Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tracy Michelle Coustas

photograph by Rebekah Robinson
see more of Tracy's work here

Latest comments Kyla 3 October 2009

I only had this brooch for a week and had a dramatic love hate relationship with it. It either looked fantastic or just ridiculous. I found it had such a presence that you either wore all black and just let it do it's thing, or tried to make it work with an existing outfit and suffer the consequences. I loved the bright boldness and smooth coolness, and was terrified of both the boldness as well as the fragility of it. I knew it could pop off and smash at any time. In the end I was just pleased to be able to pass it on without having broken it!

And a fun drawing from Ajay's journal


  1. Out here in the provinces - Gisborne that is - we are not often privy to the type of discourse that flows in houses of learning such as UNITEC, Pecha Kucha nights or where like minds gather in cafes. But, that has changed. A series of panel discussions concerning 'art issues' is being supported by Creative Tairawhiti and Friends of Tairawhiti Museum. As if a nice glass of wine after work on a Wednesday was not enough we now have a few weeks of tossing ideas about, usually with a mystery guest speaker.
    The first session, early September 2008 was a presentation of ideas regarding that age old topic that never particularly finds a conclusion and where panellists constantly contradict themselves - "Art and Craft: what's the difference" The drawcard for this evening was not so much the topic but the guest; Warwick Freeman. Not only was this opportunity timely for the broach project but he appeared hot on the heels of a retrospective exhibition of Peter Mackay's work. This contemporary vernacular is eking it's was into Tairawhiti's gallery scene thanks in no small way to Damian Skinner, who, by the way, is host and organiser of the Art Issues lectures. The 'Skinner' lectures we like to call them.
    Hoping I was going to get some insight about the wearer's role in this contemporary jewellery business - from the big man himself. No such luck. Along side a domestic style potter and a self taught artist whose ideas were more important to her than the craft of her work, Mr Freeman twisted and turned about the topic at hand. I scratched my head when he put up for the audience to view, the words: "An astute awareness of its actual calling" Gert Staal. Maybe that contributed to the reason he makes each piece or perhaps the 'calling' is contemporary jewellery in histoical context - I'm not sure, but one thing I did know, I'd read that line a few weeks earlier and knew it wasn't complete. Back home and scuffling through the pile of papers on the kitchen table I found it. About process..."That process, characteristic for the creation of every piece of jewellery for thousands of years was kept in balance by the astute awareness of its actual calling: as an accessory that ultimately expresses the aspirations and achievements of the wearer, not those of the designer."
    Ah, segue to the wearer and the brooch at hand.
    This wearer is the only one not to have met or have any kind of picture of the maker so there is no personal context some of the other wears may have with their September brooch.
    The brooch is loud, bright,shiny, thin and flat. It feels like it would shatter if dropped on concrete. It appears to be made of blobs of different coloured resin dropped on each subsequent colour from above. The red, yellow and brown is like a text is capital letters - it shouts at the viewer and reminds me of a sunny day in the 1970s. But I was twelve years then. Now I'm a bit older I attempt to be a bit more discreet when choosing jewellery, afterall if someone looks at your jewellery you want to make sure that is where the attention lies, not on some flaw on the body (ok that is another story) Mostly I've choosen to wear the brooch on black clothes - it stands out and stands alone, no other adornment is required. So, the brooch is loud, proud and 'out there' - but - here's the rub - I've worn it for days and days and only one person has commented. I expected strong opinion one way or another, but, nada. Except the one. "WOW, that is amazing", shouted a woman in a bookshop. Tap tap. "What is it made of, I love the colours, where did you get it" she continued for sometime. The woman is bold personality, she wanted this brooch.
    As for me, it is an in the moment brooch. What I found the most interesting is when you hold it up to the light you can see how the catch is made. It is one piece of wire that is zigzaged inside the 'resin' for strength and fastens magnificently. Not a chance of losing this one. The pin and catch is a continuous piece of wire;I think makers call it a fibula. Tracy's website shows broader use of 'resin' where the colour floats inside itself. (Photo to go here)

    Exploring the relationship between the maker, the work and the wearer this month's last word is drawn again from the "Skinner lectures" when Damian said, "The real meaning of jewellery is expressed when it is on the body"

    Ref. 'In celebration of the street: manifesto of the new jewellery'/Gert Staal, in, Metalsmith v.27, no.5

  2. yes. Gert Staal's article also stresses that jewellery these days is weak because it is insular and is more concerned with the dialogue between makers and the critics that write about it. Thankfully, the brooch club project seeks to include the wearer into this dialogue which I think is fundamental to jewellery practice. What is jewellery without the maker/wearer relationship?

    On top of this, we have the role of the viewer. I think wearing any jewellery, loud or quiet, is an act of courage because it is a public statement of identity; jewellery is not something kept safely at home or in a museum collection and I think this is what Kristin's project is partly about. The interesting thing here is that she is asking you all to wear brooches that you have not chosen yourselves. I wonder then, is this leap of faith she has asked you to make a way to stimulate conversations about the topic of jewellery, or should it focus on each brooch?

