Laura Potter

All work © 1997-2015

Vignettes: Commission (museumaker)

One of three commissions produced during the museumaker Pas de deux project, in collaboration with Lin Cheung. This piece was made for Lucinda Evans.

Lucinda’s piece takes its material and technique from an ancient craft – scrimshaw – that she herself highlighted as of interest from her visit to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum. Lin and I wanted to tell a story, using some of the events and activities that Lucinda has experienced (she has done many surprising things in her life) and thus create a very personal object. Scrimshaw is perfect vehicle for illustration, and historically it was a way for sailors to pass the time, carving out intricate stories on long journeys. A biographical interview was used as the basis for six scrimshaw Vignettes: each based on an aspect of Lucinda’s past or present. The decorated bone discs can be worn one at a time as brooches, housed within a gold frame. The images from which these details are inside six printed books, given to Lucinda as containers for the pieces. The books have holes cut into their pages, so that the bone scrimshaw discs can be stored inside, and are re-covered to hide their subject matter. Whilst on show, only Lucinda can know the precise image from which her scrimshaw is taken. This is a way of retaining a sense of intimacy – of privacy – that is to some extent invaded through the act of interviewing. Blank discs are provided for Lucinda to scrim herself, in anticipation of future exploits.

The Museum has an identical gold frame plus six scrimshaw discs, but instead of imagery these discs reference the books from which Lucinda’s scrimshaw was taken. The Museum has six engraved ISBNs, instead of six illustrations, reflecting the ‘impersonal’ context within which this object is placed; the specific meanings and memories attached to the images and stories are to some extent redundant inside the museum, without a direct link to Lucinda. The Museum also has a book to store its pieces, and this is personal to the makers. It played an important part in our development as jewellers, and inspired us in a way that few other jewellery books ever have. The New Jewelry was a bible for students during the 1990s, and many of the pieces featured inside are part of the jewellery collection at mima.