The Jewel and the Jeweller redecorating Taranaki one medal at a time

The Jewel and the Jeweller opened in New Plymouth 12 months ago. Taranaki Community News caught up with one of the co-founders, Sam Kelly to hear about their latest project – Redecorating Taranaki.

Hi Sam, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your fellow co-founder Jen?
Coincidentally, we both grew up in the Hutt Valley, Wellington, both studied jewellery at Whitireia Polytechnic (though at different times) and both ended up making families and living in Taranaki.

We got to know each other properly only about two years ago and hit it off as we had a common jewellery language and love for the craft. Between us we’ve been making jewellery for about 30 years.

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Afternoon sun at The Jewel and the Jeweller

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You and Jen launched The Jewel and The Jeweller last year. How has that been going and what have some of the highlights been so far?
We’re just reached out first year celebration on Wednesday July 17! We’re a bit busy to party at the moment which is a good thing we suppose.

The support we’ve had from our artists, New Plymouth and all of our visitors has blown us away. We were unsure how our workshop/gallery would be received in small-town New Zealand but we really feel so supported. It’s been great introducing the general public to the world of contemporary jewellery via our incredible selection of New Zealand jewellers whose work we stock.

Plus running the workshops adds another dimension of learning and understanding, especially as our students become part of our little community and so far everyone of them have gone away stoked with what they have achieved.

Another highlight for us would have to be taking our workshops up to Womad 2019. Its was a proud moment to be able to share our passion and craft with visitors to our region in the most excellent setting. Our quick-fire 45 minute workshops were a hit, with more than 90 people taking part.

We love when people stop in to TJATJ, ask questions, read books, bring things to show or share. It’s been an unbelievable first year and the second is going to be even better.

Why do you think you love jewellery so much? 
Decorating oneself with jewellery is as old as human civilisation.

Jewellery has so many abilities. It can be imbued with meaning, history, memories, sentiment but can also be a statement, politically, socially or personally.

Contemporary jewellery brings in an extra narrative surrounding value. Is something valuable because, for instance, we’ve only ever know gold and diamonds to be worth a lot of money, or is it valuable because of the time.

If a material is used when making contemporary jewellery, it is generally with purpose. A piece of plastic, discarded on the road can become something with a new meaning of value when it’s had 40 hours spent investigating, marking and forming it to create something absolutely new to this world. 

You’re both facilitating a cool project at the moment, called Redecorating Taranaki. What is this and why are you doing it?
One of the founding parts of our friendship was talking about creating a community project to take jewellery/craft/object making to our region.

The beautiful thing about art/craft is that it gives people a chance to feel things, explains life in a way we didn’t comprehend and on a very basic level, connect us. Not everyone has the right words, so it’s important to have other ways of expressing ourselves. 

We chose the idea of a medal as an item of jewellery that anyone could wear and denotes to being awarded. And thinking of the region as our wider community, we wondered who or what collectively would Taranaki deem to be of honour, or valuable?

So our project is asking the people to share their voice and stories. This isn’t a political, corporate or other discussion, this about us as a connected region. Connected to our past, our present and our future and all of us being represented.

Our project will take its shape in four phases:

1. Researching NPDC’s Heritage Collection
It was important to us to highlight the very special asset we have in NPDC’s Heritage Collection. This belongs to all of us here in New Plymouth and speaks to who we were and are as a region. It’s an important first stop for our project to find what has been awarded or celebrated in our history and where any gaps in our community might be.

2. Worksheets and workshops
We invite everyone in Taranaki to participate in one our our medal making workshops or alternatively, fill out one of the Redecorating worksheets. Whether an individual or a group, you are invited to participate and have a voice through the act of making, craft, drawing and story-telling. The stories and visual cues you give us will inform what we make, why we make and who we’re making for.

3. Response pieces
We will try to find common threads, obvious groupings or themes from the information we collect from workshops and worksheets, conversations and recordings. We will create 10 new pieces of memorabilia to celebrate our diverse community. Whether they be a trophy to commend all of the kids who persevere through tough times at school, a medallion to commemorate people who volunteer their time in the community, or a group of our community that has yet to be noticed.

4. Redecorating Taranaki exhibition, Puke Ariki, April 2020
To be held in the Lane Gallery, opening April 2020. The exhibition will cover the whole process of the project, including interviews with people are connected to pieces in NPDC’s Heritage Collection and items from the collection, imagery of workshops and the publics responses and, of course, our final 10 response pieces made from the community’s visual input and story-telling.

That sounds really cool. What awesome things have you uncovered in the Heritage Collection so far?
The great thing about our kohikohinga tukuihotanga (heritage collections) is that anyone can access it online here.

It’s hard to choose a favourite from hundreds of examples of awards medals and trophies relevant to our region, but a really fun one is a Wolf head totem trophy from the 1930s, awarded for a Scout’s jungle dance competition! Its made of hand carved wood, cow bone and horse hair. It is currently on public display in Thompson Hutt at Puke Ariki.

How can people get involved?
The best place to start is by checking out our website. There we give a full overview of the four phases of the project, have the worksheet available to download, and explaining the various places we’ll be hosting free workshops. Plus you can view our journey so far through NPDC’s Heritage Collection and the interesting stories and objects we’re discovering.

If you could have a dinner party with any three people from history, who would you pick? 
Celia Lashlie
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian
My Granny