This past Fall I tried something different to market my work and exhibited at a boat show. It seemed like a good fit and that experience itself will be the subject of its own blog post later, but part of the experience helped launch a different project.
Coriander Woodruff is an artist, photographer and the daughter of my best friend, Patricia Woodruff. She was helping me out at the boat show, along with my good friend Anita, former proprietor of Sparkle’s Jewelry of West Melbourne, FL. We are three people experienced in sales of this kind, yet it was astounding to us the amount of “free advice” we gals received from the male businessmen whose booths surrounded us.
The interior of the vending tents was stifling for October. Coriander carried a metal framed martial arts fan that we all shared at times. First it just seemed like a sturdy accessory that helped to cool us, but then we realized that it could act as a barrier and deterrent to the “man-splaining” we were finding ourselves subject to hearing.
The fan opened with a startling, loud crack and had a heft to it when closed that could easily bruise anyone who tried to get physical. As a young women, Coriander is often the subject of catcalls and intimidating behavior and has found this fan to be a helpful accessory at times. Not that anyone went that far at the boat show, but as an object it felt reassuring in the hand. Our discussions in the booth led to brainstorming a line of defensive jewelry and accessories, i.e. protective ornamentation for women.
A few weeks later, I saw the call for Objects of Protection for the SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) Conference Exhibition in Motion, I knew that the time had come for a collaboration with Coriander. I have attended the conference for the last 3 years and planned to be there in Portland as well. We submitted a proposal that was approved and began to work on what we called The Anti-Aggressor Battle Fan 3000. The forms and imagery were discussed extensively between us and although I did all of the fabrication, I checked in with Coriander at every step.
The original fan that our piece is based upon is called a tessen or war fan, are about a foot in radius (blade length) and are used in martial arts routines. Of course we wanted more drama than that and increased the size by 50%. It was important that the sound continued to be a part of our design as well and I tried a number of different fabrics before settling on one that met the technical requirements.
From the moment of our concept, I could only see Coriander as the model. How this piece was presented was as important as how it was made. Her experience as collaborator, as well as an actor and model was vital.
The Exhibition in Motion is a runway style show that takes place at the end of the SNAG conference. It’s a fundraiser for the organization and a showcase for large and provocative work, extreme even for an organization that already cultivates the bold and avant garde in the contemporary jewelry world. The exhibit took place May 26, 2018 at the Marriott Downtown Waterfront Hotel in Portland, OR.
Coriander killed it. Strutting down the runway to gasps, she cracked open each of the fans a few seconds after starting. The bronze of the fan frames caught the light on one side as the hand painted imagery of eyes on one fan and hands on the other were visible to the crowd on either side. She closed them before coming to the end of the runway, the pose-point and again flipped them open and posed. As the collaborator, I was overwhelmed by her performance and had a tough time getting very good photos. But we posed for a couple afterwards.
After the show, the crowd has a chance to mingle with the artists and models to look closer at the work, ask questions and pose for photos. The fans were well received and many of the viewers asked to hear again the sound of the fans opening as well as looking closer to the details.
We are both very happy with the exhibition in Portland, however we aren’t finished. Stay tuned for the next step in this piece, to take the fans out in the real world and document what happens.