1. What and who is Astonish? ASTONISH is a collective of seven female artists. We are seven explorers fascinated by making and designing contemporary jewellery and objects. This exploration lead us to different results: could be a necklace, could be tableware, could be a performance. A remarkable aspect is our internationality. We are from five different countries: Gabriela Cohn and Eva Burton are from Argentina, Sharareh Aghei is Iranian, Helen Habtay's origin is in Eritrea, Pia Groh and Stephie Morawetz are from Austria and Julia Obermaier is German. We are organizing and networking the ASTONISH project internationally: from Germany, Israel and Spain. We are a colorful and lively group, building up this collective with the common goal: to make, present and share contemporary jewelry.
2. How did you find each other and form into a collective? All Astonish members are alumni from the Trier University of Applied Sciences, Department Gemstones and Jewellery in Idar-Oberstein. We all met during our studies and are a group since 2015. The starting point of this collective was the fact that we all have been exploring different perspectives of the topic (gem)stones. We all were driven by different ways of dealing, playing and struggling with this unique material. This brought us all together. Our collective is open for change, so we are not always the same members, new people are coming and other ones are going, so we are always in motion, which refreshes our ideas and leads to new projects. Also in the future we are hoping to collaborate with other collectives or artists.
3. Why is jewellery special (and special to you personally)? Jewellery exists since the beginning of humankind; this medium shows how humans started to get to know their creativity and their passion to adorn themselves. Jewelry is an expression of human needs. Naturally, it had more function than just to adorn our bodies. It was an expression of culture, religion, status and political identity. Nowadays it is not very different, jewelry is still an important part of our society. We still need to adorn and express ourselves, we have an urge to create pieces and also share it as a gift.
4. What are Astonish plans for 2017-2018? In the following year 2018, Astonish is going to have a booth at the Internationalle Handwerkmesse (IHM) in Munich, it is the third year in a row that we are presenting our project there and we are very excited to be able to do this again. For us this fair is a very important location to exhibit our work because it is the worldwide biggest jewellery event and it is a perfect platform for us to increase our network and being able to develop our future plans. Of course we would like to show our works in other places and spaces too, therefore we are already scheduling future exhibitions that will be announced soon.
Short info about each artist in the collective
Eva Burton There are three kind of men. Homo Sapiens, the man who knows. Homo Faber, the man who creates. Homo Ludens, the man who plays. Play is a function of the living. It presents to us like an intermezzo, an interlude of our daily life. Play is a ritual that has a consecrated spot, the playground, the magic circle. Inside this playground an absolute and peculiar order reigns. Into an imperfect world and into the confusion of life it brings a temporary, limited perfection As makers we have the power to transform material into ideas. Through this process in which we experiment tension and confusion we are able to achieve pleasure. We play with the reality mixing experiences from the inner world with the outside world. In this blend is where it lays our inspiration. Reversal and inversion, exaggeration, paradox, playing with boundaries, playing with infinity, playing with space and playing with time. This is what human does. Humans are artists only when they are at play or perhaps they are ideally humans only when they are at play.
Gabriela Cohn Fragility is a life condition. As inspiration and guide I take these principles while working in an art piece. My art pieces are infused with symbolic elements. Emotions are one of the ephemeral qualities I chose to work with. Working with parts of the wholeness from where they belong, showing some and hiding the rest.
Helen Habtay For her work Helen Habtay adresses the emergence of body adornment and body. She creates sculptural jewellery born of geometric forms, made out of ready mades, leather and handcarved gemstones. The driving force of her work is a continuous inquisitiveness about the relationship between body and adornment, underpinned by what objects mean to us in society.
Julia Obermaier My main subject is about private space. In my pieces I create rooms, containers, boxes or little caves. These spaces can be filled with ones own personal feelings, perceptions and sensations. I see my work as containers protecting the innermost emotions of the viewer or wearer, that they use to confront a busy world.
Pia Groh The old and powerful symbol of the circle is the basic form of her body of work. She focuses on rotating and repetitive movements and lost herself in the material stone because of its strong and powerful appearance and its meditative making process. Combining bright-coloured stone elements with oxidized silver, she creates Jewellery which appeals due its lightness and minimalistic form language.
Sharareh Aghaei Identity as an essential substance of every Individual, is the main concept of my work. Utilization of weaving as an ethnic technique, different layers, nets as symbol of solidarity like several layers of our psychological identity and translate it into a new language is what I attempted to approach in my work.
Stephie Morawetz In my work I am rethinking the definition of luxury. Luxury has a close relationship to rareness and material. Since the beginning of humankind we considered materials, like diamonds, gold or pearls as luxury goods. We treat them as items of preciousness because of their difficult accessibility and their inessentiality for life . But our world and our society is changing, because of reasons like global warming, pollution, globalization or careless use of resources. Luxury, values and preciousness will change because our rules will be different. In my performance from the project same shit, I am labeling myself with a pearl necklace out of price tags. The price tags have show different prices, but in the end it is all the same shit, covered in a different design.