Mah Rana: Jewellery and Meaning

Mah Rana is a London-based jeweller and artist whose work is currently on show at the National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny, Ireland. The exhibition is up until October 20th, and even if you don't have an opportunity to see it in person, I recommend finding out more about her unique approach.

See, for example, "Out of the Dark" (above), a series she made in 2002. It is a collection of brooches, made of gold, in the simple form of a flat circle. The gold circle is painted with a black coating. This black coating is what is intriguing - if you look at the entire series, each black circle has a different texture and different tone of black. It turns out that each is blackened with a different material, which will wear away over time to reveal the bright gold layer beneath. They are pieces of jewellery that brighten with time rather than tarnish. The concept behind can be deciphered from the colour: they are mourning brooches. And they are designed to express the process of grieving, which begins as an overwhelming void that gradually gives way to new life. Black to gold; grief to celebration.

His'n'Hers, Mah Rana, 1995/2002

Rana's work as a jeweller is highly conceptual. The pieces have a very subtle aesthetic and quietly hint at a deeper narrative. Underlying it all is her developed skill in the craft of jewellery-making. She expresses her deep passion for the place of jewellery in our life through the pieces themselves, allowing the voice of the carefully selected materials to tell stories.

Image from "Meanings and Attachment", photograph by Mah Rana

In another section of the gallery, Rana has installed her interactive exhibit, "Meaning and Attachments". Here, she allows visitors to put their own jewellery on display, by being photographed and writing down the story behind the pieces. You see pride, happiness, regret, and other emotions on the faces of the visitors as they pose for Rana's camera. Visitors become models, and everyday accessories become gallery pieces. The value comes from the stories contained between the two.

Mah Rana graduated from the RCA before starting a successful commercial practice. She says, of her practice, "I really need to keep a balance between the mass production work and the one-off art works so I scaled the more commercial side down a little." For designers and craftspeople concerned with meaning, Rana is an inspiration.

Mah Rana at the Crafts Council of Ireland: http://www.ccoi.ie/news/news_item.php?listing_ID=129
Interview with Mah Rana by the Design Council: http://www.yourcreativefuture.org.uk/crafts/crafts_designer01_05.htm

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