When I was little I liked to collect found objects, craft materials and small trinkets and keep them in a box. Combined with the forces of a little glue, glitter and the odd googly eye this box provided hours of entertainment and endless possibilities. The creations made from the contents of the box were then passed on to my very patient family members. Like me, contemporary jeweller Jasmine Matus had similar crafting habits as a child. Unlike me, as an adult she turned the idea of the childhood “busy box” into an art form as curator of the Gaffa Gallery’s exhibition ‘The Box Project’.
Eighteen brown boxes were posted to contemporary jewellers from Australia and New Zealand. These mystery parcels contained materials unknown to the unsuspecting jewellers, including shuttlecocks, golf tees, earplugs and rubber washers. The exhibition displays the results of how the jewellers turned the contents of the box into wearable art.
The jewellery in ‘The Box Project’ forces us to reassess the objects we encounter everyday and redefine our ideas of luxury and beauty. When we see a diamond necklace we don’t doubt it’s beauty because we’re conditioned to revere diamonds for their sparkle, rarity and monetary value. Alternatively, the jewellery in ‘The Box Project’ uses materials that aren’t sparkly, expensive, and certainly not rare, in fact many of the materials used are things we encounter in our day-to-day lives. The exhibition takes us by surprise because while we’re aware that wall plugs and cables aren’t precious objects we find ourselves drawn to them all the same.
Faced with the task of creating something striking out of plain, and in some cases plain unattractive materials I can only imagine the reactions of the jewellers (especially the recipient of the box containing dirt!) But this jewellery is all about taking people off guard, not only the creators of the jewellery but also the people who view it. I’m sure that when the jewellery is taken off the gallery wall and into women’s wardrobes every piece will cause more than a few comments by inquisitive onlookers, probably along the lines of “sorry to ask but is that real grass growing on your brooch?”
Feeling inspired, when I returned home from the exhibition I perused my house, thinking about all the objects I see every day. Trying to visualise the materials in a more creative form I realised this is certainly not a skill I possess. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t see those pen lids getting any prettier. This made me enduringly impressed by the eighteen jewellers who participated in ‘The Box Project’; the ability to see beauty in the mundane is certainly a gift. Speaking of gifts, I really wouldn’t mind that grass brooch; it would truly be the gift that keeps on giving!
‘The Box Project’ 18 November – 30 November 2010
The Gaffa Gallery 281 Clarence Street, Sydney