A story-interview with Joya Brava Chile, after more than 10 years of activity. “We are beings that inhabit a complex territory inserted in a complex continent, diverse and precarious. We are building the expression of our identity. We feel original and united, in the midst of difference.”
How does Joya Brava feel after ten years from its start as an association?
Ten years is a long time, but it has passed very quickly. When we look back, it does not seem that we have added so many years to our lives, but we have certainly added a lot of experience to it. It has been a period of constant challenges where we have grown and we have become wiser.
Since 2010 we have thrown ourselves to work non-stop, we have managed numerous projects for the group, taking a chance on every opportunity that was given to us. always embarking on titanic missions in which we invested a lot of time and energy.
We knew that a decade would mark a milestone in Joya Brava, but what happened was that we stopped for a while to think and make a reflection about the path we wanted to follow.
Chile’s social outbreak in October 2019 and then the pandemic in 2020, forced us to pause, to think about what we wanted to be and do in the future. After some meetings and long conversations, we felt that it was time to open up to the community, connect with others and share what we have learned.
We still think we have a lot to learn and we have more to say through our work. Art jewelry is a reflective field that is linked to our own stories, environment and context.
Ten years is a long period. For some of us, after a decade, it feels like we are in front of a threshold. Which is your most important achievement from this period as an association? What stays by far the most important aspect recognized also by the members, but also by the exterior aficionados?
We believe we reached many achievements, but surely, the greatest is to continue existing after 10 years! Few collective groups manage to survive so long and also be active. We have a board of directors, required for being a trade association with legal personality, that rotates every 2 years, with no salary. But we are a group where people work in a fairly horizontal manner. This figure has been crucial to obtain public funds and be able to carry out all the projects we do.
Our peers, especially international ones, have always been surprised and praised our organizational and management capacity. We have executed various projects such as tutorials, trips, assemblies, exhibitions, meetings, seminars, etc. Definitely, our greatest achievement is having learned to renew energies, change roles and listen to each other. We are a large group with different capacities, where we are all important within the group and we need each other in our different functions and time frames.
Joya Brava feels proud to be an effective training and integration platform for its members. We highlight the recognition obtained outside Chile by Vania Ruiz with the 1st place in II Bienal de Buenos Aires, 2018 and Rita Soto, finalist for the Loewe Craft Prize London, 2018.
Was there a moment, a period, when the association faced difficulties? How did you manage to overpass the crises, if there were any?
In these ten years we have faced several crises of various kinds, including internal and external conflicts, projects that failed to materialize, etc. The lack of budget had always been a constant, but we do not believe that this is a crisis. It is rather part of the challenge to lead a guild association in an environment where there is no market for art jewelry.
Of course, trying to get funds generates a much greater energy consumption than if we could self-finance everything with our dues.
To make the guild work well requires a big amount of enthusiasm since there is so little economic return in the activities we make. This discipline is just beginning to have a place in our country.
We have been overcoming the natural wear and tear of time with the constant incorporation of new members, who bring renewed energy and desire to do things, and allow us to take turns.
Anyway, it was almost a coincidence that in the year 2020 we felt more thoughtful than ever. We had been repeating a successful model of mentoring, research, development and exhibition several times, but we were beginning to feel that it was time to take another step.
Perhaps we were about to start a deep crisis, when we were saved by the pandemic – that was when we reassembled with energy and began to open ourselves to the community. We started shyly showing our workshops, then we organized a cycle of Instagram lives, where we had many guests, especially Latin Americans, and we began to connect with others. We started to share content with the jewelry community of the continent. Finally, we celebrated our 10th anniversary with Una Decada Brava A Brave Decade, the evolution of a project that started as a retrospective exhibition at the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center, in Santiago, Chile, to a completely online experience, which became a virtual reality documentary.
An on-line catalogue and a cycle of interdisciplinary conversations aimed at continuing this path of openness and connection, because we realized that connecting with others is what we are looking for, for the next few years. We want to inspire, not expire.
