The swap with my gorgeous friend, jewellery artist, Karin Roy Andersson was a serious one, because we both had quite concrete ideas of what we wanted and we were both anxious to meet the other’s anticipation. Karin was already part of the Karma Chroma’s post “Why are so many artists wearing black?“ and her fondness for the colour black is not limited to her wardrobe alone. She also really loves black jewellery. So her wish was that I would make her a necklace only with black graffiti scales. I immediately told her that it would take me a while, but only now, around two years later, I finally finished the piece for her and we could undertake the swap.
Karin Roy Andersson (born in 1983 in Umeå, Sweden) is promoting the field of art jewellery in various ways: as an active maker, as the manager and co-owner of gallery Four in Gothenburg and the a co-initiator of diagonal/ art projects, an online platform for contemporary jewellery. Her current jewellery series, Catching Big Fish, is mainly made up of reclaimed plastics from everyday products like shampoo bottles, ice cream boxes or oil cans. Not all plastics are suitable for this work, as they need to have a very specific thickness and texture. From these collected plastics, Karin is punching out circles and milling in structures from toilet paper (yes, really!) or tea bags. The oval textured scales, which are generated from this process, are then stitched together into flowing arched shapes, which then evoke images of a winding fish or the sleek shiny coat of a bird. Despite her own preference for black, Karin not only creates black pieces, and so she is always on the hunt for beautifully coloured plastics. At times this leaves her stuck in using a hygiene product for a while, she normally would not buy for herself, for instance a shower gel for men, which comes in dark grey bottles. Karin most likely could buy the perfectly proper plastics in sheets in a specialised shop, but she would never do that, she said. Considering the worldwide issue of plastic pollution it is important to her that she uses only reclaimed plastics, and like me, she likes the idea of giving the material a second life.
I especially love the bracelets of Karin Roy Andersson’s, Catching Big Fish– series, because they snuggle to the wrist so naturally without even the need of a locket. Firstly, I asked her to (re)make me a bracelet with a colour gradient from blue to beige, but the lovely shade of blue she had used for this piece originated from a single old oil bottle her father had given her and was not available anymore. So I chose a bracelet in shades of beige and light gold and I think it is really stunning too:
Over the last few days, we had a little written chat about our work:
Carina: Karin, I am sorry that it took me so long to make this black necklace for you, I think we started talking about the swap two years ago, no?
Karin: Yes – I think we started planning the swap when Attai [Chen] had his exhibition at Four. I was actually happy that it took some time for you to collect the scales and I very much appreciate your effort! I also had a process of emptying shampoo and soap bottles for your bracelet, so it also took a long time to finish.
Carina: Same here. There is so little black in my graffiti sheets. I think the graffiti artists mainly use it for the outlines and not so much on bigger surfaces. So it took me half a year until I had collected enough black scales to even get started. But then I kept stealing again and again from my black box for other pieces, because I realized how amazing the black scales work to give a piece contrast in colour. A few months ago, there was a point when I thought I would never be able to finish your piece. This was when I asked you if all scales really needed to be black… an act of slight despair, because of course I knew the answer already. Luckily, I finally found a piece of graffiti sheet this summer, which generated a lot of black colour, actually even several layers of it. That felt like the gold digger hitting a gold mine! Now I still have so much black, I could make another one or two totally black pieces…
For some reason, making a really black piece is kind of difficult for me. I might have smuggled in a bit of colour unconsciously. So here is a funny but almost genuine question: Is it black enough?
Karin: First of all, I have to say I love my new Shoshtary piece! I love it when I see myself wearing it in the mirror and I love watching it closer. I realized that I keep on seeing new details until I bring the piece so close to my eyes that I can’t see anything at all. In my eyes it is quite colourful. You have seen my suitcase, Carina, if you would put it there, it would be sparkling with colour, but on the other hand – I’m sure it would be very black like yours. So I guess my answer is that it has a lot of colour, but that it’s absolutely black enough!
Carina: I also totally love the bracelet I got from you! And now I am actually happy that it didn’t work out with the blue piece, because the beige and gold colours of the bracelet you made me fits with both of my favourite colours to wear, blue and red.
Karin: I was very nervous about the colour for your bracelet. I got to know your excellent eye for colour when you helped Attai choose a background colour for presenting his pieces. I remember that you sort of looked at the collection – ranging from almost black to red and green and white – went out and came back with a lilac nuance that made all the pieces pop out from the wall. Your bracelet is made of scales of recycled plastic. I have to find a container with a specific colour tone, in other words I can’t colour the scales afterwards. I like it when the bracelets have two or three different nuances, but with the beige one like you wanted, it is hard to find colours that match, and I knew you wouldn’t be happy if it wasn’t right. Usually, I try to take away the background from the photos of my pieces, and to be honest, I’m not always too careful that the colours come out exactly right, but when I sent the picture to you, I almost didn’t dare to do anything.
Carina: What I find really special about this series of yours is that you managed to transform the impression of the reclaimed plastics so well. There are many artists that work with recycled plastics, but mostly the plastic keeps its characteristics, which I often find is not so attractive. When I look at your pieces and touch them, I would still guess that they are made from some kind of plastic, but this is more because of the weight and the touch. The cheap looks which normally come with using used plastics is totally gone. On the contrary, the pieces have a very precious, almost glamorous appearance to them. I think it must be the subtle textures you mill into the scales, your sensitive choice of colours, and also the smooth way the piece connects to the body.
