Vanessa Arthur, former Wellingtonian now Hawke's Bay resident, is a jeweller and artist who is currently exhibiting her jewellery and other object art at SPA_CE in Napier under the title "Common Era", a reference to the year-numbering system widely used to date objects from AD1 to the present day.

Q. How does the title Common Era connect to your work?
In archaeology it is often the everyday or 'common' object that is the most eloquent in representing a specific time and place. I see my work as a type of excavation, a digging out of ideas from often overlooked and quite mundane spaces.

Q. How would you describe your work in terms of imagery, where does it come from?
Wellington is a walking city and it started here, the unplanned spaces where unintentional compositions are found. Work starts with documentation and 'excavation' of the built urban environment, exploring small moments in time, spaces in transition and spaces between planning, the anonymous mark making, unintended collaborations and uneasy colour combinations.

It's an environment that is in a constant state of change and a never-ending resource. I layer materials - using painted, erased and repainted compositions. I use wet cement scrawls, objects and fragments left behind in the rush.


What resources does your work or medium require?
I have a young baby, so time is very precious resource. I've had to adjust my working style to accommodate her so I divide my work to suit; I also have a day job as a cycle postie that funds the jewellery, the precious metals and tools.

Vessels, trays, and objects are assembled using everyday materials - concrete/concrete oxide, scrap metal, copper, brass and aluminium.

Pieces are formed using improvised smithing techniques - soldered and riveted then sanded, scratched, stamped and painted. Jewellery is constructed with thin sheet metals (including pure silver) that is made to evolve with wear, marks of use adding to the work's ever changing story.

How do you feel when you're working? What thoughts drive your finished image?
It's usually a mix of - where is this heading and excitement when things start to fall into place. If I'm stuck I'll do some 'productive procrastination', usually something repetitive like making silver chain or sanding and filing ... or I'll just pack up for an hour and take my dogs to the beach.

How do you like to work and what leads you to develop new ideas?
My work is an ongoing project, so each work informs the next. Sometimes I have a very specific plan and idea for a piece of work. Mostly though I start from two ends - the material and the idea and they meet somewhere in the middle.

I find presenting work in a fresh environment like SPA_CE and working alongside a gallerist always leads to leaps forward in my work.

*VANESSA ARTHUR, Common Era at SPA_CE gallery
116 Tennyson St (upstairs), Napier.
August 11-September 9