Can you describe the jewelry scene from Chile in the eyes of Joya Brava, an association who just celebrated with an international digital event agenda, its first ten years of existence?
The local scene is in full development, it is still identifying itself. In fact, we plan for this year to do a cycle of live events and meet other contemporary jewelers, schools and curators from our country. We are not fully aware of the number of art jewelry developers here, but it seems to us that the numbers are growing. We know of three schools that teach contemporary jewelry as a means of expression; Pamela de la Fuente School, Claudia Correa School and Walka Studio, there is also Estudio Honorato Vicencio made up of the couple Caco Honorato and Mariela Vicencio and Brújula Arte en Tránsito, created by Loren Jarpa which is a collaboration platform between creators and spaces for the dissemination of art jewelry.
Regarding spaces for collections in museums, it is a work in progress. There are still no museums that have contemporary jewelry within their collections. The good news is that some art galleries are starting to get interested in exhibiting pieces of art jewelry. There have been some fair attempts such as Pura Joya and the Maquis Vineyard Contemporary Jewelry Award organized by Arteoriginario Foundation.
Between 2009 and 2012 there was a National Contemporary Jewelry contest associated with a magazine called Revisa Orfebre, but both initiatives did not have continuity. That is also a topic that we would like to develop.
The Seal of Excellence of the Government of Chile, which is inspired by the guidelines of the UNESCO vision of craftsmanship, is also an interesting contest that recognizes several contemporary jewelers. It has served to give visibility to exponents of contemporary national jewelry that stand out for their excellence in the crafts. For example: Valeria Martinez, Nicolas Hernandez, Liliana Ojeda, Lucía Nieves, Atis Saez, Javiera Carrillos, Juan Carlos Orellana, Carmen Gloria Vivanco and Marcela Alcaíno.
What are the most important points in your agenda in these challenging times? How do you see the future of creative jewelry in Chile and South America? What should we know about Chilean jewelry that we didn’t get so far?
We are focused on the launch of a project called Sustain the Uncertainty. After two years of research and work, we are ready to virtually open the exhibition within the event “Abran Cancha” III Biennale of Latin-American Contemporary Jewellery, with the mentorship of Francisca Kweitel from Argentina. The launch of Sustain the Uncertainty will be on the 27th of September, via Zoom. Check out our platforms for more information on this matter.
In the future, we want to exhibit it both in Chile and abroad. We also want to focus on our next call to add new members to Joya Brava. This is something that truly excites us, we need to renew our energy, find fresh air to incorporate new ideas and views so we can continue to grow as a group.
Art jewelry is writing its history in Latino America, even there is not so much recorded yet. Art jewelry is slowly occupying spaces of art and expression, with some pioneers in Chile, in the 90s. Victor Muñoz did classes transmitting his alternative and visionary vision of jewelry to many of us. Little by little, we are becoming a visible community. For example, doors are already opening in local galleries to start considering proposals and possible exhibitions and commercialization. We are very excited about the future. Hard work is coming, but we are manier and more excited. Besides, the pandemic offered us the possibility of communicating with our Latin American peers, generating connections and strengthening ties with events such as the Latin American Biennial of Contemporary Jewelry organized by Joyeros Argentinos, an instance that not only allows us to get to know each other, but also facilitates us to build connections and reflections on our Latin American identity.
Chilean jewelry is faithful to the identity of its creators, it manifests what overwhelms us. This identity is not only related to the materiality we use, or the techniques we know, although we are recognized by some ancestral techniques related to Latin America. But, what also defines us is the experimentation with new materials and the development of personal solutions for the construction of our work.
All this shows the intimate reflection of the place from where we are communicating, a place located far to the south of the world, quite diverse throughout its length. We are not the result of a merger, yet we are not hybrids. We are beings that inhabit a complex territory inserted in a complex continent, diverse and precarious. We are in the construction of the expression of our identity. We feel original and united, in the midst of difference.
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This article was possible thanks to Patricia Iglesias, Vania Ruiz, Constanza Bielsa, Soledad Avila and Liliana Ojeda, members of Joya Brava Chile.