearing it!) I always feel slightly annoyed by/disappointed in/doubtful of the work at the time of hanging a show. You get so wrapped up in the concept that it’s difficult to be excited by it until you regain some distance from the work. I almost feel sorry for the poor artworks abandoned in the gallery – I’ve had quite enough of them and their petulant ways!  (And I imagine, if they could express themselves, they would say that they have had quite enough of being handled by a stressed maker on deadline.) Anyway, despite the troublesome nature of exhibiting I keep doing it and hence their accumulation.

Back from the brink

Now, that sounds dramatic! After almost buying a bookshop (in the end after several months of the business I work for being for sale half the ownership bought the other half’s share) I’m back to focusing on my art (rather than analysing rows of figures and wondering what a lot of debt might feel like). So it’s been a weird few months with not much time in my head for concentrating on the jewels. Despite that I am making new work and enjoying thinking about the next show (I’m hoping to have a small exhibition before the end of the year – it depends on how productive I am over the winter!).

Lucky me! I’ve got a week off from the bookshop, so it’s into the workshop to attend to what is on the bench. I was just looking a fellow blogger’s post about power lines and was reminded of  a show I did several years ago which included a power pole . A Month in May was such a fun project – a playful experiment that still works as a springboard for ideas. It’s interesting how work resonates, often unconsciously, long after you have moved on to something new.

I’m enjoying making more than ever. It just feels right. It’s a great feeling when it all comes together, no workshop disasters (today), no making for hours on end to sit back and go “Eek! That’s awful.” (Maybe now that I need to wear glasses in the workshop my altered eyesight is flattering. Ha.)

May23lMonth in May 135


Why I haven’t!

You may have thought I’ve been silent for a while and you would be right. I’ve been focusing my spare time on this…  fun, but lots of work… so all you jewellers, craftsters and book lovers that have kids (grandkids) or are children at heart (how you can ever stop loving picture books – think Shaun Tan) you should find out what’s happening in your regions as there are always some excellent book events.

I’ve also been distracted by the news that the bookshop I work for is for sale – the current owners are looking for new owners.

So all in all a rather mind and time consuming few months.

Jewellery ideas arriving every day in my mind but hands too busy to make!



Reading the City

There’s nothing like a visit to the city (or anywhere that isn’t your usual stomping ground) for a bit of an inspiration boost. I was recently in Wellington during the Arts Festival to satisfy my book and art appetites. Art highlights were visiting the tiny, but interesting, Visual Culture gallery, the Simon Starling exhibition at City Gallery and seeing the latest in the See Here space. We loved the Library Bar and the Quiet Volume experience at the National Library. The Quiet Volume is a reading performance for two – the audience are the participants. It was so very interesting on all sorts of levels, and has stayed with me. If you get a chance to do this (it’s happening world-wide) do! Writers Week was on so we got to a few publisher parties and Eleanor Catton’s event with her editor Max Porter of Granta Books which was excellent. (If you missed this event, check out the interview with Kim Hill).


Demolition Jewel 3

All that chain making was not in vain! Demolition Jewel no.3 is complete. I loved making this piece – there are several things I like about it. It combines hard and soft materials – the leather is both strangely creepy and comforting. It has the odd brass light fitting as its’ starting point – I found this in a trailer outside a house that was being gutted or renovated depending on how you view these things. It has an articulated component which means you can point the pendant at odd angles while you wear it. The brass chain is made from scraps given to me by a friend. And the pendant is attached to the chain by a screw which happens to be the kind you use on light fixtures which is very fitting as this jewel materalised because of a thrown away brass piece from a lamp. Very complete.

Found brass lamp fitting

Found brass lamp fitting

Demolition Jewel 3

Demolition Jewel 3

Demolition Jewel detail

Demolition Jewel detail


Working in the studio, the act of just making, is a great way to kick-start new ideas. I’ve been playing with materials and getting my tools, hands and eyes back into sync. I’ve been enjoying my time in the shed and the other day my next show came to me. It  just starts with a small idea and before you know it, it is a living breathing beast.



Here’s the result of my mind running ahead of itself. I love that feeling of certainty that comes with a new idea – the ability to ‘see’ it, the objects and the installation; and the slightly nerve-inducing commitment to making it concrete. Exciting!!