- December 05, 2018
- Posted by Claire Goldsworthy
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Aimee Fairman is an advocate for nature. She celebrates its magical beauty through her jewellery label, Geo-Alchemy, delicately making each piece ethically by hand, mirroring the slow-forming process of the stones and crystals she is inspired by.
Aimee has been honouring the earth with her crystalline resin jewellery since launching Geo-Alchemy in 2014, capturing suspended moments of nuanced colour and luminosity through her sculptural forms.
Finishing her sculpture resin pieces with sterling silver and rose gold elements to communicate her love of Mother Earth's majesty, Aimee's jewellery represents an extension of her multi-sensory immersive installation practice which engages with ideas of psycho-geographical landscapes. Her carefully considered method of production means that the dynamics within each jewellery piece are one of a kind. Even within a set colourway, each piece holds unique poetics of iridescent atmosphere.
How did you come to launch your own business?
It’s important to contextualise where my art practice came from because before we are artists, we are human. Art and the wonder of nature have always been at the core of my life. I grew up in a forest village in the Dandenong Ranges with a wonderfully creative mother who was an art teacher. My childhood was rich with enrapturing creative projects and steeped in a deep love and respect for the natural world. My mother’s lineage is Polish. Her mother, my Babcia, carried an in-depth knowledge and respect for nature too, and knew well the lessons it could teach us. In her teachings, the landscape was not merely a backdrop or setting, it was a lead character in the stories of life.
So much of my early years were spent with my Babcia teaching me how to look, to really look, and to listen. If we take the time to look, and really see, a vast world of myriad minuscule wonders opens before our eyes, and we learn the language of the earth. But also, we need to remember that we too are nature and not separate from her, and that we must respect and care for this world, for more reasons than one.
These attitudes carried into my adulthood and influenced my creative investigations. I went on to study a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at RMIT, but my practice very soon expanded into immersive installation and sculpture. I was more interested in the sensory, spatial and phenomenological experiences of ideas that could be gained from immersive worlds and the body’s interaction with objects and ideas.
This was probably the beginning of an investigation into the relationship between landscape and the body that would in time inform my jewellery work. In 2006, I went on to undertake my Masters in sculpture and installation. It was through my Masters that the embedded nature-reverie of my childhood clarified itself in clear conceptual scrutiny. My Masters' thesis was titled, 'The Constructed Forest; The Psychology of Landscape in Enclosed Miniature Environments'. It allowed me to begin an exploration into the theories of psycho-geography and transience of experience that carried across multiple artist residencies in Austria, all of which informed my jewellery practice that developed seven years later.
You are well-known for your crystalline and geological designs. How did you come up with this idea for your pendants and earrings?
The Heartstone Pendants were the first piece of wearable art I made. At the time I was working on a series of sculptures called 'Lithocardites', and the pendant emerged as a happy accident in the studio. The title and the concept of inspiration came from a theory of ontogenesis by 18th Century naturalist, J.B Robinet. To Robinet, fossils are bits of life, roughcasts of separate organs, which will find their coherent life at the summit of an evolution that is preparing the way for being.
Following Robinet’s theories, we might say that the inside of a woman’s body is an assemblage of shells. Robinet’s mineralogical collections were framed as anatomical parts of what a woman will be when nature learns to make her. Lithocardites are heart shells, rough drafts of a heart that will one day beat.
Such theories (which were once thought to be scientific) are, in reality, vast boundless daydreams. But Robinet's dream-ideas resonated strongly with my own ideas of psycho-geography. I was interested in the junctures between body and land; emotional landscapes and how one might map cartography of feeling. Calcified life; mineralised being in suspended animation, and so on. And so I made this wearable object, and in time more grew. The Heartstone pendant hovers at the wearer's sternum, like a talismanic breastplate. Crystalline chambers are suspending atmospheres of thought and felt-space, worlds within worlds, drifting like icebergs in the deep sea of our being.
How have people embraced your jewellery?
To be honest, when I first started branching into making jewellery, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I had never studied silversmithing or any theories of jewellery practice, so there was a lot of trial and error, fine-tuning and learning curves. I viewed it as an extension of my sculpture practice, so I loved it, but like many artists, I wasn’t great at self-promotion, nor particularly savvy with marketing. I did a few markets early on, and people were fascinated, but it didn’t take off. I honestly didn’t think it would end up as anything more than a hobby. As you can imagine, I was pretty blown away when in 2016 I received an email out of the blue from the NGV design store voicing their interest in collaborating on a collection, and things have grown from there. The NGV design store has been phenomenal to work with. They have been incredible advocates for my work and offered guidance and constructive criticism - opportunities that I could have only dreamed of. Amid all that, they boosted my confidence in my own work and encouraged me to believe in myself. I don’t think I will ever stop being grateful to those special folks for the gifts they have given.
You are also a proud advocate for nature conservation. Why does this cause inspire you, and how are your beliefs reflected in your work?