  3. Here is a story about the demise of Tracy Coustas' brooch.

    I opened the second box of the brooch exchange. Inside, once i had unwrapped the item from the tissue, was a bright, circular brooch. Concentric circles in red, yellow and orange. I noted the material, a brittle, smooth resin, that had the finding cast into the back. I thought to my self, i like the brightness - reminds me of tivaevae, and flowers, and of a Julian Dashper drum skin. I was weary of the material. I thought if it came off it would crack. I opened the finding. very springy, and not very secure~
    I put the brooch onto a heavy cotton jacket, so if it did spring open, the jacket would hold it on.

    Later that morning, i was walking down Ponsonby Road, towards Three Lamps, to get a coffee. As i approached [Dorothy's Sister], i admired the hot-pink chairs on the pavement. At the same moment, the brooch flew out in front of me. Somehow, it had catapulted itself into my line of sight and sailed towards the pink chairs. Here it landed on on the pavement cracking into half a dozen pieces. I stood on the footpath, the brooch in front of me. I looked at the pieces. I walked towards them and picked them up.

    I walked on, not proudly displaying my brooch on my lapel, but with a secret disaster in my pocket.

    Finn Ferrier

  4. That is certainly a little drama. The vision of Finn scrambling amongst coffee drinkers looking for the brooch pieces on the footpath is entertaining. Only 2 wearers for this brooch. I understand that nervous feeling about the perceived brittleness of the brooch and potential (now realised) disaster. It is interesting that I thought the catch/finding was robust, so I've learnt something here. It appears if the catch is bendy it will release from it's host.

    Could it be that the brooches are getting a good thrashing from the wearers. Are we wearing them more often than is usual? What is usual? I know if I'm fond of a brooch I'll wear it often or keep it permanently on a jacket or coat. Did I wear it out before sending it on to Finn? Is it possible to wear out a brooch? Do jewellers make a brooch to be afixed to clothing for say 40 times or a lifetime?

    This unseen part of a brooch is clearly vital to the success of the object and I'm finding myself looking at any brooch with a different eye already - sort of like checking the hem and seams a frock, the mark of a garment's quality. I know a bit about sewing but have no real idea of what a good catch/clip/finding should look or feel like. A bit bendy but not too bendy. Time will tell.

  5. Lollipop, Lollipop, Oh lolli-lollipop!!!!

  6. This one is so much like candy, i want to dip my finger in it and lick it!
    it was much heavier to wear than I expected, so was also a bit nervous based on previous experiences, but i'm happy to report that the brooch is still in one piece.
    This one didn't evoke the need in viewers to touch it, maybe because it's so bright and shiney that the visual stimulation overwhelmed the desire to touch.
    I know I felt brighter wearing it, and in a way it was a bit of a confidence booster.

  7. Well, following on from my last blog about Lillian's bones brooch... I had dressed around her brooch in a concerted effort to find some positive things to like about it, and feel pretty and together...

    And my outfit did not go with my new one! I kind of mitigated the clash (in my mind at least ) by pinning it on top of the new satiny red bag it has aquired along the way, separating the colours from my outfit a bit more and looking back, perhaps I felt it made it obvious to others that I hadn't intended to dress this way! Which definitely says a lot about my personality.

    The only other time I wore this brooch I wore it on the front left shoulder of a red singlet on a day that I was very angry (justifiably, trust me) with my boyfriend. I even took a photo of myself looking decidedly unpleased. I am a bit of a dick sometimes, aren't I?!

    I like the feel and look, and the new catch is secure, and I enjoy the idea of it in it's satin bag on my windowsill, but it's not something I'd choose for myself, especially because it's scarily fragile and I am generally quite rough and tumble. It's also necessary to position it carefully because it's so big and colourful, and can easily unbalance an outfit if not considered from the outset. But maybe that's good sometimes.


  8. Ths sunshine and the lollipop likeness of this brooch made it fun and pleasant to wear.

    I think it's the kind of brooch that can make people smile and feel good.

    This brooch scared me a bit. It's hard and brittle and that made me constantly weary that should it fall it would shatter into a thousand peices. It's funny how this "wearing" feedback outways how aesthetically pleasing the brooch is.

    Perhaps for someone small like me, I would have done fine with the same brooch, but size small?

    Another thought I had is that little discs in the same colours on earrings, worn as a set would be quite specacular!

    Wonderful colours and a fantastic idea.

  9. It took me a while to remember to wear it, having received it late anyway! The 'lollipop' got a couple of outings to the supermarket but I was surprised that it did not get much attention. I guess every one is too focussed on getting their shopping sorted. Did feel comfortable in the sweetie section!!
    A couple of friends had raised eye-brow reactions: what's that?? It is definitely not my usual adornment style, being in the very 'look at me' genre.
    - Pauline

  10. I only had this brooch for a week and had a dramatic love hate relationship with it. It either looked fantastic or just ridiculous. I found it had such a presence that you either wore all black and just let it do it's thing, or tried to make it work with an existing outfit and suffer the consequences. I loved the bright boldness and smooth coolness, and was terrified of both the boldness as well as the fragility of it. I knew it could pop off and smash at any time. In the end I was just pleased to be able to pass it on without having broken it!