This week we're proud to feature Taё Schmeisser, jeweller and recent graduate from NMIT's Gold & Silversmithing course. Taё's work was recently part of SNEAK, an enCOUNTER exhibition held late last year (which you can check out here)
We love Taё's work and we bet you'll be seeing more of this talented lady very soon!
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you grew up, what was your childhood like, what prompted you to study jewellery at NMIT?
My parents are both artists (a Japanese textile designer and a German printmaker) and I was raised in the fair city of Canberra. From an early age I had a fondness for visual order. I would sit quietly, separating eggs in cartons according to size or colour and making lines of pebbles at the beach according to their graduating shape or tone. So this makes me sound a little odd, right? Maybe. But I loved the way in which objects that were in essence the same, could come in such different states. Or maybe I just liked rocks and eggs.
I studied and lived for classical ballet for ten years along with contemporary and jazz and have always been in awe of the elasticity and strength of the human body. I’ve come to realise this will, in some form or another, never leave me or my work.
After discovering marbles in primary school, along with a wickedly keen talent for the game, my collection swelled to a little under three thousand. In year 4 it dawned on me instead of spending my pocket money on the 20c marble gumball machine at the corner shops, I would save my money and make the marbles myself. So I announced to my parents that when I was big enough; I would study glass. They grinned and patted me on the head.
At the age of eighteen I gave up dancing and began my studies in Visual Arts Glass at the Australian National University.
My graduating works were wearable glass pieces. As I was utterly ignorant in constructing metal findings, I commissioned a gold and silver workshop student to make them for me. It didn’t feel right, being unable to understand and complete my own work, so I decided that the next logical step was to study engineering technology (jewellery). It was time to leave Canberra and I had been recommended of a fantastic course offered at NMIT. The 2 years at the bench supported by an amazing ensemble of teachers, tools and machinery was exactly what I wanted and needed.
So, the moral of the story so far; if you like eggs and rocks, try marbles and maybe becoming a jeweller.
When you started your jewellery course at NMIT, were there any unexpected obstacles/situations that you encountered?
The biggest obstacle has actually been keeping the momentum and energy up AFTER the course has finished. I miss not spending whole days with fellow students having witty and often, delightfully juvenile banter which, entangled with constructive feedback was the perfect sound board and made every school day a pleasure.
Now that you've graduated, what do you hope to do next? Where do you see yourself in five years?
I think everyone’s goal after they graduate is to make their art, their day job. I was lucky enough to do a residency in Greece at the end of last year and would love to continue to travel as part of my work and play, hopefully doing residencies and teaching across Australia and around the world. I am also looking into further studies on European design abroad, hopefully in Germany.
In five years' time, I look forward to still be making work that I am thoroughly proud of and being the best and strongest Aunty I can to my beautifully mischievous nieces and nephew! I don’t ever plan to stop learning or making and would love to branch out into functional design and fashion. Global domination goes without saying.
Technically and conceptually, what was the most rewarding piece of jewellery/work that you've made to date?
To be honest no piece is conceptually more rewarding than another, some just linger for longer.
Playing with different concepts, solidifying ideas, sketching and constructing maquettes has always been the most enjoyable part of the making process for me. My sketchbooks have many little idea seedlings (from the solemn to the happily nonsensical), and so despite my best efforts, there seem to be at least two different bodies of work rolling around in my brain at all times. Some are developed and finished within 2 weeks, others take years to finally make sense and feel right.
Technically I believe the reward in a piece is directly proportionate to the sheer frustration involved in making it. So, when I look at the glass shuriken series, I don’t so much think of how rewarding it was to make: instead I remember the hours at the flatbeds and pumice wheels and the deep slicing cuts all over my fingers and knuckles (from the edges I was polishing/sharpening) and being secretly elated when it came time to “demonstrate” them (hurling them as hard and fast as possible at a foam core mounted panel) in my final assessment.
I think each body of work is like a person. Some are stubborn and make you cry while others are delightfully easy going and uncomplicated. The assortment keeps it interesting.
Looking at your work, some of the inspirations behind it include the body, landscapes and Japanese culture. Could you please tell us more about what inspires you? What are you working on at the moment, and what do you hope to explore further in the future?
My working process seems to develop in two ways. The first starts as a concept, then the piece and the medium are formed around that idea. The second is my constant and keeps me sane, playing and thinking constantly. I collect objects of curiosity from ocean pebbles to deteriorating wood with peeling paint. I take ALOT of photos of anything that interests or amuses me, and have many scrapbooks and visual diaries.
There are concepts that only live for the duration of one body of work and then there are certain subjects (the body, landscapes and Japanese and German aestheticism) which will always tumble around in my head.
The body, the way it moves and the different structural layers were what led me from dance to wanting to explore adornment of the body. The human body is a landscape in its own right and I want to know more.
Moving to Melbourne from Canberra (a younger and visually less diverse city), I was taken aback at the variety of architecture and landscapes, from gothic gargoyles, art deco McDonalds, rusted steel facades of ACCA , to the spray playground walls of Hosier Lane. Snapshots of landscapes and the beauty in often over-looked utilitarian objects are a large part of my work and a great factor in my love of travelling.
I studied in Japan for a year and am in awe of their poetic visual sensibility. Incorporating seasonal references is expected in everything from food preparation (that includes the bento box you buy at the train station), to the fabric and floral motifs used for kimonos and kanzashi. This awareness and attention to detail is magnificent and the grace and femininity of their traditional dress is what led to the Kanzashi series.
At the moment I am working on a commission, a couple of auction pieces and the latest series which is at the “wear it yourself and see how it goes” stage.
In your artist bio you mention that you spent some time studying ceramics and glass in Japan which must have been an amazing experience! Could you please tell us more?
I went to Japan in mid 2003 to mid 2004 and studied at two fantastic institutions for six months at each, my favourite being Toyama Institute of Glass Art (TIGA). TIGA is located in a small fishing village surrounded on three sides by the snow covered Japanese Alps. I would ride 30 minutes to school every day through rice paddies and past small shrines. There were many international teachers and it was a very experimental institution. During one visiting artists’ stay, we were encouraged to think of any experiments with glass discounting all limitations. This led to hurling molten glass at the spokes of an elevated bicycle while someone rode it as fast as they could (which, incidentally, created what effectively was glass fairy floss), walking on molten glass with wooden sandals (the sandals and a man’s pants caught on fire), cooking a chicken on the end of a glass blowing pipe and ended with fireworks thrown down a glassblowing pipe with a molten glass bubble at the end. Not particularity the safest of ideas but an exhilarating and cathartic exercise in playful abandonment.
Finally, what would your dream collaboration entail?
Mixed sensory work is something I love. I think it all started with dance; the motions and the music, together.
I was blissfully moved after seeing/hearing the Klippel/Klippel: opus2008 exhibition at the NGV. It incorporated the work of Robert Klippel (sculpture) and his son Andrew’s (composer and producer) musical response to his pieces. This way in which different mediums communicate intrigues me and I am interested in developing an audio or video art collaboration.
My favourite architects are Tadao Ando and Daisuke Maeda for their clean and bold forms. A sculptural dialogue as a response to their sites would also be an interesting channel to explore.
I also want to investigate design in a broader sense, particularly concerning fashion. My favourite designers are Vivienne Westwood for her sass, Akira Isogawa for his playfulness and my dream collaboration would be with incredible Issey Miyake. His sensitivity and exploration of fibres and form is breathtaking and completely unique.
For more about Taё, make sure you check out her website!