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Extraordinary! No.3: The salt vessels and jewellery of Naama Bergman

Naama Bergman3

One of my favourite exhibitions during Munich Jewellery Week this year was Dissolved Revolved in the Akademie Galerie by Naama Bergman and Emi Fukuda. Their display was seemingly simple, but very effective. A rolling board was meandering its way into the big room and around a centered pillar. Numerous dimmed light bulbs created soft spotlights on the pieces and even though the gallery is unromantically situated in the underground station, the exhibition had a calm almost poetic atmosphere. In one of the corners, there were a few glass containers filled with a cloudy liquid. Airy white creatures were floating inside, gracious and fragile looking. These were no jellyfish, but Naama Bergman’s work in the making. Now a student in her 3rd year in the jewellery class of the Academy of Fine Arts Munich, she has been experimenting for almost two years with the process of crystallising salt on fine iron structures. I already knew her amazing jewellery pieces from this series, but these vessels were very new and I was really excited to see them. And I was far from alone there: Naama is going to have her first solo exhibition in Gallery Loupe in the USA from the 17th of September until the 8th of October 2016.

Naama Bergman2

Naama first studied jewellery at the Bezalel Academy of Fine Arts, Jerusalem from 2004-2008. I actually knew her back then, because she came as an exchange student to Munich for one semester, when I was only in my first semester. She lived and worked for a couple of years in Amsterdam before she enrolled in the Munich jewellery class in 2013. Before getting started with her salt pieces, Naama made delicate necklaces from cow intestines. It was during her work with the intestines that she started wondering about the qualities of salt, and its ability to preserve materials, which otherwise would quickly decay and disappear. Hence, the language of the salt series is all connected to the notion of collecting and containing. But in Naama’s work, the salt plays an ambiguous role. On the one hand, the salt crystals, which form around the iron, support the fine metal structures, but on the other hand, the salt is slowly eating its way into the metal. A chemist friend told Naama that probably it would take between 20-30 years until some parts of the pieces definitely fall apart and the form collapses. This makes these pieces even more attractive for me because their beauty is the kind of beauty that is drawn from life. The colours of the vessels are also intriguing. While the pieces floating in the salt brine are still completely white, the exhibited pieces had beige and brown gradients, because the iron had already started to rust. Naama told me that the colours will still change, and the pieces will get a darker hue of brown over time.

Naama Bergman7

Naama kindly answered a few of my questions about her salt series:

Carina: You mentioned that the shape of the container plays an important role in this work. Can you explain this please?

Naama: My vessels and jewellery follow the shape of containers, but are made of nets and thus cannot fulfill their designated function – to contain liquids or materials. Making those containers out of nets suspends their original function, and only allows them to keep only the idea of containing. The pieces, to me, hold things such as memories, real ones or imaginary that cannot be contained. The container, now made out of net, allows this metaphorical containing, and the ability to bring to discourse the notion of containing metaphysical, rather than physical matter.

Naama Bergman4

Carina: Please tell me a bit about the process of making these pieces. How much control do you have over the way the salt crystallising the structure? How much do you leave to chance?

Naama: The organic growth of crystals over the pieces holds a level of certainty and uncertainty at the same time. The conditions of the crystallisation process are controlled through the saturation of the salt in the water, the temperature, and the duration of crystallisation. This experience has allowed me to control and manipulate the crystallisation process and result while working with this material. However, as an organic and chaotic material, I never have had full control over the result. This lack of control and the ability to be constantly surprised with the result keeps the tension between the controlled and uncontrolled at the foundation of the pieces. As an organic matter, the pieces will continue to transform when they are ‘done’, and even longer when they are worn, which makes their life span dynamic and ever changing.

Carina: It is inevitable that the pieces will destroy themselves over time. But until then: Are the necklaces and brooches wearable? How important is the matter of wearability for you in your jewellery?

