Akvilė Su, recent GSA graduate and owner/designer at Objectified Jewellery, creates unisex minimalist pieces that work in unexpected ways to challenge stereotypes and ask questions about gender, sexuality, jewellery and the body. Her sculptural works invite an unusual degree of corporeal interaction, combining ornamentation with function while also questioning the very nature of functionality in both bodily and artistic terms. Surrounded by the concrete mass of the Parliament building in Edinburgh, we took a moment out of a product shoot to speak about the connections between jewellery, identity and society; and how innovation in craftsmanship and design can lead to positive personal or social change.
What attracted you to jewellery design?
Jewellery is just such an interesting subject: fine art, sculpture and fashion combined. I just love the idea of making wearable art; the concept has such a rich history throughout all cultures and eras. The objects or art that you wear can have such varied meanings and represent so many different things. One small handmade object can represent all of a person's love, or grief.
Can you explain the meaning behind your brand name, Objectified?
On the one hand it explains very simply what I do, which is make objects. Yet there is also a broader conceptual meaning; it represents ideas that are important to me and the social issues my work deals with.
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What inspires you?
Everything around me is an inspiration! I tend to gather material anywhere I go. I pay a lot of attention to the details of everyday things, be it their colour, shape, or materials. I also have a great love of photography and painting.
Would you say your main goal is to undermine any fixed notion of the meaning and purpose of jewellery and the body?
I would say that's a fair summation of a few particular pieces. They were made as part of my graduate collection with the specific purpose of being inherently experimental in nature. The idea behind this particular collection was to make pieces that held wearers in somewhat restrictive positions, or set their bodies into poses. In doing this I was able to examine the notion of jewellery as an item that complements, interacts with, and gives meaning to the body it adorns; to explore the representational relationships between jewellery and the body; and push on perhaps to the idea of the body as a prop for a specific kind of art form.
How can jewellery aid in challenging bodily preconceptions/ gender norms?
Jewellery is one of the most gendered of everyday items, and that’s why it's so important to challenge those gender norms through what we create and wear. One day I would love to make a beautiful piece of jewellery as timeless and gender neutral as a classic pair of Dr Martens.
“Jewellery is just such an interesting subject: fine art, sculpture and fashion combined.”
Why did you make your line unisex?
I guess I just don’t believe in gender itself, or the certain roles society makes us conform to. Unisex makes it free and open for everyone; everyone's included!
Certain pieces in your collection evoke a complex narrative of questioning sexuality. Can you elaborate on this?
My inspiration came from sexualisation of the female body in media and advertising, and the whole collection was based on questioning sexuality and gender. I was aiming to create this jewellery with a weird, almost ridiculous sense of functionality which sets you into specific, sometimes sexual positions. At the same time I was trying to make most of the pieces wearable and high-fashion, so if you did not know the concept behind it you could still appreciate a minimalist aesthetic.
Your work deals with gaze and how to confront objectification; does this come from a personal level or more general social commentary, or both?
A bit of both. I happened to work as a fashion model, so at first it made me question things on a personal level. It naturally grew into an interest in social issues on a wider scale. I thought that if I feel like this, or do not agree with certain views, there must be someone else who also has those questions. Being an artist helped me to express those thoughts and question things.
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Which part of the designing and making process holds most meaning/ interest for you?
Probably the making of the final piece. It can be a tough task to translate the idea or notion in your head to the final stage of an actualized object. It is a challenge, but also incredibly rewarding when you succeed (if you succeed!). It verges on the magical when you make something exactly as you imagined it.
Ideally, what does the future hold for you and your brand?
I wish to stay true to my aesthetic vision, and to keep to a tradition of high quality, handmade and unique pieces. Moving forward I would like to help erase the many gender stereotypes related to both who wears jewellery and how they wear it. I also aim to work with recycled metals and create a sustainable business model.
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