CAPTION: Robert Kennedy with participants.
A distinctive style of jewellery emerging from Fijian handicraft producers promises to set Fijian- made jewellery apart.
These latest developments are the result of the Jewellery Making Workshop Program conducted by the Fiji Arts Council in conjunction with the Tutu Training Centre in Taveuni. The series of workshops held over the course of 2013 brings together 16 talented handicraft producers from Macuata and Cakaudrove to gain technical skills and explore their creative potential.
The workshops aim to encourage and support the group to create high quality jewellery that is unique, beautiful and bold, using local materials to capture the Fijian style and spirit.
In the most recent five-day workshop, Fijian contemporary designer Robert Kennedy taught participants design skills, and encouraged them to draw upon themselves to create jewellery in their own style.
“The response to my presentation was immediate and very exciting,” said Mr Kennedy.
“I showed the participants a slideshow of different jewellery from around the world with an emphasis on modern Tribal styles which they related to strongly.
“They were very inspired, especially as they realised that they had the raw materials at hand to make their own jewellery.”
Mr Kennedy, who comes from a strong arts background, said he was delighted when the Fiji Art Council asked him to be part of the program.
“I said yes immediately and then asked (the) Tappoo (Group of Companies) if they would help sponsor me, which they said yes to immediately as well,” he said.
“Tappoo and I share the same vision of having as much as we can made in Fiji, and are really committed to reaching out and developing new enterprises that showcase Fijian talent.”
Mr Kennedy encouraged participants to design an ‘over-the-top’ piece that they could later re-interpret and refine into a commercial piece. He encouraged them to think creatively and ‘outside the box’. This resulted in impressive, innovative neckpieces that combined natural fibres, seeds, shells, and even debris that had washed upon the beach like glass and rubber hose.
Another tutor was Suva jeweller Krishna Nair. He taught participants the skills of cutting, grinding, polishing and engraving mother-of-pearl and coconut shell to achieve a quality finish and beautiful designs and markings. Krishna has run a lucrative handicraft enterprise selling a range of high quality jewellery for 40 years and possesses a wealth of experience and knowledge he wishes to pass on to others.
Throughout the intensive training, the participants also learnt business skills that included pricing, packaging and displaying their creations. In the next five-day workshop they will be taught to create their own labels, which will reflect their individual style and include information about the materials they have used. They will also be trained to conduct jewellery-making workshops, and to share their knowledge and skills with young people and their communities.
The Jewellery Making Program (JMP) is facilitated by the Fiji Arts Council, funded by the New Zealand High Commission and has the support, involvement and the guidance of key stakeholders. The Tutu Training Center is a major stakeholder who has made valuable contributions towards the development of the program and extending its outreach. PIPSO have provided the funding to assist with travel and transport expenses for the program. The Department of National Heritage Culture and Arts and Culture has funded the purchase of equipment to be located in Taveuni, Savusavu and Labasa and Tapoos have funded the costs associated with engaging Mr Kennedy to conduct the design, pricing and display workshops. The outcomes of the program have so far exceeded all expectations and the Fiji Arts Council thanks those who have supported this initiative.