2007 Symbols of Faith

Symbols of faith: the bridge between ancient religions and new spirituality – new symbol bearers for a different creed.

The focus of the second edition of New Traditional Jewellery was on ‘Faith’. From times immemorial faith has been bound up with wearable images and objects with a special spiritual significance for the wearer. This may be a matter of faith in the sense of religion, but also of a non-organized and quite personal spirituality.

Well-known examples are rosaries, small reliquaries, crucifixes, charms of saints, amulets, portable holders of texts from the Koran, talismans of shamans and so on. But aren’t the big gold necklaces with symbols set in diamonds symbols of faith as well?

All this does not even begin to represent a complete list of the sources of inspiration that were the bases of all entries for this edition of NTJ. The shapes, materials and symbolism of jewellery that is connected with a religious conviction are just as diverse as of any other category of jewellery. The link between these ornaments is their purpose. Jewellery and ornaments, as aspects of a religion, were and are credited with active powers. Something is expected from these objects: the wearer must be protected, healed, become pregnant, rich or happy. It is the only category of jewellery that is supposed to actually do something for the wearer, other than just passively adorn or convey status. Jewellery based on faith or religion has never disappeared from the street scene. NTJ2007: Symbols of Faith has turned out to be a theme, a contest and an exhibition whose contents and quality of execution continue to appeal to the imagination.

Jury 2007:

Carin Reinders , dir. CODA Museum Apeldoorn
Fred W. Brom , F.G.A., Steltman juweler The Hague
Isabella van den Bos,  collector
Astrid Berens, dir. SIERAAD Art Fair
Anne Berk , Art critic for Kunstbeeld and Het Financieële Dagblad
Charon Kransen , curator, dealer, vertegenwoordigt internationale hedendaagse sieraadontwerpers inde VS, dir. Charon Kransen Arts
Dinie Besems , designer

The jury on “Symbols of Faith”,

The central theme of the second edition of New Traditional Jewellery will be ‘faith’. Whichever way we look at it, be it in the sense of existing religions or non-organized spirituality, his faith reflects the way in which an individual views life, and this may be displayed in the form of a symbol worn on the body. What do you believe?

Religious jewellery and bearers of spiritual force boast a rich tradition, e.g. rosaries, small reliquaries containing remains of saints, crucifixes, medallions, all manifestations of Buddha, charms, prayer beads, amulets, special beads to ward off the Evil Eye. Then there are portable holders for texts from the Koran and other sacred writings; objects hanging from chains worn by witch doctors in Africa, Asia and by the American Indian tribes in the USA; strings of beads characteristic of the Condomblé religion of former slaves in South America, etc.

The shapes, materials and symbolism of these ornaments are diverse, but none of them are worn just for adornment or by way of status symbol. They all fulfil a clear function. On the one hand they are symbols bearing witness to someone’s belief (even if you are the only one to know its meaning). On the other hand they may be useful: the bearer must be protected, cursed, become pregnant, rich and happy. They are bearers of spiritual force charged with meaningful materials or rituals.

Symbols of faith or religion have never quite disappeared from the street scene. Secularization does not necessarily lead to a decrease in believers. In Western Europe a clear shift has been taking place from institutionalized religion (churches and communities) to a more individual interpretation. At the same time the institutionalization of Islam is on the increase. Usually we associate this religion with headscarves and terrorists, but it also boasts an extremely rich jewellery tradition.

Winners

IN THE CATEGORY OF ESTABLISHED ARTISTS THREE WINNERS HAVE BEEN SELECTED:

Religious jewellery and bearers of power have a rich tradition and, needless to say, a large number of entries showed variations on the theme of the crucifix. This also applies to two of the winners: in the necklace ‘The Triumph’, the duo Hartog & Henneman expresses the Christian faith in an unorthodox manner. The flexible necklace was designed on the computer and then executed in grey rubber by means of rapid prototyping. The design shows the motif of the crucified Christ mirrored and multiplied, causing the Christ figures to touch hands. “A gesture of reconciliation and a symbol of hope knowing neither beginning nor end”, say Hartog & Henneman. “Through his death Jesus accepted the punishment for the sins of mankind. He was victorious over death, which this piece of jewellery celebrates in the shape of a festive chain”. The jury was enthusiastic about this startling rendition of a traditional motif in a contemporary technique.

If Machteld van Joolingen raises the question of conflicts aroused by religion, Peter Hoogeboom on the other hand is looking for what the no fewer than 45 religious views, including atheism, have in common. From Islam and Buddhism to Shintoism, Skikhism, Sufism, voodoo, etc. – in all religions light and water, the conditions for life, play a part. In the necklace ‘Holy Water’ this is symbolized by miniature ceramic water bottles, glazed and complete with transfers. At the front they bear the symbol of the religion concerned, at the back they show human figures touching hands. “In everything – the universe, the earth, nature, mankind – god is present, immaterially”, Hoogeboom says. “We are all part of a larger whole”. This necklace may be considered as a bearer of power, through which hopefully a wish will come true: reconciliation. The considered way in which the designer has fashioned his idea is most exceptional, overcoming many technical hurdles, such as photographic silk-screen printing, glazing and firing. And although they have been threaded, the bottles can actually hold water by inserting two small tubes.

Machteld van Joolingen’s ‘Turmoil’ – laser sawn from thin steel plate – consists of a chain with openwork links and an openwork cruciform pendant. The cross serves as the base for ornaments from other cultures, an accumulation of motifs referring to the outward show of religions in the course of time. People have always put their own interpretation on their belief and have always had different ways of expressing it in keeping with the spirit of their times, but opinions differ about the way this should be done nowadays. Confusion reigns, says van Joolingen, a ‘Clash of Cultures’? In this way peace-loving Buddhist monks in Burma, depicted on the top layer of the necklace by using a photographic etching technique, now epitomize political resistance.  The refined design causing form and content to coincide, appealed to the jury.

Some designers create their own cult, such as Robean Visschers with two rings, entitled ‘Belief in each other’, symbolized by two wedding rings. “They are also symbols of faith, viz. faith in one another”, says Visschers. ‘On the rim the text ‘God be with us’ is to be found, just as (formerly) on Dutch coins. With God’s help nothing can go wrong’. Instead of etching this text on the rims of the rings the designer has realized the words in 3D via rapid prototyping. The text is legible only on the crosscut, on the front side it looks like a relief pattern. An interesting ‘Symbol of Faith’ in an innovating design.

The student prize goes to Nina Schüler from Germany, where she attends the Fachhoheschule; in an original manner she transformed a pink rubber glove into an ode to motherhood.  These gloves are often worn by housewives when doing their chores, but the artist manages to call up emotions by making an ingenious use of the properties of this everyday material. The rubber has been stretched over a hard core (the lens of a pair of spectacles), so that the fine-meshed relief on the pink rubber brings to mind the fine veins of a mother’s breast, while the empty ‘fingertip’ remind us of a nipple. A magnet makes it possible for the object to be worn as a brooch which represents the belief in motherly love in a most unusual way.

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