Thinking Big with Julia Turner
“I see jewellery everywhere,” said Julia Turner in her vibrant studio in San Francisco’s Mission district. “The Golden Gate Bridge is so enormous but it’s flexible -- it’s put together like jewellery. Like a necklace for the bay."
This boldly inclusive view of jewellery’s potential brings an excitement to her work that stands out among the most creative contemporary jewellers and designers. It’s brought wide-ranging international recognition and, today, the opportunity to experiment beyond the boundaries of a traditional jewellery studio. For example: she recently collaborated with a ceramics designer on a series of seven wind bells.
“I'd never made a musical instrument before,” she said. “The clapper is a jointed mechanism that’s exactly like jewellery, but on a different scale and with a different function. It was exciting."
Her work space reflects this perspective: the bright, open studio is housed in an industrial loft as part of the Heath Collective, a “family of makers” who share a building with the legendary California ceramics producer. The rich history and culture of the Mission -- plus its giant warehouse-style buildings and tiny cafes -- create a sense of big things happening all around.
“I find a lot of inspiration from my urban surroundings,” she said. This means “tons of photos of sidewalk cracks” and paint splashes -- plus a playful treasure table in the studio where found objects and inspiring materials reside. For example, a piece of ebony rests next to a broken pie-wedge of record vinyl, raising all sorts of comparisons and questions. It’s about material exploration, she said, and about surprises.
These notions find their way to the heart of her work, often as pairs of ideas that Julia describes as good complementary partners rather than contradictions or opposites. This might mean a practical use of abrasion and layering; or it might mean exploring ideas of tension and harmony, of what we can and can’t control, or “ideas of how we think things should be versus how they are.”
Julia’s approach to re-used or found objects brings a respect for their history with a keen eye toward their potential to evolve as part of her work. She explains: “when material arrives having already had a life, there’s a double challenge. . . I focus on interacting with it in a thoughtful way instead of just letting the history do all the work.”
No matter what the material, “a lot of it is really about responding, about discovering the style while I’m working,” she said. “A lot of it comes right out of the material.”
It’s an approach that makes Julia’s work right at home in Debrasic, where it sits beside work from southern hemisphere artists. Lauren explains:
Julia's work has a very clear and precise voice. The way she investigates and uses materials creates a beautiful point of difference next to the NZ-influenced jewellery. It showcases wonderfully how our surroundings shape how we work and what we work with. I believe we artists here in New Zealand are often heavily influenced by our natural surroundings and materials, whilst when Julia works with some natural materials, she looks at them quite differently to us as a whole. Julia's work has quite an industrial feel to it in comparison. I love how they sit side by side, both celebrating their differences. I’m in awe of how she creates volume in her jewellery yet it's so light to wear: that is part of her cleverness as an artist.
Julia and Lauren first met years ago in Holland at a workshop led by Ruudt Peters. Today, they share an approach to jewellery that’s grounded in independence and elevated by discovery, risk and the energy of big surprises.