Bella Dower first picked up a jeweller's saw in August 2017. We were utterly amazed, mouths agape when we found out. Bella’s work shows maturity in every aspect; it shows excellent concept design and insight as well as the mastery of a skillset that doesn’t come overnight. Or so we thought. Bella won the Arts Tasmania FIND Contemporary Jewellery Collective Bursary in December last year and we’re excited to announce that she will be exhibiting her work at FIND throughout March and April this year.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! I am Bella Dower, a 23 year old emerging artist-designer based in Hobart, Tasmania. I’m interested in the intersection between art, design, contemporary jewellery, and fashion. I like reading, thinking, and eating (all the big ones!).
How long have you been making jewellery for?
I first picked up a jeweller's saw in August 2017. I’m still reeling from all those snapped saw blades.
Describe your practice in 3 words.
Concept driven design!
What is it that sparked your interest in contemporary jewellery?
I’ve always felt incredibly drawn to the tactile. I studied Visual Communications at The University of Tasmania and found myself constantly migrating to publications and projects with an interactive element – objects that needed to be held. Memory and the body are intrinsic to my practice, and I slowly gravitated towards objects that are actually on the body instead of in the periphery. It’s a really roundabout way to find contemporary jewellery as an artistic medium; but the lives of objects close to us, objects which physically detail the wear of experiences, when we reflect on that and place it on the body, it’s a moment to pause on our relationship with objects worn and held.
What inspires you to make?
I read a wonderful essay by Peter Stallybrass called ‘Marx’s Coat’, and it described the philosopher’s relationship with his clothing and place in society. It talked about the memory of a body, the ‘ghosts’, held in the fabric of clothing, like threadbare elbows and sprung knees. I keep thinking about materials worn down by bodies. Very much the presence and absence of our self in what’s around us.
What is the most frustrating and most rewarding thing about making jewellery?
I think the theme of ‘perfection’ and symmetry in traditional jewellery. I find imperfection and asymmetry exhilarating, so I bare my file marks and one-off pieces trusting a handful of people will appreciate that my work isn’t highly polished and refined.
What you're favourite material to work with?
I love using wax. It’s so malleable that it sort of feels like three dimensional drawing.
What’s your favourite jeweller's tool?
I’m waiting for it to arrive, but I have a feeling the Saeshin Micromotor I was fortunate enough to buy through the Arts TAS FIND Collective Bursary! Very exciting.
Is there a skill or technique you'd like to learn or develop?
As a functional maker I usually ask questions and figure it out as I go along, so there’s always a technique I’m wondering about in the back of my mind. At the moment I’ve been thinking a lot about chainmail, so I’m slowly wondering about whether I have the patience to solder quite that many jump-rings.
Can you tell us about the piece you're most proud of? Why?
From my year-long Honours project in 2018, Visible Absence, it is the stippled image of a woman’s torso, neck, and head engraved in matte black anodised aluminium. It made me go “Ah! THIS I want to make more of.” I’ll be showing this series as part of the emerging jeweller’s program I’m lucky enough to be a part of!