Isolation jewels: A well-made life


16 November 2020

Vicki Mason “makes” the most of her time during 14-day quarantine, showing how a garland can invite imagination and create joy.

Our lives are inextricably woven with idioms and expressions that utilise the word “make” and its past tense “made”. We talk of people having “made” our days when we’ve roared then cried at a shared joke on a day when we needed it desperately. We speak of someone ‘making’ a difference to our lives, or our need to ‘make’ a point of something. Perhaps we ‘make’ a new life in a foreign land, ‘make’ time for a new hobby or ‘make’ a mess of something where someone else is concerned. I ‘make’ objects, more specifically jewellery. The drive to make well-conceived and well-made objects is central to my working life.

Metal workshops and studios are some of my favourite places. Recently however I spent 14 days locked up in hotel quarantine in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand and found myself making on a patch of carpet 1 x 1.2 metres in size. I inhabited a hotel room with two family members and room for making was at a premium. We were there as part of the process of travelling to see a loved family member as he came to the end of his life. I hadn’t planned to make any work while waiting, but a patch of grass outside our room covered in lawn daisies drew on an innate impulse to make. The flowers were duly picked and transformed into a daisy chain, all while being monitored by a security guard who informed us we were only allowed one metre outside our room. Making it catalysed the genesis for this series. The garlands and necklaces I made over this difficult time are daily dedications to a gentle man. They helped us celebrate and tell and hear stories about a beloved person who made our lives better.

As a maker/craftsperson/artist I always have a kit of stationery items I take with me when I travel anywhere. Ideas percolate and reveal themselves often when I least expect them so having my A4 sketch book/visual diary, a folder with various types of paper (graph/tracing/card etc) and a couple of pencil cases filled with a variety of pens/pencils is a given. Also included are a couple of post-it-notes, scissors, a Stanley knife, steel rule, double-sided tape, cellotape, some pins, blue tack, bulldog clips, nylon fishing line, a twist tie, push pin, paper clips and so on. They are things that I might need and more recently I have taken to packing needles. Materials packed include the various papers and a few spools of thread of varying weights. Not a lot in the materials department.

The consumable resources available in a hotel room are numerous and I had ample materials to choose from in making these works. Our brown paper bags filled with thrice daily food allocations with their plethora of packaging, combined with the tissue box, loo paper wrapping, tea bag packaging and disposable masks that we had to wear, as no re-usable ones were allowed were just some materials at hand. A daily guarded walk for 45 minutes allowed me to pick up plant litter in the fenced road around part of the hotel. All these materials I methodically collected, cleaned, disassembled, sorted, prepared and stored. Making do with what was at hand-stretched me to pay close attention to the possibilities of each material, and the form it both came in and could be transformed into.

The shapeless 14 days passed, punctuated by making and the end of our loved one’s life on day six. This album of images, of a granddaughter wearing jewels dedicated to her grandfather, serves as a small heirloom. As I made my way through this surreal and sad time, making made me think, it was distracting, it asked me to look closely, to problem solve and proved to be an instinctual impulse. It made time slow and move quickly and I got lost in it. Making was a balm for my soul and it conjured and became a vessel of sorts for remembering. Making helped me care for my family. These jewels connected the three of us as we remembered a life well lived by a man who made the most of it.


Vicki Mason is a jeweller who lives and works in Melbourne. Her interest in jewellery stems from a belief that jewellery has the capacity to provoke a viewer to respond or interact with a worn jewel, and therefore the wearer. A dialogue is opened up—jewellery then acts not only as a portable tool for the communication of ideas, but as a social object. Vicki is interested in unpacking our relationship with plants within the contemporary context to build knowledge and raise awareness about the natural world in a technologically focussed Photo: Claire Norcross


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