Interview Me: Jane Dodd (contemporary jeweller)

New Zealand contemporary jewellery artist, Jane Dodd’s work is characterised by gothic combinations of sculpted animal and human forms and heraldic devices. Jane is new to e.g.etal, so we were keen to talk in her Dunedin studio about her background, inspiration and her bass playing band days.

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now? I grew up in Dunedin, New Zealand and although I studied art at high school, I didn’t at the time consider it a potential path.  I completed a BA at the University of Otago, played in rock n roll bands, had a variety of jobs, did a bit of travel and generally misbehaved.  During some months in Mexico in 1989, I witnessed art and craft permeating life in a manner new to me and was encouraged to similarly engage with my own surroundings.  On my return to NZ, I applied to study for a Diploma in Craft Design at Unitec in Auckland, originally thinking that ceramics would be my discipline, but was soon seduced into the jewellery department.  I graduated in 1994.  Since then I have been a partner of Workshop 6, a shared jewellery workshop in Auckland, and exhibiting around NZ, Australia and occasionally further afield.  In 2009, I returned to live in Dunedin again and built a studio in my new home.

How would you describe your work? I work in a largely figurative style – negotiating a few separate but over-lapping lines of enquiry.  Often my work has a story telling aspect.  I consider myself a metal smith but have recently used wood, shell and stone to bring more scale, texture, colour and plasticity to my work.  My work, whilst I hope it is innovative and novel, would hardly be described as modern.

What common themes link each of your designs?
Memory and myth, history and culture, landscape and life forms, associations and emotions.  I like to make work that resonates in quite a personal but non-specific way with the audience.  I am pleased if pieces have a familiarity but also a strangeness.

Your work feels very natural yet mystical? Is your creative process ordered or organic? In recent work it is definitely organic.  I will usually have vague ideas about a new piece but know that specifics about it can’t be resolved until I see it emerging in the flesh before me.  Pieces can be constructed, only to be pulled apart, rearranged, added to others.  My gut increasingly makes the decisions – I trust it more than my head and it wastes a lot less time.  Earlier work was more planned, often sketched, but still a tendency to make spontaneous changes existed.

What have been some favourite special projects, exhibitions or collaborations you’ve been involved in? Some of the best fun I have had in terms of exhibitions and projects have been those done collaboratively with Workshop 6.  Our Tin Years (10 year anniversary) show was a very entertaining process and the results quite funny. We have always worked well as a group.

I also especially enjoyed making the exhibition Straw into Gold in 2002, and publishing the accompanying book of fairy tales illustrated by jewellery.  This was a Creative New Zealand funded project.

Do you work alone or share your creative space? I work alone at the moment.  I am enjoying it – quite a change from the 16 years of cacophony at Workshop 6.  But I find I need to temper it with plenty of extra-mural activities; coffee with friends, scouting the auction houses, hardware stores and demo yards, yoga, expeditions to wildernesses, museums, galleries etc.  With the help of such distractions I hope to keep loneliness and madness at bay.

How do you stay connected to the wider creative community in New Zealand and internationally?
I don’t make a lot of effort to be connected beyond my own immediate community.  I occasionally look at a few websites, some magazines and keep in touch with colleagues in the usual manners but I wouldn’t say I pursued it.  Kind people keep me posted on news and events even though I don’t really deserve it. I don’t mind being in a bit of a vacuum – too much information can sometimes stifle my activity.

Where do you find your creative inspiration? Is this ever a formal process?
The whole wide world!  I enjoy the chase of an idea and tend to do quite a bit of formative research.  I look at a lot of books (not especially jewellery but art, architecture, science, history, botany, zoology….), I take photos and somehow filter the visual stimulus.  I gather images that interest and attract me.  I doodle.  But it’s not a formal process – more a roller-coaster ride.

Which designers, artists or creative people do you admire?
I admire a lot of jewellers – my old workshop mates Octavia Cook (hilarious and astonishing pieces) and Anna Wallis (clever technique and sharp eye) have inspired me greatly.  Robert Baines makes me cry, David Bielander makes me laugh. Carl Faberge, Daniel Kruger, Helen Britton, Karl Fritsch, Sandra Bushby, Warwick Freeman.  I know its old-school but I really love painting, especially landscapes; Corot, Friedlander, Constable’s cloud and Turner’s seas, Manet, Degas, Hopper but could also mention local contemporary painters Gerda Leenards, John Walsh and Bill Hammond.  I was blown away by Fiona Hall’s grand show Force Field.  Her virtuosity and inventiveness is gob-smacking. I also really go for folk art and outsider art and draw much strength from how pleasing and compelling things can be even when they are loose and not quite “right”.

What would be your dream project?
Truthfully, to be given a big wad of money to spend on my own house and garden. How selfish is that?!

Jane Dodd’s new range is available now at e.g.etal.

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