Naama: In the beginning when I was starting to experiment with iron and salt, wearability was not a primary goal. The material research and experimentation was the goal. Naturally, the first piece created was not rigid, but with time, and as I gained more experience and control over the process, the salt crystals became more and more stable up to the point where the salt covered pieces are wearable.
I believe that wearability is a limited term, and a piece does not necessarily need to be ‘wearable’ in order to act as jewellery. To me, sustainable is a more relevant term since the jewellery’s purpose and function exceeds the limited scope of wearability. It functions as a memory piece, as a collectable piece, as an emotional piece, and not necessarily limited to its ‘on-body’ purpose.

Naama Bergman5

Carina: What would you say is the thread that runs through your work?

Naama: Identity, mix identity, cultural heritage, placement and displacement are topics I find relevant to explore through my practice and those topics are definitely affected by the geography and culture I work from.
While I was working in Israel, the origins of my family’s cultural heritage were rooted in eastern Europe – and my focal point revolved around those roots, the Jewish-Ashkenazi (European-Jewish heritage), how it was perceived and its role in the emerging Israeli culture. While moving to Europe five years ago, to Amsterdam first and than Munich later, the focal point of my research naturally shifted, while remaining in similar territory. In this new geography, the focus on Jewish-Ashkenazy heritage made room for new questions, questions of identity, placement and misplacement, belonging and not belonging. The interest in the clash between my roots and the present remain the main umbrella under which I work, but the specific topics of research constantly develop.

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1 Naama Bergman: Work in progress; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
2 Naama Bergman & Emi Fukuda: Dissolved Revolved, exhibition in Munich, 2016; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
3 Naama Bergman: Untitled, vessals, 2016; Salt, iron mesh; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
4 Naama Bergman: Untitled, brooch, 2016; Salt, iron wire; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
5 Naama Bergman: Untitled, brooch, 2015; Salt, iron wire; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
6 Naama Bergman: Untitled, necklace, 2015; Salt, iron wire, hemp thread; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi

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Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings

Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings

The Munich Jewellery Week is over. I didn’t manage to see everything- not even close- but as I had no project myself this year, I had more time to see exhibitions than in previous years. The tendency seemed to be towards simple jewellery-friendly displays and big group shows. Personally, I found there to be a lack of the more intimate atmospheric shows, but then again: I didn’t see everything. In any case there was plenty of great art jewellery to discover, some of which I am going to feature in Extraordinary! on KARMA CHROMA in the coming weeks.

I would like to begin with Christoph Straube’s current series titled “Enamel on Silver” and “Enamel on Steel”, which I would describe as stunning comic-like drawings in enamel on metal of simple geometric three dimensional shapes. He was showing them this year at two different places; at the fair in Munich, with gallery Rosemarie Jäger and a booth he shared with the JAC group.
Like me, Christoph first completed a three year apprenticeship as a goldsmith at the Berufsfachschule für Glas und Schmuck in Neugablonz, Germany. He then went on to study at the College of Fine Arts in Nuremberg, Germany, in the class for gold-and silversmithing under Prof. Ulla Mayer from 2000-2006. During and after his art studies he experimented with many materials, but for these new series he came back to traditional goldsmithing techniques and materials. The necklaces were already on display in the Schmuck 2014- exhibition and attracted me immediately. To be honest, enamel-on-metal-work is often not surprising me. In the big picture, I feel the aesthetics that are reached with enameling techniques have exhausted themselves somewhat. Christoph’s pieces however, have something very fresh and unique about them. With humor and skills he has created a clever body of work, which challenges the viewer: Perspective distortion and a play with overlapping elements to create optical illusions which invite the eyes to explore. Christoph states that he likes to invent a system with its own logic, within these boundaries he investigates what is possible. For me they are extraordinary, sensitive pieces of art jewellery which are beautifully made adornments and are really fun to look at.

Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings

At the fair, he showed me the backsides of the brooches, which bring in another element: colour. I like the contrast between the black and white fronts with their delicate drawings and the boldly coloured backsides, which concentrate on outline and surface.

Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings
Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings

Christoph Straube kindly answered some questions for me about these pieces:

Carina: You experimented with many different materials in your previous work. What made you decide to come back to traditional jewellery materials like silver, steel and enamel for this series?

Christoph: I like the idea that the silver and steel pieces look as if they were sketches which have been cut from paper sheets – opposite to pieces where non-precious materials are processed in order to visually look like more precious materials.

Carina: Can you explain a bit the process of developing and making these pieces?

Christoph: As a first step I sketch everything on paper – for me, that’s the fastest way to develop a shape and an idea. After that, with the help of the computer and a 3D software, I construct three dimensional objects which I can rotate in order to determine the particular perspective view. I export everything as a line drawing to Illustrator, where I align several shapes and print them out on paper. From here, the traditional hand craft process starts: I simply cut out the shapes, glue them on a metal sheet and saw them out. The rest – and main part – is enamel painting: in several firings I apply a white background, shadings and at last I draw the black lines with very fine ground painting enamel. Only after the last firing and assembling of the whole piece I can see if it’s right.

Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings

Carina: It seems you develop your technique further and further until it is immaculate. Are you a perfectionist? How much do you leave to chance?

Christoph: I am a perfectionist regarding the accuracy of the initial draft and the pure technical part of my work. In enameling, I appreciate unpredictable colour changes or traces from the work process like paint dust on the surface. For me this makes the vibrancy of the pieces.

Carina: A part of the work on these pieces is happening on the computer. What do you think about the increasing use of computer-based techniques in the field of art jewellery? What significance do they have for your own work?

Christoph: For my work, the computer is just a tool like a saw or a file. With the computer the drafting work gets much more efficient but is just a step in the whole process. You don´t see it at the end. Though, I find a meaningful use of computer-based techniques in jewellery quite interesting. Generative design is a huge field, and some people use especially the faults of CAM methods like coarse surface structures, which surely give new design possibilities.

Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings

Carina: What would you say is the golden thread that runs though your work?

Christoph: A humorous and comic-like aspect went along with most of my pieces. Further, I found myself often working in design systems which limit the amount of possible shapes. In earlier works, this happened by stylization or a work principle like making pieces by folding only. Also the enamel necklaces and brooches with their geometric shapes cannot be done with any shape in its particular perspective and alignment. Yet this limitation lets me experience the freedom in designing even more.

Carina: Thank you!

Christoph: Thank you!

If you want to see more of Christoph´s work, please visit his website:  www.preciouspages.de

Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings
Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings
Extraordinary! No.2: Christoph Staube´s enamel drawings

Images:
Christoph Straube: Necklaces, untitled, sterling silver, enamel (2013-2015); Brooches, untitled, stainless steel, enamel (2015-2016); Photos: Christoph Straube

Text edit: Hayley Grafflin

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Extraordinary! No.1: The spidersilk necklace of Nicola Scholz

Extraordinary! No.1: The spider silk necklace of Nicola Scholz

For somebody who hasn't had much contact with art jewellery, probably almost all pieces will seem extraordinary, but if you work or collect in the field, it might be more difficult to impress you. There is a lot of amazing art jewellery out there… but only sometimes I encounter a piece, which is so beautiful, surprising or unique in some way that I get really excited about it. This post will be the first of a series on KARMA CHROMA called Extraordinary!, where from time to time I present art jewellery, which is really special for me. I think it is clear that this is a very personal choice…

I want to start this series with a necklace of Nicola Scholz, who is a former fellow student of mine. Nicola studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich under professor Otto Künzli from 2003 to 2010. I experienced her work as authentic, uncompromising, daring and poetic. Nicola is creating minimalist pieces from natural materials, which are heavily loaded in an emotional way (a necklace from pubic hair, a brooch from rose thorns, a pearl necklace from salt…) and often combines them with only one material: gold. For her more recent pieces, she mostly works with extremely poisonous plant seeds, like the seeds of the Deadly Nightshade, the Giant Hogweed or the Poison Hemlock. Handling these highly toxic plants takes good nerves and an immense amount of caution and care. Some of her finished pieces can only be touched with gloves, because only traces could be dangerous. Thus, not all of her pieces could be worn of course, but only the notion of wearing them has a strong emotional impact.

