tasmanian conversations: natalie holtsbaum

Friday 14 September 2012

When Ella initially invited us to produce a guest post she suggested that we present our own work. We decided that developing a series on Tasmanian designers, from various disciplines, was far more interesting.
We (Dean and Karryn) run an architectural + interior design studio, Interia, from a coastal shack about 40 minutes South East of Hobart. We also produce a range of architectural hardware.
For this series we decided to collaborate with our friend, photographer Jonathan Wherrett, to document a mere moment in the lives of a group of Tasmanian designers and makers, from various disciplines, with the aim of exploring, in a small way, how this fair isle weaves her magic through us all.

We met with Natalie Holtsbaum earlier this week on a grey, wet, cold and windy Tasmanian spring afternoon. She spoke to us about her recent work, her current projects, her studio and the connection she has with the island.

Natalie graduated from RMIT with a BA in Gold and Silversmithing. Her recent work has made a very interesting departure from traditional wearable jewellery to the realm of functional object, rich with meaning and symbolism.

About 5 years ago, Natalie and I (Karryn) shared a conversation over pregnant bellies. Natalie told me of her fascination with the ideas of heirlooms. Recently, she posted an image on Facebook of a series of objects she had created as part of a private commission. The Gynoflowers (a set of 50 custom utensils) struck a cord for me and I absolutely love the connection between sex, new life, death and the passing on of an heirloom to a life created. The Gynoflowers were commissioned for a feast.

“Social theory, human behaviour, history, tradition and information that requires delving into almost forgotten spaces, is where my research and thoughts wander. The pieces I make are a culmination of these notions along with the compelling need to capture a facet of our contemporary behaviour within an object that has the ability to transcend our time.”
The Honey Spoon is a further development of these ideas, adding another dimension of male and female equality. The symbolism of the honey, the sensuous shapes and the delicious weathered quality of the 24 carat gold is intoxicating. The Honey Spoon earned Natalie the 2012 RMIT Alumni Award proving that most of us find sex a very good thing.
“Since Ancient Egyptian times, Bee shamans have continued to practice a tradition that believes the honey-bee and the hive hold an alchemical-sexual formula.  Known as The Serpent Flight of The Honeybee, this ceremonial and symbolic belief is based on strengthening the connection between man, nature and fertility.

Within this tradition women and men are considered to be of equal metaphysical status, with the emphasis on co-empowerment rather than co-dependency. Bees, sex, symbiosis, connection with nature, semiotics and opulence are all considerations for the inspiration of this honey spoon. “
Natalie, her husband Joe and their daughter, Scarlett, were due to leave immediately after our conversation for 2 weeks on the east coast of the island, first stop a stone cottage on the beach with an open fire. She spoke about how happy she was that it had rained and how she was looking forward to winding down the window and smelling Tasmania as they drove through the dark of evening.
I asked her if, and how, she was inspired/ influenced/ affected by the Tasmanian landscape. She spoke of being inspired by a sense of timelessness against an ancient landscape. “This place, Tasmania, influences my work with it's scale and pace. Having time to investigate issues beyond the daily grind allows pieces such as these to surface.”

Natalie is currently the Craft Curator for the Mona Markets (MoMa), due to start again on Saturday December 15th 2012. She is also working on projects for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and has been involved in a number of performance design projects including costume design for IHOS Opera’s, “The Barbarians” which was commissioned by MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) for this year’s MOMA FOMA.
It would be fair to say Tasmania has bred a generation of resourceful and ingenious designers, creating and turning their hands, and eyes, to more than one facet of the industry.

This post is a collaboration between architect Dean Baird and interior designer Karryn Dargie, both of Interia. Photographs of Natalie and the studio by Jonathan Wherrett for Pages from my moleskine. Photographs of Gynoflowers + Honey Spoon by Peter Whyte (bottom two images).


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