Remembering Bookmann geocites 2004 – Rachel Ross

2009-07-24_193147

Photography: Michele Jorsling, Model: Adele Beckles

My career as a jeweller was completely unplanned. The idea to make jewellery was put to me very understatedly by a dear friend, and with contemplation I decided that it sounded an interesting prospect. That became my impetus to apprentice to a local jeweller.

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Initially, financial restrictions did not allow me to invest in the traditional precious gems and metals of the trade, so I definitely became more creative with my designs.  I never thought of these as ‘designs’ but purely as something that was instinctive. The gems I used in the early days were bamboo, coconut, seeds, twine, driftwood and shells or anything I could get my hands on. An empty condensed milk tins became the base and basis for a series of bracelets. Similarly, remembering the recession in Trinidad and Tobago in the  1980s, people used their initiative and found ingenious methods to express themselves without the usual tools. I remember small cottage industries developing with wonderful creations by all kinds of talented people, many of whom were in the same boat. There was a lot of work to be seen.

My work are designed to be worn, so clothing was a  inspiration, especially having friends who were uninhibited in their dress and happy to show off my bits and pieces. My dear friend and risqué dresser, Donna Vieira, gave me the confidence and encouragement to follow my instincts in 1984, when I started my own studio and with  the support of my family and friends, my first exhibition was a resounding success.

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Friend and fashion designer, Meiling, gave me a huge break to show my pieces to a larger audience, when, after ‘Nous ça Vante’ in 1986, she asked that I accessorise a few sections of her Christmas show of the same year. From then on, and for many years after, together with friend and master craftswoman, Judy Sanchez, I was able to be as big and as bold as I desired. It was liberating to work on such a scale as a jeweller.

My pieces aren’t ‘clean’ by nature as they tend to be more organic in form. Nature certainly is an inspiration for me especially in terms of the physical composition of our earth – at university I was studying geology. I am fascinated by continental Africa and its raw, physical beauty. I drew upon the old safari visions of the past, as the context for a series of brooches and bracelets for a Meiling collection entitled, ‘Lopinot Revisited’. These were large bamboo cuffs burned and embellished with brass and brooches of wooden pieces from old armoires and the ‘jewels’ found in them. The environment, its preservation and enhancement, is something I care deeply about. I know it inspires my creativity.

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With each exhibition my work changed and evolved as I ventured closer to the traditional form of jewellery-making, using gems and precious metals. This said, I have always treated whatever materials I use as precious. From the organic gems, to the found objects, to the industrial discards, I now find myself reflecting on the trouvère of the past as my current inspiration. – – Rachel Ross 2005

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