Community. Engagement. Advocacy. Humor.
For almost 30 years, jewellery artist Liv Blåvarp has been creating organic and voluminous constructions out of wood. Since her American debut in 1995, international recognition of her work has steadily increased – most recently through her being awarded the Bayerische Staatspreis for 2012, at the international contemporary craft competition SCHMUCK (‘Internationale Handwerksmesse München’).
‘It’s largely about developing sculptural form’, explains Liv Blåvarp, when asked by NorwegianCrafts.no about her artistic intentions.
‘But you could also say the recurring theme in my artistic practice is to create structures that seem alive.’’
What does wood signify in this context?
‘The most significant aspect is that it allows me to work with larger volumes without them becoming too heavy. At the same time, wood is that material which best allows me to create the expression I want.’
Blåvarp’s jewellery is characterized by large, spectacular forms that naturally and elegantly follow the contours of the neck or wrist. They consist of many small elements combined into a flexible whole. For some works, she uses light wood types stained in lively colours. In others, she uses dark wood treated only with oil. In yet others, she mixes stained and dark wood types.
Liv Blåvarp relates that wearability is a key factor in her art. The jewellery should function with the body, and she always tries things out on herself and others during the creation process.
‘The whole process becomes a concentrated dialogue between myself, the idea and the process. I have an idea, I plan the process, I try it out and make adjustments along the way.’
What kinds of ideas do you work with?
‘I sketch, experiment, find extracts of something and often create hybrids from several drawings.’
Is it about formal ideas?
‘Yes, a theme may emerge along the way, or a personality or story. But the most important thing for me is that the works should have a sensuous appeal. They should give a physical experience. When touching them, your emotions should become involved.’
Are there any artists you especially admire?
‘Dorothea Prühl and Bettina Speckner are two artists I respect highly. Here in Norway, Tone Vigeland. I cannot stress too strongly how important it is to have Norwegian artists who have presented strong exhibitions, received lots of attention and, not least, have been able to live on what they earn from their art.’
Choosing wood as a material
When Blåvarp attended the Norwegian College of Art, Crafts and Design (this has now become Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Department of Visual Arts), her first choice was not to work with metal. She wanted to study graphic design, but the relevant department did not accept her application. With no background in metal, she was compelled to find her starting-point outside the traditional framework. This resulted in a lot of experimentation.
‘For me, formal qualities eventually became the most important, and my greatest experience of mastery was to be able to build large three-dimensional forms. At the same time, I tested out different methods and approaches, both practical and creative.’
After finishing her degree in Oslo, Blåvarp went to London and studied for a year at the Royal College of Art. It was there she seriously began working with wood. Although growing up in a family of carpenters and living alongside her grandfather’s workshop, it was not until her diploma project that she began experimenting with wood. But then only as a detail: she created laminated veneer objects that framed compositions made of metal. In London, she pursued this lamination technique and allowed wood to be the dominant material in her jewellery.
The artists’ group Trikk
In 1984 Blåvarp returned to Norway and began collaborating with Trikk (which means ‘tram’), an artists’ group she helped start with six of her former fellow students. They set up a joint workshop, produced joint exhibitions and enriched each other with insights from their divergent backgrounds. ‘We received attention from art historians, journalists and the public, and felt we were at the forefront of our own era.’
European jewellery art broke new ground in the 1970s and ‘80s. This was especially the case in the Netherlands but also in England. Artists started using completely new materials such as aerospace metals, plastics and textiles. The new jewellery was extremely colourful and triggered immense interest. When Trikk started up, these new currents were about to gain a foothold in Norway.
‘We felt we were pioneers. The attention was intense and we had many discussions and consultations in the workshop. We were playful and experimental. It was a ground-breaking period for us all. The unorthodox use of materials I saw amongst other European jewellery artists suited me, and it inspired me to continue working with wood.’
Blåvarp’s works from this period consist mainly of neck pieces and bracelets made with the lamination technique she developed at the Royal College of Art. They contain small pieces of differently-coloured wood types combined to create a checkerboard texture. The forms are simple and streamlined, and the basic circular shapes are divided in two and held in place with elastic drawstrings.
After three years with Trikk, Blåvarp returned to Gjøvik, the area of Norway where she had grown up. She was planning her first solo exhibition for the following year (1988) and wanted to move on artistically.
‘I was trying to crack a very hard nut. I wanted to move away from the laminated works and especially the large collars, which I felt were too stiff. They were simply uncomfortable to wear.’
SOURCE: Continue reading this interview via http://www.norwegiancrafts.no/magazine/02-2012/touch-wood