Jewellers and academics Elizabeth Shaw and Xiaohui Yang created a thoughtful exhibition of works as well as a long-lasting partnership that traverses China and Australia, and involves their many students.

As a young Masters student of Interior Design at Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Xaiohui Yang produced a series of intricate and minuscule models. It didn’t take long for jewellery senior lecturer and practitioner Elizabeth Shaw to realise Yang might be better suited to the study of Jewellery and Small Objects. The two have since collaborated on an exquisite exhibition of works in Artisan gallery, Tales from the Studio: Yang+Shaw, that explores the relationship between body and object. They have also begun an exchange between their two universities, Shandong University of Art and Design and Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art, that incorporates education programs for their respective students. Tales from the Studio: Yang+Shaw will tour Australia and China over the next couple of years. Here they discuss ideas and shared histories with More Margie. 

Xiaohui — how did the collaboration with Liz begin? 您如何与伊丽莎白.肖初次合作?

In 2013 we organised an exchange exhibition of our students’ works. Liz came to my university as a guest at the 40th anniversary, and to help set the exhibition up. I showed her the works I had been making and she suggested we could have an exhibition together. In 2015 when I went back to QCA as a visiting scholar Liz mentioned the exhibition idea again.


Xiaohui Yang Handshake Salute 2010, ceramic, 12 x 6 x 6cm. Photographer: Wang Bing. Xiaohui Yang Fist-and-Palm Salute I 2010, ceramics, 12 x 6 x 6cm. Photographer: Wang Bing. Xiaohui Yang Two vs Victory 2010, ceramics, 11 x 6 x 5cm. Photographer: Wang Bing. Xiaohui Yang Fist-and-Palm Salute II 2010, ceramics, 11 x 6 x 6cm. Photographer: Wang Bing.

Xiaohui — what made you change course from Interior Design to Jewellery and Small Objects? 什么原因使您将专业从室内设计转为首饰设计?

Firstly, I believe that the physical act of making has an essential role to play in an increasingly virtual world at this time. Therefore, I decided to study jewellery and small objects in visual arts. Secondly, I see jewellery as a link between body and soul, because it is something that can directly reflect and influence our behaviors and relationships that other mediums cannot.


Xiaohui Yang The Distance Between Us 2012, silver and paper measuring tape, 19 x 9, 9 x 7, 9 x 3cm. Photographer: Bing Wang

Elizabeth — you are an avid collector and integrate elements of your collection into your work. How extensive is your collection of found objects and how and why do you like to incorporate it in you jewellery?

My works start with a collected or found broken part of an object that brings with it a history. I embellish the history through additions of other elements. The types of collected items I like to incorporate in my work, are broken valueless discards, quite often things that have been landfill, things dug up in my garden, or things crushed and broken on roads. These are symbolic of our approach to stuff in our society, we are surrounded by items that are readily discarded with no hope and often no desire for repair. The found items form a part of the narrative of my work. I repurpose them and embellish their story through the addition of reused or recycled sterling silver.

My collection of elements is ongoing, last week's finds from my garden were a small brass swan headed S hook and a length of threaded glass, presumably the remains of a screw top from an old bottle.  My collection also includes items inherited from [artist] Merv Muhling’s studio.

Elizabeth Shaw Diver 2014, found terracotta figurine, recycled and reused sterling silver, pendant (6.5 x 2 x 1.5cm), dimensions variable. Photographer: Michelle Bowden.

Xiaohui — what inspired you to follow an academic career on your return to China? 是什么促使您后到中国后继续进行学术研究?

The first reason that I follow an academic career on my return to China is that I am interested in comparing and contrasting the jewellery between China and Australia, as long as I have the jewellery making experience gotten from Australia, and some Chinese handcrafts history knowledge. The second reason is that there is great number of students in China who are desperate for different knowledge from different cultures to open their horizon. Therefore, I am willing to keep doing my research and share my experience with the students in China.

