Joseph McBrinn admires the daring gems of jeweller Sabrina Meyns in the first of a new series focusing on Irish designers
In an age where the fragility of the natural world seems increasingly under threat many artists have returned to nature as a source of inspiration. Indeed, many have literally found a wellspring of creative stimulation in their very own back gardens. The Irish jeweller Sabrina Meyns has long been drawn to the beauty and ingenuity of natural forms and employs the garden as the key repository for her work. Everything from the shape and symbolism to the engineering and ephemerality of the petals, pollen, leaves, stamen, seeds, filaments and stems of everyday flowers appeals to her artistic imagination.
Working at the interface of functional jewellery and organic sculpture, Meyns combines a complex range of materials, mixing handmade paper, seeds (such as those from dandelions and thistles) and metals (often silver and steel) in each design for a ring or brooch. Every piece is skilfully crafted and comprises a fleshy blossom in pale hues – resembling lush peonies or roses – of molded paper that is decorated with seeds, perforations and metals and then attached to a supporting structure made of silver with a matte white, brushed or oxidized finish.
Pretty yet spiky – they have often been described as capturing the skeletal, ghost-like, deadly translucence of late summer and early autumn’s decaying blossoms. They are not, however, uncanny simulacra, nor eerie simulations, but rather subtle and thoughtful reflections or meditations on the tension between touch and transience.
Since graduating in 2008 from Dublin’s National College of Art and Design, Meyns’ work has travelled far. In that year it featured in the ‘Breaking Out’ exhibition at the National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny and ‘New Designers Graduate Show’ in London. Since then her work has been seen at SIERAAD Art Fair in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2010 and 2011), at the Faszination Papier Biennale that travelled through Poland, Germany and France (2011 and 2012), at the ‘Seoid 11’ at the Pieces of Eight Gallery in Melbourne, Australia (2011), at LOOT at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York (2011), and SOFA in Chicago (2012). Most recently her work has been seen in Ireland at the ‘CultureCraft’ exhibition, organized as part of the Derry/Londonderry City of Culture celebrations in 2013. Meyns’ ambition to translate the ‘translucency, fragility and the ephemeral beauty that exists in nature’ into wearable jewellery has clearly already won her many admirers not only at home but all over the world.
Joseph McBrinn is a lecturer in Design History at Belfast School of Art, University of Ulster, Belfast.