Jewellery – identity or second skin
People have been decorating themselves from the beginnings of our culture. The decoration was used primarily as a personal protection from unknown forces, phenomena and diseases. Each historical period, social group and culture, with its own views on jewellery, defines the purpose and function of jewellery in a different way. Therefore, today we can define the functions of jewellery as possession, display of power and wealth, exposure of identity, belonging, memory and many others. With jewellery we announce: I’m here, this is my body, my authenticity and uniqueness at a given moment and time. This is why jewellery is a “symbol of singularity and carries the meaning of individuality and identity,” wrote the Dutch theorist and connoisseur of jewellery Liesbeth den Besten. It can be seen as a trophy, a status symbol, a luxury product, the object of seduction, a sign of warning or a sign of political and cultural identity. Nevertheless, it is always a unique expression in communication, which calls to others to respond.
Today’s social attitude towards all aspects of jewellery puts the question of identity first. “It is because jewellery has no useful function that it provides us with so many answers,” writes English critic Peter Dormer in one of the first theoretical discussions on jewellery. Contemporary jewellery and its design characterizes the encounter of the world with oneself, their values and beliefs; in particular, it is a symbol of identification. It signifies the body, from a historical and natural perspective; it defines it by movements of the body, it places the body in social time, in relationship with fashion, it acts as an object of desire, it is a protection, a challenge, it establishes rituals, reinforces ceremonies or just the habits of everyday life. In this context, questions are raised: What is the basic entity of jewellery – its existential field, Where does it belong, What is its meaning and purpose? Jewellery is a way and simultaneously a subject of communication – when we become aware of body with jewellery in space. It does not have only utilitarian purpose of decoration, it is also an expression of existential and phenomenological thinking, or : Who am I? Where are my boundaries? Jewellery is therefore not only an adornment of the body, but also an outline of consciousness and external expression of spirit.
Association of Jewellery Design of Slovenia (DONS) is the only society of this kind and has been active for over a decade. It was formed due to mutual interests in the field of jewellery design – socializing, sharing experience, knowledge and education, with a desire for cooperation with similar organizations. The aim of the society is to popularize the culture of jewellery design in theory and practice to a wide audience and establish new discourses in jewellery, either in terms of integration with other fields of art and modern technologies, use of a variety of materials, either as a means of mutual communication, individual or collective expression.
Association DONS connects jewellery designers from various fields such as architecture, textile and fashion design, sculpture, painting, silversmith and goldsmith. The different relationships that form while coupling diverse types of art jewellery offer the opportunity to explore these exchanges between jewellery maker, its carrier and (social) space. Many members of the society were educated at specialized academies abroad and everyone is credited with a series of solo or group exhibitions, or (co-) authorship of several projects. Some of them are recipients of important recognitions and awards and all of them are guided by quality, development, openness and unification.
Association of Jewellery Design of Slovenia has, since the start of its operation, prepared several exhibitions and was invited to participate or co-author many exhibitions or projects. Members of DONS have exchanged their knowledge and experience with counterparts, colleagues and organizations from Italy, Austria and the Netherlands. The most important design events which should be mentioned are Assembly – Design Festival, Graz (2009, 2010, 2011), Slovene – Dutch Contemporary Jewellery in Gallery Kresija, with cult jewellery pieces from Dutch Designers (2009), an exhibition in collaboration with Italian jewellery designers In Contro (2005), Connections (2008), Pezzi Di Luna (2011), Terra di Mezzo (2009), FiloRosso (2008, 2011, 2012), Secrets (2011, 2012), an exhibition of gems from Pohorje, and Slovenian Ornaments in Jewellery (2006). As part of the 19th Biennial of Industrial Design, the Association prepared a round-table on Contemporary jewellery in Slovenia – Now at the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and many other presentations and collaborations.
In reflections of the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, the skin is a place of departure and separation, one that marks particular sensory zones and shows the body as an essential, important and sensitive. From this we can deduce that jewellery acts as a visual opening or a passageway for a visit. As the body is alive, social and individual, its jewellery is the medium that forces appreciation of the relationship with body – it catches the eye and draws attention. Jewellery opens up the space and time, establishes the fields of communication, provides miles of options for augmented motion, as we, its determinants, emanate an areal of perception. Indeed, spreading to others through new options, is at the heart of vision and mission of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery of Slovenia for the future.
President of DONS