原因之一,在澳洲和中国的学习经历,使我了解了澳洲与中国当代手工艺文化的差异,并对其产生了浓厚的兴趣, 因此希望继续研究下去。原因之二,大批的中国学生,渴望通过了解来自不同国家的文化艺术来开阔视野。我非常愿意与他们分享我的所感所得。

Elizabeth Shaw Calipers (ring), 2015 Recycled and reused sterling silver, bronze 2.5 x 3 x 2.5 cm Photo by: Michelle Bowden

Elizabeth — discuss your theory of the association between the body and jewellery.

I am drawn to work in the field of jewellery because of its association with the body. Archeological finds have identified beads dating back 100,000 years. These have been interpreted as a sign of complex figurative thought, established social structures, trade, a sense of social and personal identity and an ability and desire to communicate. Jewellery is made as an extension of the body, something we add to ourselves. It is a material way to present ideas, to communicate internal thoughts and perceptions. I like to play with this understanding. My work is sometimes confronting in its lack of conformity to social mores of jewellery.

Elizabeth Shaw Braced Figure 2015, recycled and reused sterling silver, found ceramic, doll’s hair, titanium, pendant (8 x 2.5 x 3cm), dimensions variable. Photographer: Michelle Bowden.

Xiaohui — What future collaborations do you hope for or plan for between Shandong University and Griffith? 您希望未来在山东工艺美术学院和格里菲斯大学之间,建立进一步的合作吗?

Liz and I are planning an Oversea Study Tour between Griffith and Shandong College of Art& Design in 2016. This activity allows students to achieve first hand information from a different education system and they will have an opportunity to experience a different culture.


Xiaohui Yang Seek Curiosity 2013, silver, Chrysophoron, 7 × 6, 7 × 5, 6 × 6, 7 × 6cm. Photographer: Bing Wang.

Elizabeth — how do your students, and Xiaohui’s benefit from exchange programs between your two respective universities?

Students are necessarily focused in their studies and benefit from experiences that expand their thinking. It is important for students to get an idea of how their work stands up outside of the comfort of their learning environment. It is an extraordinary experience for any artist to exhibit internationally. For our students to do so, it is a significant achievement before graduation. The works from both universities are exhibited together in both countries and it is exciting to see that there are similar ideas explored, similar concerns, and similar materials. The students can see that there is a dialogue between their artworks.  

Elizabeth Shaw Caged Arm 2014, found plastic arm, recycled and reused sterling silver, pendant (9.5 x 3 x 2), dimensions variable. Photographer: Michelle Bowden.

Lisa Bryan-Brown is Curatorial and Collections Officer of Griffith Artworks at Griffith University.  Here she shares her wonderful catalogue essay Extensions on the exhibition at Artisan Gallery in early 2016.

Taking the body as their point of conceptual departure, both Xiaohui Yang and Elizabeth Shaw create works that explore human interrelationships and socio-cultural issues. The two are lecturers in contemporary jewellery and small objects at their respective universities— Yang at Shandong University of Art and Design, Shaw at Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art (QCA)—and they met in 2008 while Yang was completing her Master’s with Honours at QCA. When Yang returned to China, their critical dialogue continued through correspondence, and, in 2013, they worked together to curate NOW: The Start of a Conversation, an exchange exhibition of their graduate students’ work.

Tales from the Studio is the first time that the pair have exhibited their works together, and it reveals the distinct trajectories of each artist’s practice despite their shared academic concerns. While the role of the body is important in the conceptual resolution of both Yang’s and Shaw’s works, to position their practices within a framework of jewellery would incorrectly privilege notions of adornment over their nuanced approaches to the body as a performative site for artistic installation. For both artists, the wearer plays an active role in the realisation of the artwork, giving it function and context.

Yang’s practice is broadly concerned with exploring culturally informed differences and similarities in human interaction. Her Hold the Etiquette series contemplates the handshake, a distinctly Western greeting that is now dominant internationally, and increasingly prevalent within China specifically. Made to be held, each ceramic form fits snuggly with the hand, exploring the notion of touch through the language of form.

Yang’s Relationship Measurement rings consider the social mores surrounding personal space and physical interaction. They act as a tape measure; anchored to the wearer, the rings quantify the distance separating them from their companion. Her Distance of Sense Organ pieces operate similarly, measuring distances between different points of perception on the wearer’s own body—their eyes to ears, or heart to mouth.

