Camden Alive and K2 Academy of Contemporary Jewellery present: Connecting Values
Swiss Cottage Gallery
17 May 2021- 4 June 2021
As part of its Camden Alive programme Camden Council, together with K2 Academy of Contemporary Jewellery and Camden resident artists are delighted to announce the opening of The Gallery at Swiss Cottage Library on 17 May 2021 with the exhibition Connecting Values: exploring co-creation through making. *
Connecting Values is an exhibition of jewellery, sculpture and film by practising artists and K2 Academy of Contemporary Jewellery tutors Katrin Spranger and Kelvin J. Birk shown alongside items created by and with Camden residents Silvija Labokaite, Maureen Klingels-Pruss, Karolina Brodnicka, Nina Saeidi, Renata Szyda, Cat Tuohy, Caroline Palmer, Sandra Rattenni and Katharine Scott during a series of Camden Alive workshops that took place in 2019.
Connecting Values displays artworks that have at their heart a collaborative process. Each communicates a journey in jewellery making, expressing something to its intended wearer, whether personal, political or conceptual; a message chosen to be displayed, used, worn, celebrated and valued. Camden residents learned about the jewellery making and sculptural techniques used by Katrin and Kelvin in their work during a series of workshops between 2019 and 2020. Each created an individual piece of jewellery and then co-created a larger piece led by either Katrin or Kelvin.
Katrin Spranger is an activist and multi-disciplinary artist working with sculpture, jewellery and performance. She creates dystopian narratives that engage with the environment, consumer culture, science fiction and natural resources threatened with depletion. Objects from her Best Before and Aquatopia works will be on display as well as newer works titled Somber which reflect on experiences of the extraordinary events of the last 12 months.
Kelvin J. Birk works with smashed precious gems reconstructed onto precious metal structures to create rings and other jewellery. His work embraces destruction, loss and chaos, reordering materials into new and evolved forms that offer different and challenging interpretations of fine art jewellery. Works on display will include rings and brooches from his Claw, Crushed and Bee ranges.
Connecting Values introduces work by Camden resident artists emerging from 2019’s borough-wide arts initiative Camden Alive: Silvija Labokaite, Maureen Klingels-Pruss, Karolina Brodnicka, Nina Saeidi, Cat Tuohy, Caroline Palmer, Sandra Rattenni and Katharine Scott. On display will be the individual jewellery pieces made during workshop sessions with Katrin and Kelvin at K2 Academy of Contemporary Jewellery. Each ‘value-object’, some of which were made into rings or brooches, will be displayed alongside the story that accompanies it.
Highly personal, these often reveal more intangible values, such as memories of people who have passed and places that are far away, or things that may be out of reach in our everyday lives.
The Aquatopia Water Fountain is an artwork co-created by Katrin Spranger and Camden residents in 2020. Taking form as a large drinking vessel held in a large steel framework and reminiscent of an old milking parlour jar, it was developed as a continuation of Spranger’s dialogue with the scarcity of clean water. The fountain brings this issue into local focus, referencing provision of clean water in the public realm of the borough. Its co-creative nature also serves to highlight the dialogue between personal experience and larger environmental issues. The fountain is embellished with elements worked by Camden residents which are electro formed objects of value. Their presence links personal experience with our basic needs for survival, and so sets up a conversation between the way we live our lives and climate crisis. A specially commissioned film showing the water fountain in action will accompany the display.
Tell Tale, co-created by Kelvin J Birk and Camden residents, is a large and talismanic-like neckpiece that combines individual objects encrusted with smashed gems held within and linked by a worked silver structure reminiscent of a daisy chain. The neckpiece brings together stories, each enclosed in their jewelled cases. The stories ask us about what we value most, how society perceives value and how we deal with the fear or loss of losing things that we value. It highlights how our individual experiences can be brought together, at once distinct but also shared.
Councillor Anna Wright, Cabinet Member for Promoting Neighbourhoods and Communities, Camden Council said:
We are really pleased to be re-opening Swiss Cottage Gallery again with this exhibition. The artwork that has been made for this exhibition, through the Camden Alive project, highlights the huge creativity of Camden’s residents and artists and the impact coming together to share skills and stories makes on our lives. The borough will be seeing many more creative opportunities for participants and visitors in the coming months, celebrating our diverse creative communities, places and organisations. Camden is open!
K2 Academy of Contemporary Jewellery
K2 Academy, the namesake of which is derived from Katrin and Kelvin’s first names, offers facilities and mentorship that caters to all levels and interests. Depending on what the particular needs and interests of students are, the courses cover all facets of technical knowledge, business skills, creative output and more. K2 establishes itself as a place of intellectual exchange, spurring on new ideas and providing an environment for inspiration to flourish.
