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DIY Jewellery Tour

Author: Courtney Johnston, Director

This is the perfect weekend for getting out and seeing the best New Zealand jewellery has to offer.

Installation view of Wunderruma. Photographer: John Lake

Installation view of Wunderruma. Photographer: John Lake

Rejoice, dear readers, for your stars have aligned!

If you have a love of, or curiosity about, New Zealand's contemporary jewellery, then you need to get out of the house this weekend and make the most of a unique chance to see 25 years of New Zealand jewellery history in the flesh.

This is the final week of Te Papa's re-showing of the landmark 1988 exhibition Bone Stone Shell. The exhibition captures a very conscious moment in time when New Zealand artists turned their attention from the European history of jewellery making and looked to the Pacific, both in terms of materials and forms of body adornment, to explore what it meant to be making jewellery in this part of the world. The exhibition featured 12 jewellers and carvers, toured internationally and sparked a host of discussions about what New Zealand jewellery could or should be. For this restaging, Te Papa have put out all the works included in the original exhibition, plus the portrait photos of the artists, items from the taonga Maori and Pasifika collections, and more recent contemporary jewellery acquisitions. 

A visit to Bone Stone Shell sets a great context for coming to The Dowse and seeing Wunderrūma: New Zealand Jewellery. Another significant international project (the exhibition was curated by jewellers Karl Fritsch and Warwick Freeman for the annual Schmuck jewellery festival in Munich), Wunderrūma is intentionally a much looser, less didactic selection that includes more than 75 makers, and mixes in contemporary art and taonga Māori. It's especially interesting to contrast the beautiful old glass and wood display cases used at Te Papa with the towers of plexiglass boxes Karl and Warwick have assembled at The Dowse, to think about how small objects change when they're presented to you differently.

And to round your jewellery tour off, you need to get over to Pataka in Porirua and check out Clusters – New Contemporary Jewellery. This is an exhibition of work by graduates of Whitieria NZ, and just as Bone Stone Shell and Wunderruma have some overlapping jewellers, many of the Clusters jewellers (Neke Moa, Becky Bliss, Jennifer Laracy, Kathryn Yeats, Caroline Thomas, Chloe Rose Taylor, Jessica Winchcombe, Elsa Evangelina Krasniansky and Lindsay Park) are featured in Wunderrūma.

These overlapping exhibitions show the strength and depth of New Zealand contemporary jewellery making; its ambition, international engagement, and close community of makers. This weekend is unmissable opportunity to immerse yourself in the beautiful, the strong and the surprising: make the most of it! 

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