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Wow – when I woke up this morning I had never heard of Franz West or his “Adaptives”  (sorry if this makes me sound ignorant!).  Now I am writing about him in my blog – life is so weird isn’t it – chance can alter every direction you go in!

Anyway – I did go to a fantastic book shop in Hay-on-Wye.  It does not look much from the outside – but inside it is an Aladdin’s Cave of books I did not even know existed but now I have seen them I need ALL OF THEM  for my design work.

Amongst the armful of old books I took to the paypoint was a catalogue publication about Franz West.   A quick flick inside had shown photographs of  a varied collection of work and I thought that there might be some photographs that would be useful.  I did not give it much thought actually and I certainly did not read any of the text – until this morning!!!

In the catalogue that I bought was an essay “interview” by Kristine Stiles, in which she talks about the body of work that West calls his Passstucke (sorry I don’t know how to key in this German word on my English keyboard!).  Apparently the English interpretation of Passtucke is ADAPTIVES.

West makes his ADAPTIVES from wire, plaster, papier-mâché and polyester.  In her essay, Stiles describes these ADAPTIVES as “whimsical” sculptures which West encourages the public to “wear”.

“Passstucke communicate something of the nature of a personality.  West himself observed that ‘if one could visually perceive neuroses they might look somewhat like Passstucke.  In other words, the Passstucke are anthropomorphic representation of neuroses, capable of motivating a person to perform certain types of movements”.

West creates these ADAPTIVES to portray the disturbance from so-called “normal behaviour” that the viewer’s own anxiety, stress, phobias have.    They represent the divide between the “inner state of our minds” versus the appearance we like to show to others.

I like to think that my CURLYTAIL ANIMALS will be whimsical  and that the personal selection of a design will communicate the nature of the personality doing the choosing.  Maybe they will also be a manifestation of my neuroses or indeed the wearer’s.  My CURLYTAILS ANIMALS will certainly be ANTHROPOMORPHIC representations.

Further in Stiles essay she explains further how West’s ADAPTIVES reveal aspects of an identity.

” The use of any everyday object can, but does not necessarily, reveal aspects of identity.  The very enigmatic quality of ADAPTIVES emphasise personality traits not otherwise readily apparent in our use and manipulation of normal objects.  … The meaning of any particular ADAPTIVE depends on how it is perceived and potentially changes each individual user.”

Yet again, West has described how I would like my “everyday” CURLYTAIL PENDANT to

  • reveal aspects of the wearer’s identity
  • have an enigmatic quality
  • to be one-off designs whereby the act of choosing an individual design and wearing that design says something about the personality of the wearer

The picture above was taken from the following website which describes how West’s sculptures were used in performance art. http://alexander.whillas.com/Prose/Ivo+Dimchev

The image of Franz West “wearing” one of his ADAPTIVES shows how he designed his pieces in relation to the human body which is exactly what jewellers have to do.  In a way Franz West was a contemporary jeweller making large-scale pieces.  I wonder whether he would want to be called a sculptor or a jewellery maker?  I bet he would choose sculptor as there is a strange hierarchy in the craft/artist/maker world where “jeweller” denotes a worker with lesser skills, conceptual thinking or techniques.  This could not be further away from the truth.  Jewellery craftspeople have to condense their concepts, ideas, aims to a very small scale leaving no room for details that do not add greatly to the overall design. Also, a jeweller does not stand his/her work on a plinth to be looked at.  Our designs have to work with the body and also have to be incredibly well-made in order to withstand constant wearing. Sorry Franz I went off on a tangent then!!!

Anyway my work seems to have a similarity to Franz West’s work with ADAPTIVES and reading about his aims and his work has helped me sort out what I would like my work to convey.