In Conversation: Karin Jones
“The Golden Section” by Karin Jones features geometric arrangements made from human hair extensions. Borrowing from traditional wig making methods, Jones knotted the strands of hair onto mesh substrates, resulting in intricately arranged hair compositions. Through this materially inventive series, Jones has continued her longstanding exploration of identity and race through fine craft.
Read on to learn about the insights Jones has gained through her practice and through creating these works.
Has your relationship with hair changed through incorporating it as a material into your practice? Has this body of work changed your own associations with blonde hair?KJ
I think that because I have studied it for so long, both in an academic and a material way, I feel I have a deeper understanding of it. On the most basic level, I feel very aware when I look at someone, what processes they have done to their hair, whether it’s dyed, has extensions added, etc. But I also feel more attuned to the reasons people make these decisions, even if they may not even be that aware of them themselves.
How has your background as a jewellery maker and designer prepared you to be a gallery artist? Do you see the two as interchangeable? Have you always been both?KJ
I do feel that they are very similar, if not interchangeable. In the end, what I love most is sitting quietly and working on intricate craft processes, and both forms offer me this. But with being a gallery artist there is a much deeper level of enjoyment in the fact that it’s an opening to conversations about what I’m thinking and feeling, which I rarely had when I was doing more traditional jewellery. Having a good studio visit with someone is like letting them into your head to walk around and tell you what they see, which brings about amazing connections with people. Career-wise, I do feel that having had a career as a jeweller has helped me with things like professional communications, getting the word out about my work, making sure my work is well documented and organized, etc.
Some of your recent works, such as your untitled hair necklace in this show, have been influenced by Victorian hair jewellery. Are there also contemporary jewellery trends or makers who inspire your practice?KJ
I definitely follow contemporary jewellery, so I’m undoubtedly influenced by it, but it’s hard to say how much. I have an uneasy relationship with it, as I can never really figure out where I fit within it. Although there is lots of jewellery that is art to wear, I find that putting my works on someone else’s body (or even my own) complicates it in a way that makes me feel I have less control. When I hang something on a gallery wall, I have confidence that most people are coming in to engage with ideas. Whereas when someone wears it, it becomes part of their self-expression, and I feel I have less interest in participating in that, since I did that for so long.
The Golden Section has elicited joyful responses from gallery visitors, who have found the works whimsical and even humorous. How do you feel about these kinds of responses in the context of serious topics such as white supremacy?KJ
I love that people have seen humour in the work. My previous series was about slavery, so it was very serious and painful to work on. With this work, I wanted to take a bit more of a light-hearted approach to thinking about race. I was reading a lot about minimalism when I made these, and one of the subtexts was to take something that is taken really seriously by the art world, and make fun of it by using a less respected material, considered frivolous and feminine. And really, what is more absurd than thinking people of one ethnicity are superior to others? Even with all the harm that has been done by white supremacy, I hope there will always be space to laugh at the stupidity of it all.
What is next for you? Any exciting upcoming projects you’d like to share about?KJ
I actually have ideas for a couple of jewellery collections to work on when I have time. One will be in the vein of the hair necklace that was in this show, using cast bronze pieces and clear tubing, and maybe hair as well. The other will be using rusted steel to create intricate tiaras and necklaces inspired by historical jewellery. This will be a follow-up to my series body of work, and will represent an evolution from commenting directly on slavery, to referencing its taint on the objects of wealth and adornment that came out of that time.
Karin Jones’ “The Golden Section” was exhibited at BAF from January 13 to March 19.