I interviewed Elwy Schutten, one of the seven winners of Preziosa Young 2020, the international contest organised by Le Arti Orafe Jewellery School, the first school dedicated to contemporary jewellery in Italy, founded in 1985 in Florence by Giò Carbone.
Since 2008, Preziosa Young has promoted the creativity of the younger generations, rewarding the proposal of innovative concepts, techniques and materials used, in order to create unique jewels.
This year the winners are all women, selected from 147 applications from all over the world by an international jury composed by curators, artists and jewellery critics, like Giovanni Corvaja, Eugenia Gadaleta, Kazumi Nagano, Cóilín O’Dubhghaill, Renzo Pasquale, Carla Riccoboni, Sam Tho Duong.
Elwy Schutten will have the opportunity to show her jewellery series about the concept of identity in occasion of the travelling exhibition PREZIOSA YOUNG 2020, together with Marie Masson, Chia-Hsien Lin, Dongyi Wu, Jess Tolbert, Rachael Colley and Zihan Yang, the other winners of this PY edition.
The exhibition starts in Florence in October, then moves to Spain and Germany next year:
- 29th October – 8th November 2020, Galleria del Palazzo Enrico Coveri, Florence
- 13th January – 3rd February 2021, Hannah Gallery, Barcelona
- 12th – 28th February, Atelier Martina Dempf, Berlin
- Oratory of San Rocco, Padua.
The exhibition was supposed to take place in May during the Florence Jewellery Week, cancelled like many other cultural events due to the consequent restrictions caused by Covid-19, and specifically for that reason other dates and locations are being defined.
So let’s see how Schutten manages to make her jewels speak about the complicated issue of identity and its interaction with clothing and body ornament:
- When dealing with contemporary goldsmith artists or jewellery designers, the first curiosity is to know how ornament has been chosen as the main means of expression. Why jewellery in particular and what was your training in this field?
ELWY SCHUTTEN: The skill and quality that rest in one small jewellery piece. Something that people will cherish all their live and like to keep with them at all times. A part of their identity. I was fascinated how such a small item can hold so many things and also tell them to other people. I wanted to know how to put this information into the jewellery. In addition, I use it to ask people questions. First I studied at the goldsmithing school Vakschool Schoonhoven, thereafter I went to the art academy to study jewellery design at the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design. Both academies are in the Netherlands. At the art academy I got fascinated about identity and how/if we can “read” it.
- If it is true that jewellery – and fashion in general – is a way to express our identity, then you rightly ask yourself to what extent a jewel or an item of clothing really defines who we are. Could you tell us about that?
E.S.: You choose your own jewellery and clothing, or you change them to make them perfectly fit to your identity. But how do you choose them? How do you know your identity? Or is it more what you find appealing? And is yourself who really choose them?
Identity is a mystical and formless thing. It is hard to describe it in a few words, words that don’t really fit you as a person. Through images, clothing or jewellery it is equally hard, because today you want to represent this while tomorrow, a different day, with different tasks, you would like to show your identity in a another way. Besides that, we always have items that don’t perfectly fit ourselves.
In my work and as an artist I am curious to these questions. I hope that whenever I find a sort of answer I could help people to discover their suitable jewellery piece.
- What materials and techniques do you use to realise these pieces?
E.S.: Mostly I use soapstone and silver. In my latest series I also use wood and old fabric. I chose soapstone because when you feel it, it’s really soft. You could say as soft as skin. It is similar to skin in colours too. I see skin as the place where your identity manifests itself. It is the first place where your own thoughts and feelings become visible. Then you have the layers of clothing, jewellery and accessories. The skin is something personal, visible from the outside.
- Is there an artist or an artistic tendency that inspires or influences you particularly?
E.S.: Not particularly. I learned a lot from my teachers and my intern teachers. But mostly my inspiration comes from philosophy. Reading about it, having questions is what drives me to make new work. To ask the questions I ask myself to the public.