The beauty, elegance, and symbolism of the animal world have been crafted into detailed and distinctive jewellery and sculptural work on display at the George Fry Gallery of the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design (NBCCD).
Teena Dickerson, Shane Perley-Dutcher and Claude Roussel are all graduates of the Jewellery / Metal Arts Program, and have established their own successful studios across the Canada. The show, Animal Muse, is an invitational alumni exhibition. The work is inspired by animals, and is created out of materials such as gold, silver, platinum, copper, stones and wood.
“The work of all three artists is engaged with the animal world,” said Brigitte Clavette, Studio Head of Jewellery/ Metal Arts at the NBCCD. “Shane approaches it in a symbolic way, using motifs such as the eagle and the fiddlehead, cut out and beautifully represented. Teena uses gargoyles, dragons and other creatures, and they’re really full and highly detailed. With Claude’s work, it’s more about the bare bones, the structure, and the skeletons. We have the bones, we have the full-fleshed mythological, and in some cases real animals, and then we have the symbolic value that Shane brings, so I think in that respect it’s a perfect show.”
Dickerson, 43, of St. Stephen, New Brunswick attended the NBCCD after high school. She graduated from the College in 1995, and opened her first studio in St. Andrews, NB. In 2013, Dickerson moved to Red Deer, Alberta where she has a studio and is working on her Master’s Degree in Education at the University of Calgary. Her work includes mythical creatures and animals found in nature.
“I think artists have been working through animals for a long time because they translate through time and through culture,” said Dickerson. “If I use animals or birds, like the image of an owl, there’s an immediate response from so many people because they have an immediate understanding of the owl, so I think it’s a language that translates through culture, through time, and through space for me.”
Shane Perley-Dutcher is a Wolastokew (Maliseet) mixed media artist from the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick who created his own business, Aduksis Jewellery Designs (AJD), after graduating from the NBCCD in 2001. He uses natural traditional materials such as birch and cedar, and non-traditional materials such as copper, silver, gold and platinum to create jewellery and one-of-a-kind sculptural pieces.
“As an artist I am continuously designing jewellery in my head and on paper. I try to keep up with existing trends in the fashion world, but when it comes down to designing the piece I just try to see the piece completed in my head before I even touch the pencil to paper,” Perley-Dutcher writes on the AJD website. “If I’m lucky, and sometimes I am, new ideas present themselves from previously completed renderings, so I always try to keep them.”
Claude Roussel, 51, of Jacquet River, NB has been hand crafting jewellery since he graduated from the NBCCD in 1989. He is now living in Prospect, Nova Scotia after teaching metal arts and jewellery for 13 years at the Nunavut Arctic College in Iqualuit and Rankin Inlet. Roussel creates jewellery that is technically challenging, extremely detailed, and inspired by plant and animal life. A variety of his sculptural pieces, some of which are anatomically correct animal skulls and skeletons, form part of the exhibition.
“I’ve always loved skulls and I can’t really tell you why. I’ve always loved the structure and carving them, there’s just a nice fluidity to the curves, how they twist and how they meet,” Roussel said. “In Western cultures you see bones and skulls, and that means death, but not in all cultures. When I’m working I’m thinking of the people who wear my pieces, and that they are going to absorb strengths from the work and be more confident and powerful, so there’s this nice connection with each piece.”
The artists use a lost wax technique where they carve their artwork out of wax and cast them in silver and other metals. They learned this technique at the College.
In the first year of study students at the NBCCD take Foundation Visual Arts (FVA), which allows them to create and explore jewellery and metal arts, ceramics, fashion design, graphic design, digital media, photography and textile design. Then they choose an area of specialty.
This broad approach can produce surprising results. Dickerson thought she would become a potter. But during her FVA year she was strongly attracted to another medium entirely.
“I hadn’t considered jewellery, but as soon as I touched metal I knew that I didn’t want to leave; I love the tools, I love the medium, and I love the technique. It’s a really great balance between science and art because it’s really technical and you become part of this really great tradition of artisans and goldsmiths and silversmiths, and then on the other side you get to be completely artistic, and express your own truth. I love it.”
Roussel heard about the College from a friend who encouraged him to apply. It was a life-altering decision. He knew he didn’t want to attend university, join the army or make a conventional choice of careers. Roussel had always loved to sketch and was drawn to artistic projects. Attending the college was a perfect match for him.
“I had skills that really applied well to jewellery, I was mechanically inclined, I love to carve, I understood materials, I was a pretty good drawer, and I had a good sense of design so jewellery really fit with me,” said Roussel. “You have to be able to manipulate the metal, and all those things just fell in place, and I just never looked back. It was like that the whole three years at the college, I loved every year that I was here.”
Dickerson found a community at the NBCCD where she could explore mediums and connect with other artists. The College helped her find a lifelong path in education and art.
“It was everything, especially when you grow up in an isolated population in rural New Brunswick. I felt that I was an artist at a really young age and I felt isolated, and then you come to this school and suddenly you are among your people, it’s like finding your tribe, and it really was formative for me.”
The Animal Muse Exhibition runs from March 17 to April 4, 2016, Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the George Fry Gallery of the NBCCD, 457 Queen Street, Fredericton.