General Gallery Reviews

Findings Spring 2017

Findings Spring 2017

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About Us


Collecting Conversations
Collecting, Curating and Engaging.... My personal journey to becoming a promoter of jewellery in all its multifaceted forms!

Kath Libbert

I never dreamed I would be doing what I do - so when I was asked if I would write this article I was interested to accept the challenge of taking a look, reflecting on my personal trajectory. How did I get here, why do I do what I do, and what is distinctive about it?

When I start to take a look back I do in fact see all kinds of links and connections both frorn my past career in community work and then in NHS adult mental health, but also from within my own early family life.

So where to start ... I grew up in north London in a middle class family, both parents Jewish but we were not brought up with this as a religion but culturally it was a feature, in particular from my mother who was Czech and whose family had to flee the Nazis. She had come from a highly cultured background where the classical arts and collecting was prized but also contemporary design embraced. My mother's aunt was Grete Tugendhat who along with her husband Fritz commissioned the now famous Mies van de Rohe Villa Tugendhat in Brno. Although, of course, all of this way of life was abruptly stopped by the Nazis, the sensibility of my mother's family lived on and I was surrounded by early Scandinavian design classics in my home alongside my mother's collection of Kilim rugs, and my father's interest in collecting drawings. All of which I rejected as a child, a cultural snobbery I felt, though I did also recognise their genuine passion for these things.

From this background I chose a professional path that was outside either of my parent's domain - they could not pass comment because they had no knowledge! I was free to make my own way and that was always working with people – first children, running play schemes, then in family centres and finally putting to use my psychology degree combined with my great interest in the power of analytic-based psychotherapy to engage and help, working for 13 years as an NHS counselling psychologist in Leeds and Bradford. It was whilst doing this job around the late 1980s that I started to enjoy collecting  and wearing contemporary British jewellery and this then led on to taking a table top at the Corn Exchange in Leeds and selling it - which I did every weekend for a couple of years from 1994, as well as holding jewellery 'Tupperware' style parties at friends' houses! All along I never imagined that this would lead to setting up a full-time jewellery gallery. But in the serendipitous way that my most significant life changes seem to have occurred, my personal passion for visiting Salts Mill, a wonderful ltalianate Victorian textile mill, with a very special interestingly curated collection of work by David Hockney, became a bit more than that and led to an invitation from owner Jonathan Silver to set up a permanent gallery within Salts Mill.

Salts Mill is a democratic kind of place - it is free, it is open plan, it is full of innovative art and design, it attracts a very diverse range of visitors and as such gave me a wonderful opportunity to present radical contemporary jewellery from all over the world to people most of  whom would never go into a more conventional art jewellery gallery. For the first five years however, as I also continued to work part-time for the Health Service, I focussed on promoting striking UK jewellers, many of whom I still represent. Then on leaving the NHS so I could really develop the gallery, I began my foray into the fascinating world of international art jewellery. €uromix in 2002 marked the year of the Euro with 'Diverse Jewels from the Continent' and featured the late Nel Linssen with her amazingly elegant complex folded paper jewellery and Felieke van der Leest's quirky, crocheted red Sperm Hearts and costumed Emperor penguins! Distinto/Distinct - a collaboration I initiated with Hipotesi, a wonderful jewellery gallery in Barcelona, presented six British Jewellers in Barcelona and six Catalan jewellers at Salts Mill along with a Talk & Tapas event to help engage our collectors and similar events in Barcelona to promote the UK jewellers. Czech it Out - ignited by my desire to make new, meaningful connections with the country that my mother had come from, was a survey of the best in new Czech art jewellery and led to my meeting and continuing to represent the wonderfully skilful finger-knitted wire work of Blanka Sperkova - who opened the exhibition with a fascinating talk and demo of her work.

Everything I choose is from a very personal aesthetic, it has to arouse my curiosity, provoke a reaction in me, possess beauty, and of course be well crafted. I think my early background has undoubtedly led to my confident eye. But having made my selection I am interested in reactions to the work chosen, 'l think it is of interest - now what do you think and feel?' Not so dissimilar really to sitting with someone in therapy - what did that make you feel, how did that affect you, touch you? Curiosity is always to be fostered in life. I choose artists who have this approach to their work, they explore, they create, they question, and they explore some more and so on. To aid this curiosity all our art jewellery exhibitions have an interactive element engaging visitors in safe and playful ways to encourage maximum enjoyment of the work on show. For example, in Matters of Life & Death, we created a physical Chain of Thought on which visitors, after trying on pieces, recorded their strong reactions. For Natural Histrionics we filmed visitors on our specially created mini stage declaiming theatrically their enthusiasm for their chosen piece!

Twenty years on, along with our regular collectors, we have an ever expanding curious clientele who manifestly take great pleasure in exploring the wonderful world of contemporary art jewellery.

Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, Bradford BD18 3LA. Tel/Fax 01274 599790. For directions see About Us
Open Monday - Friday 10am - 5.30pm. Weekends 10am - 6pm.