My Significant Thing – Metrosideros excelsa

Taking thDorothy de Lautour,   Dominion Rd Herbaria: Metrosideros excelsa, Pohutukawa, 2010e role of a 19th Century botanist, I have collected and catalogued the artificial plants found along Dominion Rd.  Using a variety of findings to create each brooch, this series, Metrosideros excelsa, Pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas Tree , is displayed in an herbarium style but are meant as a parody of these expeditions to create a commentary on the influences of post-colonialism, consumerism, economic and cultural global exchange, specifically here in Auckland.  Herbaria collections were often displayed in drawers and cabinets, so I have chosen to display the specimens in a jewellery cabinet as a reference to these ‘specimen’ now being wearable items.

From as early as the 16th Century, the practice and production of science depended largely on observational evidence.  Firstly tied in with medicine the study of the plant world began to branch out into its own scientific area which we now refer to as Botany.  A huge emphasis was placed on meticulous rendering of plants, not only the entire form but also complete with details of the roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits.

It was also around this time that Herbaria, which are the collections of preserved plants, became increasingly popular.  After 1700, compiling herbaria was considered to be a useful and educational past time where one went out to “Botanise”, exploring and recording one’s natural surroundings.   Toward the end of the 17th Century naturalists wanted to travel abroad to collect and document more exotic flora and fauna, one of the most notable being Sir Joseph Banks, (1743 – 1820).  Banks was a pioneer of modern plant hunting paying his own way onto the Endeavour on its voyage 1768 – 1771.   These early botanical explorers made many discoveries which they painstakingly preserved and catalogued.  Banks is credited with introducing over 7,000 new species into Britain, his herbarium attained national importance and is held at the British Museum of Natural History.  Large collections of plants were taken and introduced to England, observatories an almost obligatory feature of the larger Victorian garden.

It was in this context that I began ‘collecting’ along Dominion Rd, examining the influences that have affected the popularity and abundance of these cheap, often brightly coloured artificial flowers.  Globalisation has given us, the consumer, a far greater choice of cheap goods (particularly from around the Asia-Pacific Region) and here on Dominion Rd the ‘$2, $3 and more’ Shop illustrated this consumerism well.  Chinese lanterns, fake flowers and pacific lei, adorning the shop frontages, all made from cheap massed produced items, the majority of which coming from China.  Other cultural influences come from our closer Pacific neighbours, where the wearing of flowers as head decorations are a part of everyday clothing and a quintessential decorative accessory.

These brooches have been created from cheap mass produced items that are readily available, they have been deconstructed and made into something uniquely handmade, while at the same time giving me an opportunity to experiment with a number of joining techniques useful to my jewellery practice.  The influences of post-modernist contemporary artists Alberto Baraya, Areta Wilkinson, Lisa Walker and Judy Darragh, as well as my own interest in Botanical drawing, have all contributed to the personal relevance of my ‘Significant thing’.

Author: Dorothy de Lautour

Dorothy graduated with a degree in Design and Visual Arts (Contemporary Craft - Jewellery) at Unitec in Auckland, New Zealand. She was selected as an exhibitor for Objectspace's "Best in Show - 2012" and has exhibited in Wellington for NZ Academy of Fine Arts and in Auckland at Lopdell House.

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