Contemporary jeweller Becky Bliss wasn’t interested in dolls as a child. She would much rather have played with her neighbour’s Meccano set, but she wasn’t allowed. "Meccano was always targeted to boys. The box would say, 'engineering for boys' or 'science for boys', never for girls," she says.
Now Bliss, who completed a Bachelor of Applied Arts at Whitireia Community Polytechnic in 2010 and was part of the Handshake project from 2011–2013, finally has her own Meccano set. But she had to make it herself.
Last year, Bliss and 11 other former Handshake Project artists were invited to participate in a group exhibition at CODA Museum in the Netherlands. For Handshake5: In Dialogue, the artists chose works from the Museum’s permanent collection to engage with. Bliss chose the Ado Collection of modernist wooden children’s toys from the 1920s to the 1950s. While researching children’s toys of the period, Bliss became interested in their packaging and how it was so deeply gendered. In response, Bliss fabricated her own Meccano-style set of steel components, and used the pieces to create pendants that form a family of seven pieces. Titled Fair Play the collection plays with gender stereotypes – for example, the boy is pink and the girl is blue. The title is also a nod to equal opportunities and pay equity (fair pay).
Three pieces from Fair Play were chosen for Schmuck, "the" international event for contemporary jewellery, which was supposed to be in Germany in March this year. This was to be Becky's fourth time at the International Trade Fair in Munich (which includes Schmuck). But unfortunately, due to the global pandemic, Schmuck was cancelled this year.