In these times of high world population and loss of global habitat, fighting to protect and secure a place for fauna, and ensure a future rich in wildlife and wilderness, is essential. Our connection to nature and respect for the inhabitants of the ecosystems around us is vital for man’s sustained physical and mental wellbeing, not to mention the health and longevity of the planet. My work reflects these beliefs in a couple of ways; firstly, in communications of the wonder of nature, and secondly, in considered frugality of the material I use to minimise my studio waste. I ensure I am selective of the materials I use based on the environmental impact of their bi-products.
Across all mediums in my practice, my work is about creating moments where we are asked to slow down and lose ourselves in wonder. I simulate natural phenomena and frame it, like a moment under a microscope, with the aim to encourage the wearers of my jewellery, or those that experience my installations, to take that gaze of the microscope out into the wide world and take the time to look closely. When we let wonder take us, it hooks us by the heart, and we begin to care. We naturally want to protect that which we care for. When we care, we want to understand, when we understand, how can we not act? It is essential that we take the time to consider how our daily actions and choices impact the creatures and ecology that surround us. Knowledge can unsettle us, but it can also inspire and empower us.
You wear many hats, and it’s impressive that you make time for so many things you love. What does an average week in your shoes look like?
Like most artists, I have a couple of jobs. Income from creative work doesn't always wholly sustain us financially, but also diversity in the industry can be a great thing. I’m fortunate as the main other job I do, aligns so closely with my values. Four days a week, I work for Zoos Victoria in a position where I am advocating for conservation, engaging the public in wildlife education, and sharing with them the wonder of so many magnificent creatures that are unfortunately so very vulnerable. I am really proud of the work Zoos Victoria does toward fighting extinction, their devotion to animal welfare, and their dedication to creating a community of compassionate conservation. I feel so very lucky to be part of that team; it inspires me beyond measure.
Most evenings after working at the Zoo and on my days 'off', I either work in my home studio, read (mostly books that hover around subjects of animal ethics, cultural theory and the poetics of nature), or sew. Before I started at the Zoo, I worked as a tour bus guide, and although I’m now really quite busy I’ve struggled to give tour guiding up completely… I guess I have a soft spot for penguins and bandicoots. I have to be a voice that speaks for these vulnerable little creatures that cannot. So a couple of days a month, I drive a tour bus down to Phillip Island and take people through wildlife parks and talk about the complexity of human impact, and the importance of caring for the natural world.
What projects are you most proud of?
That would definitely have been when the NGV design store commissioned me to design and create the Auroral Collar – a rather sizable resin and sterling silver high-end piece with a layout similar to a Cleopatra neckpiece. This was an incredible opportunity. I’d never created a wearable piece so large and complex, nor had I ever worked in lost wax silver casting. It was an immense challenge that drove me to learn new skills, consider the interplay of engineering, aesthetics, concept and budget, and I loved it. It was a success and something that I will always be so very proud of and thankful for.
How do you want people to feel when they wear your creations?
A lot of people comment on my work and say it’s otherworldly, or it appears magical. I understand what they mean, but that seeming otherworldliness is not ‘other,’ it’s very much here, inspired by a very real, very magnificent world. So, I guess I’d love people who wear my jewellery to feel connected to that ‘magic’ of nature that we are not separate from, but all very much a part of.
How does your work keep evolving?
Ideas develop as I learn about ecologies and biologies. There is a poetry in life cycles, in outer ecologies that mirror the ecologies of our inner worlds – emotional landscapes if you will. It’s those junctures of body and land, fauna and emotion that drive the beginnings of new work for me. Sometimes it’s a concept that clearly drives new ideas, sometimes its colour combinations and composition that I see in creatures that act as the starting point. Other times, it can feel like reaching into the darkness and pulling out fireflies of ideas; vivid and distant and hushed. That’s what my forthcoming collection 'Nocturne' feels like – a glittering biophilia. I’ll be launching it soon.
What are your future goals?
One of the main goals I have is to integrate my skills in aesthetics, storytelling and conservation. I dream of creating a children's book that spans the fields of science, the poetics of wonder, and conservation. I imagine it to be 'illustrated' with photographs of my sculptural landscapes, similar in aesthetic to my recent photographic work 'Terra Luminaris', but specific to the ecosystems explored through the narrative. I would like the book to focus on building an awareness of the natural world in the minds of children; to encourage wonder, while also educating them on threatened species and the importance of biodiversity in microcosmic worlds. Another goal is an ambitious, immersive installation project that also has a limited-edition collection of jewellery, and I would love to have my jewellery showcased in galleries interstate.
Slow fashion is all about positive change. What are you trying to teach others through your work?
Whether amid one of my atmospheric, immersive installations or the suspended microcosmic nebula of pigment that hovers in a crystal earring, obscured by surface textures that are both mountain and moss, monstrous and minuscule, inner and outer, reverie and rock, all at once - I hope to encourage others to find a moment. A moment where we see that when we look closely and slowly at the environment around us, a world of wonder opens to us that can teach us just as much about it as about our place amid it. May our choices be informed, our impact positive, and our thinking long-term, for there is a world of wonder around us. Let us not ignore it, and not let it vanish.
Interview by Rachael Bouley.
The Fashion Advocate x