Veni, Vici – Concept of the Uncanny
Six Keeping Schtum Gags, Three Grace Whips, One Tall Tony Pimp Stick and One Man Made Disk Neckpiece: this is Veni, Vici, the final collection of Olivia Creber, Jewellery and Silversmithing graduate from the Edinburgh College of Art.
This men’s jewellery collection caused more than a stir when was presented with Shauni Douglas’ menswear, on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week in May 2013.
It is unusual jewellery. Having dropped the Vidi – I saw – the name of the collection Veni, Vici, refers to what Julius Caesar may have said following his conquest of Britain in 54 BC: Veni, Vidi, Vici – I came, I saw, I conquered.
And so did Olivia, not only did she, with Shauni, win the Award for Best Menswear at Graduate Fashion Week 2013, but Olivia was invited by The Royal College of Art to do an MA in Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery.
Olivia, what led you to study Jewellery Design?
I grew up in London urban environment but also in the English countryside, surrounded by a very productive, hands on, family. My grandfather particularly influenced my work ethic. I would watch him working in his dusty, well used and sorely loved workshop for hours on hands. I remember him taking me along to hardware shops; these places fascinated me.
It was a teacher suggestion during my foundation year at City & Guilds of London Art School, which led me to considered Jewellery and Silversmithing at Edinburgh College of Art. I had absolutely no experience working with metal at that point; it was the start of a very interesting journey.
How would you describe the jewellery of Veni, Vici?
My collection aims to engage, intrigue, entertain and challenge the viewer. With aggressive, sexual connotations, it explores a dark part of the soul. Themes, as unsettling but less obvious such as strength, control, light and mortality are also evoked. The organic materials I casted in resins hint to them but also bring a playful element to my work. My collection really means to both shock and be playful.
I want the beauty and elegance of my pieces to inspire and intrigue. This is important to me as an artist. I feel my art is incomplete without an emotional response.
You have explained your motivation but what inspires you creatively?
I am a bit of a hoarder, a scavenger! Over the years I have built an extensive collection of bizarre items. For example, I collect hair, bones, animal hides, teeth and eggs. I aspire to show the beauty of unusual, sometimes macabre objects.
I have, myself, a love/hate relationship with natural material but most importantly I believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
My starting point is usually personal, something that talks to me. By using it to challenge people’s opinions I aim to create something of a higher calibre. Something that talks to many.
What types of techniques do you use?
This eleven piece collection involves a massive variety of process and techniques. Put simply, my collection consists of organic matter and hand cast resin. The resin is poured in a mould and hardens into a transparent solid. Using pigments, transparent and opaque colours, I can transform and lift the material.
Can you tell us more about the individual pieces?
For the Man Made Fossil neckpiece I took moulds of rocks found on the beaches. I stuffed the silicone moulds with natural materials: human hair, beaver jaw, porcupine quills, antler, bone, deer teeth, feathers, butterflies, ostrich egg shell and stag beetles. Then I sliced these man-made rocks into cross section disks, discovering how the resins had reacted with the material inside the moulds only at that point.
Whips are violent and brutal. I wanted to soften them, so I used 30 inches long horse hair in carefully selected colours. For the handle I created 30cm long resin shafts, all different. The hair was set into the handle as the resin was taking. After removing the piece from the mould, I polished them with wet sanding paper until I got a silky soft finish.
For my own twisted interpretation of a gag, the Keeping Schtum gag, I took inspiration from the bit gag. It consists of a bar held across the mouth.
Open mouths put me off, so my design rest on top of the mouth with the bit held flush against the lips. Hanging from the bit I attached grey, white and brown horsehair styled with crimpers, wavers, hot rollers and a lot of hair spray! In addition to keep the wearer silent these gags create masks covering part of the face, something to hide behind.
I was unable to predict how any of these pieces would come out. None can be recreated the same. Each piece is completely original; the collection was a journey with an unknown destination.
Who do you design for?
I create wearable art. I don’t design with a person in mind, I don’t set out to produce commercial products; it’s the process of making which excites me. I allow people to get a glimpse into my mind. I want to cause a reaction, positive or negative, I just want to encourage people to think about and look twice at something.
What have you learned through the process of designing this collection?
My university experience showed me just how hard you can push yourself when you really want something. No matter what barriers you come across when you create, perseverance and determination will help you solve problems to your advantage. Playing around with test pieces is so enjoyable.
I wanted to do this to the best of my ability; I pushed myself almost to the brink of exhaustion. It seems to have paid off; it is so rewarding!
What advice would you give to students following in your footsteps?
For your final collection I would advise choosing a strong theme from which things can evolve. Don’t be too set on what you want to create. Issues and difficulties always arise so having an open mind is very helpful.
Art school is all about letting go and making the most of the experience.