21st March – 21st May 2015
Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford
This surreal mixed media installation is inspired by the feeling of being overwhelmed and its effect on the body. Just as lichen spreads over tree branches, the overwhelming thoughts and feelings engulf the body.
Through this narrative installation, these feelings are represented physically as surreal lichen forms, encrusting, masking and suppressing a figure. To accompany the installation, Sophie has created a diverse collection of art jewellery pieces that reinforce underlying ideas of fragility, concealment and secrecy.
progress shots of installation
progress shots of installation
To coincide with Sophie Syme’s installation “Overwhelmed” at the Shire Hall, Sophie will be demonstrating making her art jewellery pieces on Saturday 21st March (10am – 1pm).
About the artist: Sophie Symes is a recent graduate of Hereford College of Arts and is currently taking part in the graduate programme, ‘Cultivated’ at Unit Twelve Gallery in Stafford. She works with alternative materials and techniques to create pieces that push the boundaries of jewellery design.
Artist Statement: My art jewellery pieces are created by combining a diverse collection of ideas and imaginings. Drawing inspiration from my wild rural surroundings and combining this with a love for surrealism and fairytales and their escapist connotations, I make pieces of wearable sculpture using alternative materials.
I apply my traditional jewellery making techniques and spontaneous working method to metals and ‘throwaway’ natural debris materials such as found twigs, lichen and silkworm cocoons. Using paper cutting techniques, I hand-pierce intricate forms and combine them with the found debris, constructing fantastical adornments.
The amalgamation of precious metals and found items is intended to address the question of what makes jewellery truly precious.. which materials are intrinsically more ‘precious’ and ‘valuable’… the readily available silver or the fragile lichen covered twig that can never be replicated?
We also managed to sit down and have a quick chat with Sophie to find out more about her inspirations and processes.
What’s your most interesting item in your studio?
My collection of lichen covered twigs. They have really exciting forms, textures and colours and their fragility gives them a very precious quality.
I also have some really interesting old books, my favourite being my Plants and the Planet book, with gorgeous scientific illustrations and beautiful descriptive text, it’s endlessly inspiring.
Who are your craft heroes?
There are so many amazing crafters and art jewellers that inspire me. But my absolute heroes are Hanna Hedman, Nora Rochel, Tanel Veenre and Marta Mattsson. Their surreal, fantastical pieces inspire me to push myself everyday and try to create innovative, one-off pieces of wearable art.
What have you got coming up?
I’ve already got quite a packed schedule this year. I am currently working like mad on my upcoming installation and solo exhibition to be on display at The Shire Hall in Stafford from 21st March. It’s titled ‘Overwhelm.’ and addresses the common feeling of becoming overwhelmed with daily life – visually represented as fantastical growing forms.
I have also been selected for the Rising Stars 2015 exhibition at New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham. Alongside work by other recent graduates of contemporary craft courses, my three pieces will be on display from 20th March – 9th May.
As well as this, I am currently in the process of creating a brand new collection of art jewellery pieces for The Jam Factory in Oxford. Using my previous collection ‘Hybrids’ as a starting point, I am creating more manmade vs natural hybrids and this time I am incorporating even more industrial materials, such as concrete and manipulating the natural forms further.
To finish up the year, I also have an exciting internship planned with one of my favourite jewellers, Tanel Veenre!
Have you got a favourite book? What are you reading at the moment?
I love fairytales so I would have to say Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll has to be my favourite book, I just love the mad language and how it is described as ‘literary nonsense’.
At the moment I’m about to start reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, as I’ve just seen the film and I think the descriptive language in the book will be even more visually magnificent.
Have you got a favourite film?
I have lots but I think some of my favourites are Pan’s Labyrinth, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Star Wars Trilogy and of course, all old Disney films.
Where would you most like to see your work exhibited?
I would love to have my pieces exhibited in world renowned art jewellery gallery, Galerie Marzee and as part of the international art jewellery event Schmuck. But I think mostly, I would just love my work to be exhibited in the company of some of the best art jewellers in the world.
Here’s your chance to get on your soapbox – is there anything that makes you angry or frustrated within the world of craft?
I think the most frustrating thing about the arts and craft world is the high costs of exhibiting/selling work. A lot of investment is required to start up as a maker and be able to keep going until you actually start selling. There needs to be more programmes like ‘Cultivated’ to give new graduates the platform to bridge the gap from student to professional maker. Not only is there funding and a studio space but also professional mentoring to help develop a unique craft business.
Do you ever question what you’re doing?
All the time. I have a tendency to over think things and when I’m stressed I question everything I am doing. I think the best way to tackle this is by taking a break, stepping back from the work and concentrating on what elements are working well and really excite you.
What’s so special about the materials you use?
The lichen, twigs and other found materials I use are special because they are completely unique and I know I will never be able to find the exact same piece again. They therefore need to be treasured and used well in my designs.
I also like to use materials that are completely ordinary and mass produced and then sensitively craft them into new, beautiful things.
What do you do to take time out and relax?
When I’m not making and researching jewellery, I like to watch films, go for walks through the woods and make upcycled furniture with my boyfriend.
Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
No, I focus on the present and future and try not to look back too much.
What’s your greatest achievement so far?
Of the many exciting exhibitions I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in since graduating, I consider being chosen for the 2013 Beijing International Jewelry Art Biennial, at the Millennium Monument in Beijing and Metallophone: Personally at AV17 Gallery in Lithuania my best achievements.
I also feel very proud to have been chosen as one of the best emerging graduate makers in the UK when selected for the Rising Stars 2015 exhibition/competition.
Another one of my greatest achievements so far has to be being selected for ‘Cultivated’ as I feel that it will really help me to centre my business and pull all my many ideas together. Even though I have only been at the gallery for a few weeks, I already feel I have learnt a lot from the talented artists around me and I feel truly privileged to have been given this amazing opportunity.