Itami Museum of Arts and Crafts

Art Jewellery Challenge Day Two by Rui Kikuchi

'Facebook Art Jewelry Challenge', was started by Donna Greenberg, in the hope of capturing a diversity of what is happening around the world of art jewellery. A combination of tardiness and preoccupation with other pursuits has resulted in my nomination by not one but four esteemed jewelers (Please see Day One).

So, for 5 days I will show some of my jewellery, and each day I will also nominate another artist to show us his/her jewellery, though so late in this chain I am running out of friends on Facebook to nominate, so I apologise in advance if one has shown their work previously or are just bored with this initiative.

Day Two:
The works below are a series I produced for the exhibition "By Example - Australian Contemporary Jewellery" curated by Karin Findeis and was shown at the Itami Museum of Arts and Crafts in 2010. A survey of the current waves in Australian jewellery, two younger participants are selected through nomination by their former mentors, but the confines of space and practicality inevitably produces some glaring omissions. Hard choices had to be made by the curator with the list of candidates blowing out exponentially.

Even before that though, the concept of the exhibition had a hard time getting into the first gear, as the creative organiser of the host institution, Fumiko Tsubo had much to convince the mayor and other municipal bureaucrats of the viability of the show. Two years previously, the British contributions did not cause much excitement, tempting the city to consolidate and keep programmes more local. Could the Australians do better? I wasn't privy to the arguments but thankfully Tsubo sensei won out, and the project got another boost with confirmation of funding from the Australia Council. The museum staff, not used to receiving money from national governments and skeptical of such avenues due to the ongoing drought in interest and support in Japan, were ecstatic. They could hardly believe it.

Meanwhile back in Sydney, Karin was left with the arduous task of putting together the actual exhibition, while I pitched in from time to time with meetings, interpreting, drawing up press releases and even appearing on local radio.

The series "Physis"  that I eventually submitted came about when I was milling through my grandfather's drawers of forgotten tools in my hometown of Mino.  Niro was a humble man having escaped the great incendiary bombing of Osaka City, death through conscription and battled food shortages in the aftermath of the Second World War.  His life was one of austerity and humility and the shelves put together by his resourceful hand showed it. It was a lifestyle of prosperity based on principles of poverty.  I loved his collection of random household elements - hooks, pins and baubles - and from his neglected stockpiles of nails I decided to make some jewellery.

Valerie, the much loved workshop technician at Sydney College of the Arts once dumped another pile of nails on my desk when she heard what I was doing. Her father had passed away some years before - and even she, despite being the regina instrumentum was forced to concede much of his tools to the dumping ground. Of the things that she had left she told me to make good use of it, and I packed the rusty iron into my suitcase back to Osaka and set to work.

The pieces were forged into elongated lines or broad tails, the heads cupped and made into spoon forms or pods, then blackened and wrapped or set in 18K gold.

Producing them proved to be an extreme challenge,  technical considerations, pressure from feeling too immature for inclusion not withstanding, as an old apartment of wood and paper construction was certainly not the ideal place to be forging steel (See Day One and Shota's problem). The impacts and vibrations were causing headaches to my elderly neighbours, particularly in the extreme humidity of summer and all my open windows.

They were finished in the following spring but in the 11th hour and Karin was growing restless. The exhibition had been the usual headache to organise-  juggling the logistics of so many participants, the multitude of paperwork to present at customs, going through the tedious process of ensnaring grants and communicating with an international venue of another language and culture, the day of installation was closing in -  and mine was the only work she hadn't seen.

Karin never painted these stresses on her face but I finally presented my work at her hotel lobby under the harsh glare of fluorescent lights. As I unwrapped the tissue paper, I felt like a nocturnal marsupial being pulled out of its burrow, but knew that she had liked the results.
"They're quite beautiful", she remarked.
Only three words, but Karin tends to only make full comments on things that require criticism for lack of attention to detail or the harsh words of scrutiny towards conceptual vagueness. Having risen to her seemingly impossible bar, I was relieved and so was my nominator.

A few days later the opening was buzzing - the Japanese audience had taken a liking to the colour, wearability and the striking forms of much of the presented pieces, the mayor could recognise them as jewellery at least and the hosts delighted in receiving a substantial proportion of the artists.  There was twinkle in Tsubo sensei's eyes and a great cultural exchange was taking place.
The Australians had made a great impression.

The first necklace below can be seen in the exhibition catalogue "By Example" published in 2010.  

For the second day, I nominate my friend and fellow university alumnus Saori Kita. whom I met when I was doing a residency at my alma mater. Strange things happen when you are with Saori - her coquettish frivolity is absolutely infectious and your whole body becomes consumed. Looking back to the JMGA conference in Perth, I entirely attribute my inability to stop giggling during the whole conference to her. By her bad influence we ticked off every Japanese girl stereotype with our incessant laughter and excitement, even getting a few laughs out of a bemused Karl Fritsch.
Furicchi (as he is known to us, but unbeknownst to him), would later be a great influence on Saori and her experimentation with rough stones and silver casting. She's recently back home in Japan after a long stint in Australia much to my pleasure. I'm glad to be ever extending my network of young jewellery artists.