Serena Holm interview
We look closely at the tiny stories created by Gothenburg-based jewellery artist Serena Holm.
i. Three Little Mice
Silver, plexi, pink coral, mouse skulls
4.5 x 3 x 1 cm
ii. Elephas Indicus
Silver, bone, paper, plastic, diamond
8 x 7.5 x 1 cm
iii. Visa solen ditt ansikte
Silver, moose horn, passport, plastic
10 x 4 x 0.5 cm
Silver, gold, iron, copper, paper, plastic, mirror, nails, enamel, diamond, sapphire, labradorite, coral
5 x 8.5 x 1.5 cm
All photos © Serena Holm 2012
Where did you grow up, and where do you live now? Have these places informed your artwork?
I grew up in the south of Italy, in Naples and Sorrento. My father was from Calabria, in the south of Italy. My mother is from Jamtland, in the north of Sweden.
When I was 19 I moved to Bologna, in the north of Italy, to study art history. In 2004 I came to Gothenburg, Sweden to study jewellery art, and I am still living here.
I definitely believe my life in two such different cultures and environments has affected
my work. My work turns easily to the baroque and
opulent, and I can hardly stop myself from adding more details. Most often my work is figurative. I
am sure these qualities are derived from the Italian aesthetic.
"My work turns easily to the baroque and opulent, and I can hardly stop myself from adding more details."
What led you to jewellery making?
I think my hands and my life led me to jewellery making.
I have always worked with my hands and creativity, trying many different techniques and materials, and metals turned out to be the right ones for me. For a while I was unsure if I wanted to study iron sculpture or jewellery making. I chose the second one because I can work hours and hours without interruption, not getting tired in the body. I don’t need huge spaces and I can easily move and work in different places. And finally, jewellery is the ultimate democratic art space to me. When on a wearer, jewels are a movable exhibition easily available to a wide public. Art becomes part of everyday life.
What ideas recur in your work?
Ideas about human life and relationships to others, the environment and society as a whole.
Your jewellery assembles all sorts of materials – trinkets, little dolls, bones, clock parts, coral, porcelain, toys – alongside diamonds, crystals, precious stones and metals. Why do you choose to combine these things?
I choose different materials and media for their aesthetic, practical and symbolic values, in order to achieve a certain expression.
Most often I use a metal base to work on. The malleability and long persistence in time and atmosphere of precious metals and natural stones appeals to me. Their beauty is captivating.
"Jewels are gifts of love… becoming bearers of stories upon stories each time they change owner."
I work very long on each piece of jewellery, and I wish for them to last long when they are finished. Also, because jewels are gifts of love – both when a customer buys them for themselves or to give them away – the pieces then incorporate new values, becoming bearers of stories upon stories each time they change owner.
Have you always been a keen collector? What is your process for gathering materials and assembling them into art pieces?
Yes, more or less all my life. I collect objects in which I can see potential elements of an art work. It can be problematic as almost everything can be used in some way!
Sometimes an object inspires to a story, then I assemble elements to it that can support the theme. Other times, I have a story and look for objects which can embody it.
During the assembling process I then try different options and compositions, until I find the most interesting to me. Almost all the sketching process takes place with the objects themselves; I do not draw on paper much.
"To me this intimate sphere required to get into the piece, to be able to see all the details, is loaded with the excitement of a discovery."
Do you think that working on a small, delicate scale affects the way your work is interpreted or experienced?
Yes, I think the scale affects them. Not always positively for everybody. Some works would have been more easily understandable if they had been huge sculptures. Sometimes the scale is so tiny that they almost need magnification. To me this intimate sphere required to get into the piece, to be able to see all the details, is loaded with the excitement of a discovery. This doesn’t mean that I refuse the possibility of reproducing a piece in a larger format, if I had to leave the wearability for some reason.
Is it important to you that your work be wearable?
Yes, as I mentioned above, the wearability is a philosophic choice. Art to the people!
Your artist statement is a quote from Rose Tremain: ´My self-deception is that I create in order to understand and that the final end of it all might be wisdom. This means that I deliberately seek out the strange, the unfamiliar, even the unknowable, as subjects for my novels and trust my imagination to illuminate them to the point where both I and the reader can see them with a new clarity. The writers I admire most seem to have this kind of goal: to comprehend experience distant from their own, in nature, place and time, and to let the extraordinary cast new light on the quotidian.’ Do you have a similar goal – to let the extraordinary cast new light on the ordinary?
Yes, I share Rose Tremain’s description of the creative process as a search for meanings.
Where do you find inspiration?
Human behaviours, thoughts and beliefs, fairytales, magic and religious rituals.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
Don't worry, be happy!