You told me that before you made these pieces from the collected plastic bottles etc., you made similar pieces from metal. Was it difficult for you to make this change? Did you immediately “respect” the plastic?
Karin: I’m so flattered and glad to hear how you describe my pieces! Getting away from the “plastic look” was something I aimed for. I tried to also make pieces with scales that still had the shiny plastic surface of the original material, but that just looked trashy. For me, working with textile techniques came before I started using metal, and switching between or mixing metal and other materials has never been a problem. But conquering a new material is always difficult. I think you have to reach a point when you can appreciate and make use of a material’s qualities. For example, the way the plastic scales got a bit curved when I milled them was a problem at first since they made the sawn material curl together. But in the end, that makes the bracelets close without a locket, which turned out to be very practical. How do you feel about working with metal, or maybe how it is NOT to work with metal – how has the “material hierarchy” affected your work?
Carina: I work with metal too, mainly as a second-rank material though. For the places where the jewellery piece lies on the body, connects to the clothes or to another material, metal just has unbeatable qualities and so I often use it for this purpose. I use the graffiti sheets because I wanted to bring colour into my work and I use the wood because it is easy to shape and it is light in weight. Each and every material brings its own advantages and disadvantages and I totally agree with you, that only when you know about them and learn to channel them can a material really unfold its potential for a successful creative process. In this sense, all materials are equal, a very liberating notion I find.
Karin: Yes, to me too, all materials are equally precious and not precious. It’s factors like the circumstances, the environment and the work you put into it that decides the value. I work with garbage so off course I see great potential in some things people throw away, but I also sometimes work in a pawn shop where gold and diamonds can be treated quite disrespectfully, and to be honest – gold in the shape of fat neck chains weighing over 500 g is as much trash to me as the material I find in the streets.
Carina: I would like to know a bit about your work as a gallery owner. In 2010, you founded the contemporary jewellery gallery Four with three friends and colleagues of yours, Hanna Liljenberg, Linnéa Eriksson and Malin Lövgren. This was only one year after you graduated from HDK, Academy of Design and Crafts, Gothenburg, which I find to be a really courageous and determined move. How has the gallery work influenced your view on contemporary jewellery or your personal creative work?
Karin: The work with Four is really something I enjoy a lot and that gives me both inspiration and time for my own work. Of course, I put a lot of time into making the exhibitions, inviting artists, trying to get attention from the media etc, but I really enjoy meeting all these fantastic people and to show their work to the audience in Göteborg. This might sound a bit childish but it makes me so proud when people from outside the jewellery bubble come into the gallery and discover what amazing work we are showing. We are right now setting up a show with Jiro Kamata and had a journalist there yesterday. She asked me why I had invited Jiro and I just felt that I could talk forever about his work; his materials, his personal expression that you can follow through all of his career, the flawless finish and technique, and not least the thoughts and genuine love he puts into the work.
When I keep the gallery open and we don’t have visitors, I have time to do my own work (there is a workshop behind the showing room). I have been running the gallery over the last years and lately, I have mostly been there by myself. I’m not a person, who likes being alone for too long so the gallery is also a sort of a social refuge.
Carina: Thank you, Karin!
1 left: Karin Roy Andersson: Catching Big Fish, bracelet, 2014; Recycled plastics (from soap- and shampoo bottles) thread; Photo: Attai Chen; Model: Carina Shoshtary; 1 right: Carina Shoshtary: Nymphaea 3, necklace, 2016; Graffiti, glass, silver; Photo: Lasse Karlsson; Model: Karin Roy Andersson
2 Karin Roy Andersson: Dove, necklace, 2016; Recycled plastics (from snuff boxes and soap bottles) thread, steel, silver; 18 cm x23 cm x 5 cm; Photo: Karin Roy Andersson
3 Karin Roy Andersson: Catching Big Fish, bracelet, 2014; Recycled plastics (from snuff boxes and motor oil bottles) thread; Photo: Karin Roy Andersson
4 Karin Roy Andersson: Catching Big Fish, bracelet, 2014; Recycled plastics (from soap- and shampoo bottles) thread; Photo: Karin Roy Andersson
5/6 Carina Shoshtary: Nymphaea 3, necklace, 2016; Graffiti, glass, silver; Photos: Mirei Takeuchi
7 Karin’s suitcase; Photo: Karin Roy Andersson
8 Karin Roy Andersson: Dove, brooch, 2016; Recycled plastics (from snuff boxes and soap bottles) thread, steel, silver; 13,5 cm x 11,5 cm x 4,0 cm; Photo: Karin Roy Andersson
9 Carina Shoshtary: Carnivore 2, brooch, 2015; Wood, graffiti, glass, silver, stainless steel, paint; 10,7 cm x 7,2 cm x 3,7 cm; Photos: Mirei Takeuchi
10 Karin Roy Andersson: Backupfront, earrings, 2015; Recycled plastics (from snuffboxes and motor-oil bottle), silver, varnish, steel, textile; Photo: Karin Roy Andersson