Shaw works in response to found objects she has collected over time; some hold sentimental value, others were found serendipitously, and many were acquired through friendships with other artists. Innately attracted to broken or incomplete objects already imbued with history, Shaw intuitively ‘mends’ the found component, augmenting it in order to reconcile its form and orient it within its new context.

Activating these damaged objects through narrative (e.g., Rotary Sickle and Bird), mechanism (e.g., Tapper Ring) or prosthetic (e.g., Diver), each piece precipitates a distinct personality. By repurposing her collected materials, Shaw engages with a culture of repair and reuse that is consistent with the ethics of making and sustainability that underlie her practice.

Tales from the Studio reveals the common threads that exist between Yang’s and Shaw’s practices. United by their approach to body as both a site and a subject, the artists extend the body in order to make sense of it: Yang the bodies of her wearers, Shaw the bodies of her objects. Thoughtful and critically reflexive, their works engage with issues pertinent to contemporary jewellery and object-making practices.

Elizabeth Shaw Rotary Sickle and Bird (ring) 2015, recycled and reused sterling silver and bronze, 4 x 0.5 x 3.5cm. Photographer: Michelle Bowden.

延续 丽沙·布莱恩布朗

以躯体为概念的出发点,杨 晓晖和伊丽莎白·肖的创作 都围绕人群的内在关系和所 属的社会文化展开。这个共 同的属性以及她们长期以来 的合作使其作品充满内在的 共鸣。(两人相识于2008 年,届时杨晓晖以荣誉生的 成绩从澳洲格里菲斯大学昆 士兰艺术学院 (QCA) 毕业。 现两人分别执教于山东工艺 美术学院和 QCA,讲授现 代珠宝设计。)她们的交流 在杨晓晖回国后依然延续, 并于2013年举办了展览 “现 在——对话的开始”,一个基 于各自学生作品的交流展。

“工作室的故事” 是两人首 次举办的个人作品展,在展 现她们相近的学术诉求的同 时也揭示出她们迥异的创作 风格。虽然躯体在她们的创 作中起到了将概念实体化的 重要功能,但如果把她们的 作品简单地归于珠宝首饰的 框架里难免会一叶障目,忽 视了她们微妙各异的、将躯 体作为其装置艺术场地的视 角。佩戴者在两位创作者的

艺术实现中不可或缺,给她 们的作品提供了功能和背景 的附着点。

杨晓晖的创作旨在探索人群 互动中文化的异同。她的“握 住的礼仪”系列对握手这一行 为作出思考,审视这个曾经 是西方礼节,如今为世界、 特别是中国所接受的礼仪方 式。系列中每个瓷器都与握 持的手严丝合缝,用形状探 索着握手时的触觉感受。

她的“关系测量戒指”意在观 测社会习俗中的个人空间和 肢体接触,像尺子一样时刻 测量着佩戴者和周围人的距 离。与之异曲同工的“感观的 距离”系列则是在度量佩戴者 各个感觉器官的距离——目 到耳,心至口。

伊丽莎白·肖的创作灵感源于 她个人收藏品的激发。这些 收藏中有的寄托了她的特殊 感情,有的是无心插柳的收 获,还有很多是她的艺术家 朋友们的馈赠。伊丽莎白有

一种与生俱来的对破损或不 完整物品的青睐,着迷于它 们所承载的历史。她直觉性 的“拼接”起这些残品,将它 们从形状的残缺中升华,赋 予新生。

以叙事(飞鸟镰刀),机械 (指尖器),或者义肢(土 陶肢体)作为创作手法,伊 丽莎白将这些残品激活,使 每件作品都展示出独特的个 性。通过修补和再次利用的 方式赋予这些收藏品新的意 义,也恰恰暗合她对于可持 续发展和创造的哲学思考。

“工作室的故事” 展示了两 位艺术家灵犀相通的创作过 程。不管一个躯体属于佩戴 者还是收藏品,她们均以这 躯体作为对象和场地,通过 对躯体的延续来诠释其意 义。她们的作品对现代珠宝 设计制作进行探讨,充满了 思考和自省。

Xiaohui Yang The Distance Between Us 2012, silver and paper measuring tape, 19 x 9, 9 x 7, 9 x 3cm. Photographer: Bing Wang.