Lisa Walker is a kiwi jeweller, now living in Germany. In this curated interview, she discusses the honesty of goldsmithing, the secret of glue, and the beauty of oddness.
What is your relationship to craft?
I love craft, I love art. Both influence my pieces and it’s not important that I categorize whether my work belongs to one or the other.
How have you developed your career?
I had two years study in Dunedin at the Otago Polytech Art School, then six years at the Akadamie der Bildenden Künste in Munich. Both these cities and schools were great influencers of my work, through my student friends and the institutions and teachers. In Dunedin, we met Kobi Bosshard and Georg Beer’s philosophy of the honesty of goldsmithing, respect for the tools, processes, materials, and history. In Munich, Otto Künzli encouraged us to search for our art, find our path. He knew many jewellers internationally and opened up the world of jewellery.
What materials are integral in your work?
About 20 years ago, glue was one of the first new materials I worked with. It's pretty much a goldsmith’s cheat material, you’re not really meant to use it, and if you do then very secretly. I had to "unlearn" everything I'd learnt in my jewellery training (which was quite formal, when we needed silver we had to melt our own granules and make sheet or wire, lots of forging, a respect for metal and it's working processes). I made pieces just out of glue, bashing and squeezing it before it dried, scraping the drips off my table. Today, I use a giant range of materials like plastic, wood, fabric, stone, as well as occasional typical goldsmithing metals.
What themes do you pursue?
I like this balance of an accepted notion of beauty, and oddness (or something different), it's not easy to find. I consciously worked with "influence", purposely using elements from other people's work in my own. I work with many many themes - art, craft, fashion, politics, life, culture. These issues seep into my work. Everything is food for art.
Your work gets people talking. Are you co-opting the people who wear your jewellery to in some way, become spokespeople for the ideas you’re exploring?
No, I’m not. My job is done once the piece is made and the display of it in the gallery or museum is complete. What happens next has nothing to do with me anymore. The choices a wearer will make once they wear it, which clothing, which event, the interpretation they have of the piece, the reasons they bought it, are their own stories. I enjoy having contact with these people and learning about the new lives of my pieces.
With two jewellers under one roof how do you successfully manage your career and family life?
We share childcare, often go out separately, travel separately. Karl cooks, I tidy and do the washing, Karl walks the dog, I manage our daughter's busy life (our son is older), Karl coaches and organises football stuff, and so on. Somehow we manage it all with moments of chaos and many of wonder.
We noticed that you don’t really make rings, why is that?
Karl's territory! Well, that’s one reason! I’ve always enjoyed the wider world of brooches and neck pieces. They suit my interest in a wide use of different materials and I can be more flexible at times regarding size and durability.
Why do you think you continue to do what you do?
Mostly because my work keeps me interested and there’s still a few lifetimes of discoveries to be made, that’s top of the list. It also makes my living. My profession has many aspects to it, like making books, photography, writing, travel, teaching workshops and meeting younger students/artists, friendships with other artists, gallerists, collectors. I like the lifestyle. Making pieces in my workshop, this is where everything makes sense.
Excerpts taken from An Unreliable Guide to Jewellery by Lisa Walker, published by RMIT Design Hub Gallery, edited by Kate Rhodes and Nella Themelios, Melbourne 2019. Also excerpts from the Journal of Modern Craft, volume 9, 2016 – issue 3