Breathing New Materialism, artist and jeweller Carolyn Barker grows heirlooms that delight in the natural world. Timeless adornments, Carolyn’s precious creations honour men and woman of all ages. Her collections playfully reflect the micro-macro dance of the treasured landscapes we share.
I use a blend of Japanese and classical metalwork techniques to fabricate small, often wearable, objects and vessels. I have a particular interest in the Japanese alloys–shakudo and shibuichi, and their traditional colouring processes. These are the black, brown and grey metals you see through my collections. The methodical techniques used to create these colours require time and patience, but their depth of beauty make the effort worthwhile.
While the techniques I use, both classical and Japanese, were developed for the fabrication of ornate objects, my work is intensely minimal.
Like many, I am inspired by the landscapes around me, in macro and micro–avoiding the meso where for me the business of life imbibes. I am short sighted and, without correction, my vision lacks sharp edges. Thus, even in the meso detail fades rapidly while form and mass are maintained. However, it is in the macro and micro that my vision becomes deeply still and shapeful. With the world reduced/expanded form rules. My objects are a reflection of these forms.
Likewise, I observe my work as condense stillness. The stillness I feel when at one with the environment around me, be it remote or urban. The momentary peace that my heart feels when I can simply be. The use of Japanese alloys in my work is both a means and an end to achieving this peace. The techniques are for me a practice in patience, a meditation. They required time, attention and repetition that I have not found necessary in my other work, techniques or life more generally. The process provides me with the stillness of the objects themselves.
Though small sculpture, my practice is primarily two dimensional. More closely related to photography as an art form than jewellery, I make small images from precious metals. Each collection is a reflection of a particular moment, the presence of a specific place and time. Each work an alternate portrait of a single juncture. A memento through which to imbue cellular peace and wonder.
As far as possible I use Australian and/or recycled materials: metals re-refined rather than newly mined, and Australian stone.
Those of you itching to know more after watching can read this document: Irogane-Japanese Alloy Basics.
And surely you have seen, in the darkness of the innermost rooms of these buildings, to which sunlight never penetrates, how the gold leaf of a sliding door or screen will pick up a distant glimmer from the garden, then suddenly send forth an ethereal glow, a faint golden light cast into the enveloping darkness, like the glow upon the horizon at sunset. In no other setting is gold quite so exquisitely beautiful. You walk past, turning to look again, and yet again, and as you move away the golden surface of the paper glows ever more deeply, changing not in a flash, but growing slowly, steadily brighter, like colour rising in the face of a giant.
Excerpt: In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, 1933.
In addition to my exhibition practice, I making pieces for a diverse range of clients in styles and materials that best suit them. It is an honour to create treasures that remind their owners of their places, people and feelings most special.
If you have a special event, moment or person that deserves a treasure, contact me so we can talk about capturing the essence of what you are feeling and transform it into an heirloom.
Many of the works on this site are available for purchase through the shop. If it happens that the piece you love it is not available I will be delighted to design something similar especially for you.
Site feature photo by Mindi Cooke.