The Co-Adorn Art Jewellery Society is a cure for loneliness and a way to get jewellers to stay in Nova Scotia.
Right now it’s also a chance for people to see exciting, large-scale jewelry by 23 artists in Co-Adorn’s inaugural exhibit, Conversation Starter, at Studio 21 Fine Art, 1273 Hollis St., Halifax, to July 5.
This bold exhibit of 39 pieces is an exploration of colour, scale, concept and materials from metal to Mylar, enamel to re-purposed girdle.
“One of the things we noticed at the launch party,” says the society’s co-founder Emily Blair Wareham, “is people were so happy to be out of their studios and to talk to like-minded people. Instantly people were bouncing resources off each other.”
“When you’re at school you’re with a group of people doing the same thing as you. As soon as you are out of school you are on your own,” says K. Claire MacDonald, a production and fine art jeweller who felt isolated herself after returning to Halifax from Toronto.
Wareham co-founded Co-Adorn for jewellers and anyone interested in all things jewelry in the fall of 2017 with jeweller and NSCAD University jewelry technician Chantel Gushue.
“We kept noticing so much talent leaving Nova Scotia,” says Wareham, a recent NSCAD MFA graduate and teacher, “and we started to see the problems in people staying.”
Those problems include a lack of communal studio space, opportunities to exhibit and sell work, and community networking.
Quebec jeweller Kim Paquet, winner of best-in-show, moved from Montreal to Halifax to start studying this fall at NSCAD.
Kim Paquet poses for a photo with her work at the Co-Adorn Art Jewellery Society’s Conversation Starter exhibition at Studio 21 earlier this month. Paquet was awarded best in show. (RYAN TAPLIN / Staff)
“When I first moved here I felt alone,” she says. “It’s not like Montreal where jewelry is everywhere.”
Her winning piece, Reconstruction, is a large, architectural neck piece of sterling silver, copper and enamel. It suggests an urban wall with grafitti and was inspired by working with homeless people with addictions. The enamelling process of layer upon layer of glass — up to 30 layers in one piece — reflects the lives of these people who are trying to build on inescapable pasts and move forward, says Paquet.
“The way I see my jewelry is the way I see them and the feeling I had when I was with them and I saw these changes — maybe.
“You have to trust each other and you have to trust you can do something good for them. It’s the same trust I put in my jewelry. I have no idea when I’m starting out where it will end up and I have to trust the process.”
Berkeley Brown’s art jewelry is inspired by the aesthetic of food utensils as a wearable object, she says, wearing a pair of her miniature-whisk, silver earrings.
She exhibits two elegant, abstracted silver objects inspired by salt shakers and colanders. One is a ring with a disc that includes tiny beads and makes a sound when rotated.
“I like the idea of having something you can interact with,” says the NSCAD graduate and teacher who was inspired by a high school apprenticeship with James Bradshaw Goldsmith.
“I lived in Scotland for a few years and it’s much easier to make a go of it as an independent artist there. They have a lot more support. But the longer I stay here the larger my business grows here. I am finding more and more there is a wonderful community of jewellers here.”
As Co-Adorn’s retail show chairperson she has procured a booth to be shared by six jewellers at the Craft Nova Scotia (formerly the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council) summer market July 20 to 22 at Victoria Park, Halifax.
When Wareham finished her master’s degree she realized she would have to leave Nova Scotia or create her own opportunities. “That’s one of the things that ignited this. I would love to stay in Halifax,” says the Charlottetown native.
She first got hooked on jewelry when she was studying graphic design at NSCAD and took jewelry as an elective. “There was no looking back. It may be my biggest mistake or my best decision ever!”
Wareham loves the tactility involved in making jewelry, the challenge of building a form and the contrast between hard and soft in materials and appearance.
Her large pendant looks like fabric but is an angular form made of folded stainless steel mesh called Trajectory and reflects how she felt coming out of her master’s degree program.
“I like architectural lines and structure but with that little infusion of the soft. I want to spring off this one in multiples.”
While she still uses her graphic design skills, she believes she was always a closeted jeweller. “I loved making jewelry my whole life — the friendship bracelets, the hemp. I was really interested in fashion.”
MacDonald’s necklace Relics of Childhood goes back to pressing flowers as a child. She first did an acrylic painting on metal and then cut it into floral shapes inspired by those flowers.
“The painting I cut up was a painting of me when I was in my backyard surrounded by flowers and I would have picked them and put them in the press.
“Now I’m working on a new collection which is more floral inspired. I love to do the artistic stuff. It helps to inspire and inform my production jewelry.
MacDonald graduated from NSCAD with a BFA in 2012 and moved to Toronto for a three-year residency at Harbourfront and had an “amazing job” at a goldsmith’s.
“I moved back a year and a half ago because my partner was finishing school. It was frustrating. It’s a smaller city; it was difficult to find a similar job. That’s why I started my own production line.
“The society has been helpful in returning to Halifax and finding that jewelry community.”
The society has 67 members across Canada and is open to jewellers, artists, collectors and suppliers – anyone interested in jewelry.
“We want people to make the society what they want it to be,” says Wareham. “We hope to have workshops, we’re starting a strategic planning process in August and because of our connection to NSCAD we have piggybacked on artist talks and planned social events around the artist talks.
“Next year we’d like to set up our own series of artist talks and workshops and we hope to have a 2019 exhibition and we have 2020 gears turning a little bit.”
If jewelry is exhibited in a fine art gallery it is usually in its own separate space. “There’ll be a small section by the cash register,” says Brown. There is no permanent retail space for jewelry though these artists sell their work in fine arts and craft shops.
The society approached Studio 21 owner Deborah Carver because they’d heard she was starting to expand into three-dimensional art and had been to SOFA in Chicago. “She was more than enthusiastic about it,” says Wareham.
Carver was a juror along with NSCAD teacher Charley Young and Catherine Allen, a teacher and a jeweller currently exhibiting in the solo show Inflate at the Mary E. Black Gallery.
Carver is struck by the work’s diversity and the different media, she says. “I’ve had a little bit of jewelry here before and it seemed like a great opportunity and they’re well organized. It’s like a small sculpture show – mini-sculpture which can be worn.”