'Inner Traces' by Michaela Pegum
Michaela recently launched her beautiful, made-to-order collection of rings and pendants at Pieces of Eight Gallery. Inspired by heart lines, each piece is intended to be bespoke. They are beautifully designed for connecting; the soft sensitive landscapes of our palms easily nestle into another’s.
We spoke to Michaela about the concept and inspiration behind her Inner Traces collection.
PO8: Tell us about your unique approach to jewellery making?
Quite a number of years ago now I became very intrigued by the technique of electroforming. This is a process that utilises electricity and the dynamics of chemistry to transfer microscopic particles of metal from one object to another. I was fascinated by its potential for transforming materials through growth, and by the way it took some of the directive power out of my hands, so every piece I made was also being informed by the organic growing processes of the technique. For me it felt like a collaboration with some of the invisible but inherent life forces that form the structure of our world and this was so exciting.
As my practice works to explore and articulate the deeply sensorial realms of our relationship with the natural world, I was interested in generating sensorially evocative materials and exploring qualities of transformation and transference. So I started growing copper - an element from the earth - into soft skin and moss like textiles such as silk and velvet. I became intrigued by that moment of suspension when one thing is becoming another and both things are held in balance for a time, creating something entirely new as a culmination of their integration. This spoke to me about the transformational nature of relationship and connection between things, something termed ‘becoming’ in philosophy.
This process of creating evocative, hybrid materials is at the center of my jewellery and also sculptural practice. I’m very interested in how they may inspire a felt response in the wearer or viewer and how this relates to the un-nameable aspects of our experiences in the natural world that operate in that deeper realm of affect and the senses.
PO8: Tell us more about your collection entitled ‘Inner Traces’ for Pieces of Eight.
This collection has been wonderful to develop, it is a fresh direction in terms of process but is still centered on our embodied being. Because I began with the idea of creating jewellery to honour a union between people, it was important to me that the pieces were very personal for each couple and this led me to the body, to the personal uniqueness of our physical forms and the unspoken way we connect and communicate through them. I also wanted the pieces to reflect an intimacy and honesty and for them to feel as natural as the body they would be worn on, so I started working with the landscape of the hand and was drawn to the intricacies of the folds in the palm. These folds, known biologically as ‘palmar creases’ develop in the womb around the twelfth week of gestation and stay with us for the rest of our lives.
I found that the crease known as the ‘heart line’, located towards the top of the palm near the fingers, is often the deepest fold, and it is this part of the hand, with its ancient historical allusions to our emotional lives and its complex depth of form on which this collection is centered. Each piece is bespoke and created from pressings of the couple’s own heart lines. I enjoy that this conceptual approach will render itself differently in every incarnation as it reads each unique body, and that the wearer is truly carrying an imprint of their loved one, and a physical expression of the entwining of their two lives.
Film by Dave Meagher
PO8: Your background is in contemporary dance. Tell us more about the making of the film.
Hands are fascinating landscapes to survey and are incredibly sensitive and expressive parts of the body. They are the means by which we reach out to touch and know the world, and the way we communicate unspoken gestures such as acceptance, care and trust. They are also beautifully designed for connecting; the soft sensitive landscapes of our palms easily nestle into another’s.
I felt compelled to create something that further explored the connection between people through the relational and expressive nature of the hands, as an extension of the collection in another medium. And yes, having a long history of dance in my life, movement was instinctively the way for me to do this. It’s interesting for me to observe that I think my material practice is now informing my dance practice in a way, as there is a particular energy in the hands that develops through the intricate processes of jewellery making that might be finding a presence in the film too.
The full-length version of the film is around eight minutes and was created as a quiet, meditative visual piece, where the familiar shapes of the hands start to become abstracted forms, embodying qualities of sensing, relating and expressing. I’m very fortunate that my partner Dave is a talented film maker, we have worked together on a number of dance film projects in the past and we collaborated on this little feature too.
PO8: You’re a PhD candidate, tell us about your research.
My PhD, which I’m undertaking at RMIT, is a practice led research project titled Subtle bodies: corporeal and material becoming in threshold landscapes. It is grounded in my relationships with the temporal threshold of dusk and the spatial threshold of the South Australian desert and explores the qualities, tones and temporalities that constitute the fabric of relations between the sensing being and their environment.
I’ve chosen these threshold environments to explore as their particular qualities encourage a sensitised perceptive engagement with them, and it is within these perceptively open states of being with environment that I’m focussing my research. These are deep, often unspoken realms of connection we can inhabit, and I’m very interested in them as places where we develop empathy with our world. They are not realms that are easy to bring into language, so my project involves developing ways to articulate them through material, in material languages, which ties back into what I was saying earlier about the potential for evocative materials to speak with our senses and shift the frameworks of our perception.
The work I’m creating, which varies in scale and is both wearable and sculptural, has so far been created by copper electroforming textiles, but I am also exploring some new materials at the moment, such as paper, glass and wax which has been really interesting.