We are products of our environments, shaped and changed by the places we call home.
Iron Identity explores my personal and cultural identity defined by the particular environment I grew up in. This identity is intimately entwined with the place itself. Rust, corrosion, a sense of neglect, the commemoration of a fading legacy, and the ability to endure are the concepts and visual language I express in my work.
Hamilton, my home on the shore of Lake Ontario has traditionally been a steel producing centre. Despite the industry having died down in recent decades, its industrial activity is still apparent. Iron Identity references my time growing up there, and the impact this place had on me. The culture of Hamilton was rough, the attitude grimy, and those characteristics greatly influenced me. Baseball bats, Metal shows and bus fights all existed alongside the backdrop of heavy industry. The working-class ethos and attitudes of my hometown shaped me into who I am today – for better or worse.
I grew up around rust, rough folk and fine jewellery. Raised in a family of goldsmiths and trained by my parents, I went on to formal post-secondary study at George Brown College. Jewellery has always been my creative outlet. This contradiction of rugged environment and refined training has left its impression on me and is the impetus of Iron Identity – a way to bring the two ostensive paradoxes in my life together.
I make neckpieces, rings and brooches – all standard forms of fine jewellery but change the scale and finishes to reflect the singular features and influences defined by my home town. The work is large in scale; some pieces are reminiscent of armoured plates and shields. Using the historical functions of jewellery – to denote individuality, status or ward off evil – my pieces are markers of identity. My View from the Pier series of neckpieces sit protectively on the chest and my Gold für Eisen series of rings, proudly rise off the body like a fortress.
Iron Identity evokes and commemorates this identity through the use of oxides, coarse finishing, and sturdy construction. I use colours associated with industrial machinery and abandoned sites – bright colours that contrast signs of rust and deterioration. Transporting this aesthetic to the body allows it to be worn close, displayed with pride and given reverence as a jewellery object. Underneath the surface oxides and decoration, is something sturdy and comforting, like my home is to me.
The places and structures I reference directly influenced the culture of Hamilton. These former steel mills, manufacturing facilities and factories provided good working-class jobs, and were once economic symbols announcing the prosperity of the city. Now that we have moved into a post-industrial economy; transitioning into service-based industries, these places look dirty, out of place, and the desire to tear them down for new development is strong. I grew up around the last of these industrial sites when the flame of industry was already diminished. I feel compelled to record the physical and emotional identity of this city in order to come to a better understanding of my own identity.