Extraordinary! No.1: The spider silk necklace of Nicola ScholzExtraordinary! No.1: The spider silk necklace of Nicola Scholz
Extraordinary! No.1: The spider silk necklace of Nicola Scholz
Extraordinary! No.1: The spider silk necklace of Nicola Scholz
Extraordinary! No.1: The spider silk necklace of Nicola Scholz

I find many of Nicola’s pieces very fascinating, but the one that is the most stunning for me is a very simple looking braided cord, which she created entirely from collected spiderwebs. I remember first seeing it a couple of years ago in her diploma show and was really fascinated. The transformation of these transparent threads, which we know to be so fragile and thin, into an even, solid and wearable cord has something magical for me.

I want to use this opportunity to learn more about this piece from Nicola:

Carina: You made a spider silk necklace and another necklace with the legs of a tarantula. What fascinates you about spiders?

Nicola: Spiders are interesting to me because they elicit a strong emotional response in a lot of people. Most of us are frightened or disgusted by them.
The emotional states and feelings of humans have always been a very interesting topic to me. For example, Love, Fear, Sorrow - you cannot control it, you are sometimes not able to explain it, but they are real. They are impossible to suppress, the emotions control our actions and we might not even be aware of it.
The spiders connect you with basic emotions, whether you are wearing the necklaces or just thinking about it. I am not interested in spiders per se, but in the emotional responses they can trigger. The spiders are a means to an end. The spider’s legs touching you in a direct way, the cobweb is a very silent work, but it gets under your skin.

Carina: Do you remember how you got the idea for this piece?

Nicola: In my work the materials are often ambiguous and they trigger different, sometimes opposing emotions. I am always looking for these kinds of material.
The negative associations we have with cobweb are contrasted by its texture. If you see the small ‘wire’ of cobweb, it seems so soft and tender. It really is not very frightening and I wanted to play with these qualities.

Carina: You must have needed an immense amount of cobwebs. Where did you find them and how did you obtain them?

Nicola: First, I visited the University of Bamberg, the Department for “Biomaterialien” (biological materials), they are researching spiderweb for industrial use. There I learned how to milk the spiders in order to acquire the web. But at home I felt so sorry for the spiders and didn't have the heart to do it.
So I had to collect the webs at small mountain huts and farms on the countryside. The cowsheds were a good source!

Carina: I can imagine that making an even cord from this super thin and sticky material was extremely challenging. Which problems did you encounter and how did you solve them?

Nicola: Some of the cobwebs were abound with small flies and I had to clean it. A very time-consuming work and it required a lot of patience.
How to turn it into a string was a very exciting question. I created so many models – but all the models were made with fabric strings, the small spider strings were too precious. Finally, the technique was very simple, but I was really curious about how it works.

Carina: Unlike some of your pieces, which are made from very poisonous or explosive materials, the cobweb necklace could be worn safely. Would you like it to be worn?

Nicola: It is not necessary to wear it, more important are the associations of wearing the piece. The material and the kind of making trigger the emotions.

Carina: Thank you!

If you want to see more of Nicola´s work, please visit her website: www.nicolascholz.de

Extraordinary! No.1: The spider silk necklace of Nicola Scholz

Images:
1 Nicola Scholz: Untitled, necklace, 2010; Spider silk; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
2 Nicola Scholz: Untitled, necklace, 2015; Gut, gold; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
3 Nicola Scholz: Untitlednecklace, 2013; Spider's fangs, gold; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
4 Nicola Scholz: Untitled, necklace, 2015; Seeds of Giant Hogweed; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
5 Nicola Scholz: Untitled, necklace, 2013; Lead Projectiles, nylon; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
6 Nicola Scholz: Untitled, necklace, 2010; Spider silk; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi

Text edit: Hayley Grafflin