A Dean’s way of de-stressing
We talk to Professor Diane Brand, Dean of the Creative Arts and Industries (CAI) who in her rare spare time is also a jewellery maker. Her jewellery can be seen at the Upstairs Gallery in Titirangi, in 'Bijoux, a collective of jewellers', until 21 February 2021.
What and when attracted you to making jewellery?
I am an architect and urban designer by profession, but I don’t have the time to design within my own disciplines any more. The scale, materiality and speed of jewellery making is the reason I gravitated to this art form and it doesn’t require a lot of space or any complex equipment.
You use interesting materials – unusual beads, and quite often an unusual mesh tubing. Where do you source your materials?
Hardware shops, two-dollar shops, second hand clothing shops etc. I buy the mesh tube, which is used for services reticulation in aircraft in Taipei when I am there teaching as an adjunct professor. I also consciously decouple the issues of adornment and value – of preciousness.
The value of a piece for me is in the design and not in the expense of material. I like to make beautiful things from very ordinary elements. It makes the work very affordable and therefore accessible to a broader range of people. For instance the basic stringing material in some of my work is weed eater-cord and I use washers, wall-plugs etc
You’re the Dean of Creative Arts and Industries. Aren’t you busy enough already? How, and importantly, why, do you find the time?
The time commitment is a few hours a week so not major, but the reward of doing it is huge in terms of creative satisfaction and de-stressing, which is why I started making in the first place.
Do you think the jewellery you make may reflect/pick up on your academic and professional background, in architecture and urban design?
In some ways, although the scale is completely different. It does involve a creative process and I love innovating with the materials and colours I use. I also enjoy researching and sourcing materials, and solving the technical issues that emerge. These are all processes architects follow in their work.
It has been noted that lockdown highlighted the creative impulse in all of us – how creativity is a crucial part of being human, if we only made the time. This can manifest in music, art-making, baking sour dough and in your case, making jewellery. What do you reckon?
I agree we all have creative skills and unlocking those can be very therapeutic and affirming – the title of my first exhibition was ‘therapy’ reflecting that aspect of the process. Designing and making things by hand energises me in a way that nothing else does and I suspect other people experience this in the activities you mention.
For me it’s a key part of my capability which can so easily be submerged and ignored in the arts-averse era we live in, where these skills and ways of thinking are undervalued unless they have a commercial outcome. I find the selling and exhibiting part of the scene difficult. The art world is brutal and thankless for artists, and the retail world has no appetite for risk which is a key to a lot of creative work.
What would you say is the best part of the process … creating the idea, the completion of a piece, seeing it worn by someone else?
For me all three are important although the first two often coincide. I design and experiment as I fabricate. For me it’s almost like a meditative state where everything else recedes and I guess that’s why is a bit of a stress-buster.
I also have to note the uncommon clasps – thoughtfully designed clasps, particularly appreciated by any of us who don’t have the dexterity for tiny fiddly clasps. Is this something you thought about?
Yes my aim was to invent new technical solutions to joining things using the properties of the materials at hand. I find the poor design of most jewellery clasps infuriating. I won’t wear anything that requires assistance to be put on. I hope none of my work breaches that standard.
Margo White | Media adviser