We first discovered the brand new body of work created by British artist Jo Pond last January during a visit to Vittoria Street Gallery in Birmingham.
Entitled “Rationed”, this earnest exhibition is now on show at the gallery (until July 14). It was conceived by Jo Pond as a means to pay tribute to all anonymous women and mothers who, during the Blitz period which started in 1940, nevertheless managed to maintain their family unit. Following the tempo of excerpts from her grandmother’s diaries, Jo Pond composed a series of objects according to a method that is now her signature, consisting in laser cutting recycled tin boxes. Old leathers, tokens, kitchen utensils and many other objects, all dated from this period, complete the raw material of a story, both intimate and universal …Read more about the exhibition
> How did you come up with the idea of the “Rationed” series ?
I usually find that having an emotional connection with my subject matter leads me to make the most successful outcomes. “Rationed” stemmed from reading through the diaries of my grandmother. I realised that she had documented the air-raids during the Blitz in London and I was able to research the dates and times which she referenced, to learn more about what was happening during this period of her life.
Both my grandmothers lived in London during WW2 and worked while they brought up young children, through the strains and trauma of war. I decided to celebrate their lives and the strength they had, alongside all the other war-time wives and mothers who kept the family unit together.
> How did you proceed to gather all the ancient and vintage materials necessary for the making of your works ? I mean, did you prospect especially for this purpose or did you pick up inside a previous collection ?
I am somewhat of a hoarder and already had quite a lot of materials, however this collection needed research, to ensure I was selecting appropriately aged materials, to support the narrative which I hoped to communicate. I added to my stock of materials and found objects, collecting from junk shops, flea markets and online platforms, to gather materials which referenced time, money and the feminine domestic role.
> From the reactions that I have witnessed so far, your works — and this series especially — raise a lot of emotion among the spectators who really have the feeling to share a personal experience, having almost a feeling of empathy for the actors of the family story that you are telling. Did this project also generate unexpected reactions in your family, like engaging a dialogue about the story of your grand-mothers ?
I too was really surprised and thrilled to receive the emotional responses to this body of work. From the moment the exhibition installation began, colleagues and passers by started sharing their own stories, before the doors had even opened. Within my family we learned more of my grandmothers. Through conversations, little anecdotes have tied together threads of stories and have shed a light on two women from a time in their lives I could never have known. There were conversations that brought sadness, and a little tear from time to time, but these stories were such treasures to discover and share.
We sought to translate my grandmother’s shorthand, when her diary entries were no longer written in long-hand and for the first time in his life, my father learned of his time of birth and the words of his mother at that point, which was quite an emotive discovery for him.
> Why did you choose to focus on the mother figure to talk about the WWII ?
I felt quite strongly about the importance of the role of the domestic wife and mother, the more I learned of the hardship my grandmothers suffered during the war. It seemed the the women who worked in the munitions factories, or the land army were celebrated for their efforts, however those who worked to keep the family unit together were somewhat overlooked.
> Did this project make you learn something about your story and about History as well ?
I have learned some lovely stories though creating this collection and I hope too that my family will retain more of this historical information as a result. I have also leaned more about life during WW2, about the rationing, the hardship and the trauma. I feel very proud of the strength of the women within my family and all those whom they represent.
> According to you which is the place occupied by narrative jewelry inside the art jewelry field ?
Identifying with a group, a set of makers, provides a sense of belonging. Many of us identify with a collective of makers, giving clarity and direction to the commonality within the approach of our practice. It could be argued that the word narrative in the jewellery world has been re-appropriated as a noun; a personal approach to generating outcomes which communicate a story. Perhaps it is this desire for communication which distinguishes the narrative jeweller ?
For myself, the narrative umbrella is the motivation behind the creativity. The story provides emotional stimulation, something with which to start the creative process.
Another key stimulus is the potential for items created to elicit a response or have purpose. This may be common within the field of art jewellery, which therefore blurs any boundaries if I am to distinguish between art and narrative jewellery.
With a narrative jewel, as communicated by Jack Cunningham in his publication, ‘Maker, Wearer Viewer’, the viewer or wearer bring meaning to their experience of a piece. The focus of the narrative jeweller may well have been political, cathartic, historical or otherwise intended, but the outcome provides a shared experience, which, although potentially communicated at cross-purposes, has value. A powerful, harmonious (or even un-harmonious) composition embodies the energy and thoughts of the artist and can draw the viewer in to complete the dialogue.
> What are your future plans ? What are you working on at this moment ?
I very much want to document some of the viewers responses to “Rationed”, so I hope to create a record of these, as the exhibition tours.
Going forward, I am interested in developing my material exploration beyond the repurposed tin, which I regularly employ, perhaps to see whether the essence of nostalgia which this provides, can be recreated within raw materials, perhaps those which are considered to be more precious.
ABOUT JO POND
As an internationally renowned jewellery artist, the work of Jo Pond has been exhibited at prestigious galleries highlights include Schmuck in Munich, the V&A Museum London, Price Tower Arts Centre Oklahoma, Galerie Rob Koudijs Amsterdam, Velvet da Vinci San Francisco and Contemporary Applied Arts in London. Alongside her practice, she is currently employed as a part-time lecturer at the world renowned School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of Contemporary Applied Arts in London.
Jo Pond reflects I come from a family of «Ponds» who appears to have a genetic necessity for hoarding; digging up metal detector was the foundation of a passion for objects which others might not quite appreciate. This fashioned the beginnings of a lifetime of habitual collecting.
Utilising this drive to accumulate the unconventional and unwanted, coupled with an aesthetic appreciation of the details of decomposition and change, I choose to incorporate items potentially paradoxical within jewellery, to create beautiful and on occasion, confusing objects. Employing symbolic references of form, material and technique, I dabble in the potential for wearable items to become vehicles for communication; whether through sense, nostalgia, or knowledge.