As the founding directors of K2 Academy of Contemporary Jewellery in central London, both Kelvin Birk and Katrin Spranger have an impressive repertoire of expertise to draw upon. They overlap in their creative outputs and their love of making, but their practices and journeys deviate greatly. It’s part of what makes K2 Academy the perfect balance of creative energy, practical techniques and business savvy, creating an environment that allows for exploration across the expanse of possibilities that jewellery making can offer.
Award-winning jeweller Kelvin Birk had an enviable assuredness about his career path from an early age. He knew since high school that jewellery was his calling, and he saw this path through to unbridled amounts of success. He graduated from goldsmithing and jewellery making at the Berufsfachschule fuer Glas und Schmuck before moving to London to pursue an MA in Silversmithing and Jewellery at the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art. London was the obvious choice for Kelvin at the time. His aspirations outgrew his hometown, and his London calling coincided with a cultural shift that cemented his desire to call the British capital his home.
“In the second or third year after I came here, Cool Britannia kicked in, with the Young British Artists, Alexander McQueen, Blur, union jacks everywhere” says Kelvin. “This really became the place to be. It was good timing on my part, where it felt like creativity had reached a higher standard.”
More than two decades later, his choice to move to London still proves to be a good one, evinced by the successes of his jewellery making career and the founding of K2 Jewellery School with his colleague Katrin.
Many of Kelvin’s contemporary works showcase the destruction and reconstitution of precious gems or objects, a study into the nature of chaos and creation. His composite designs feature a flurry of colours and textures, integrated into single pieces with finesse and artistry. Notable in his archive is his Crushed collection, where precious metals are frosted with delicate sparkles of crushed gems. His favourite of the pieces is the Meadow Brooch, a silver brooch featuring soldered “grass stems” covered in crushed quartz, faceted sapphires and garnets that reach out their spindly forms in a manner both alien and earthly.
Apart from technical skills, Kelvin is also an expert in the business aspects of jewellery making. Knowledgeable about the process of dealing with clients and custom orders, he teaches students how to build up sustainable businesses that allow creative freedom to blossom. His many years of teaching centres on both critical engagement with the techniques of jewellery making and practical advice on how to turn technical skills into a successful business.
Katrin’s journey into jewellery making wasn’t as straightforward, and to this day her practice oscillates between jewellery design and art-making. After graduating as a goldsmith on the advice of practical parents, Katrin knew she wanted to produce art beyond the measures of functional jewellery. She worked as a jewellery designer for several years before leaving her hometown of Hamburg, Germany to complete an MFA in Jewellery Art at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. It was here that Katrin found footing in the type of practice she had craved, where jewellery becomes the starting point for creative exploration. Encouraged to push the boundaries of what jewellery can be, this element of ambiguity and exploration remains in her works today.
Her practice sees performance and sculpture along with jewellery making, with her jewellery
pieces taking on unconventional characteristics. Some of her pieces are interactive, whilst some might be edible. Others might be component pieces to larger artworks that take on a political stance, such as Best Before, which Katrin considers her strongest work to date. A speculative science fiction wherein crude oil is so exhausted as a natural resource that it is treated like a precious gem, adorning high-end jewellery, this work takes on a narrative form using the visual language of jewellery making.
“I am planning to continue with the project and hoping to take it to the next level. I want to research how I can transform the fragility into performance and mark-making,” says Katrin about the ways in which she turns her jewellery making practice into artistic pursuit.
With her practice being situated snugly between art and jewellery design, she has become an expert at grant applications, an important part of realising experimental works. Katrin is well-practised in acquiring funding in order to produce art pieces that fall outside the realm of functional jewellery, a skill she teaches her students in addition to broadening their creative horizons with unorthodox approaches to jewellery design.
About Camden Alive
Camden Alive is a programme of arts and cultural events that celebrates the people of Camden. Sharing our diverse heritage through creativity, Camden Alive captures the sights, sounds and spirit of the borough and what it means to live and work in Camden. Through music, dance, food, fashion, performance and visual art the stories of our neighbourhoods unfold and are showcased by the creation of the virtual Camden People’s Museum. The Museum illuminates and animates these stories, revealing the vibrant individual and collective culture of Camden. Stories and artwork are also presented through augmented reality experiences on the streets of Camden, and at home, through the Camden People’s Museum bespoke AR app (available from Apple and Android app stores).
Follow us: @CamdenAlive
Connecting Values has been created as part of Camden Alive. A programme of arts and cultural events that celebrates the people of Camden. Camden Alive is a Cultural Impact Award winner as part of the London Borough of Culture programme. London Borough of Culture is a Mayor of London initiative with support from the City of London Corporation’s Charity, City Bridge Trust and Airbnb.
For further information contact Suzie Plumb, Arts Development Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org