Co-active, Co-ntemplative, Co-llaborative: CO-ADORN

Nova Scotia’s Co–Adorn Art Jewellery Society

By: Emma Piirtoniemi
Published: 2017/11/20

Maintaining an art jewellery practice is a challenging endeavour. Add to that, the compounding challenge: finding others like you, and establishing a community within what can be an isolating profession. In Halifax, the Co–Adorn Art Jewellery Society came to be earlier this year, bringing together art jewellers across Nova Scotia. Co-founders, Chantel Gushue and Emily Blair Wareham explain: “We have strong jewellery artists here in Nova Scotia but not the community we envision…We want to open the doors to the bustling studios and come together to create opportunities to showcase talent and educate Nova Scotia on the importance of art jewellery.”

Co–Adorn  co-founders Emily Blair Wareham and Chantel Gushue

Co–Adorn co-founders Emily Blair Wareham and Chantel Gushue

Co-Adorn initiatives include widening the level of engagement with art jewellery, its practitioners, and the public. As Gushue and Wareham describe, “Halifax, specifically, has recently earned the tag “boom-town” or the “anti-Toronto.” This is an exciting time of growth and with growth comes opportunity. We are hoping to help develop a greater audience and appreciation for art jewellery while supporting the artists. Since we are a non-juried organization, we aspire to have gallerists, collectors, or anyone interested in art jewellery [to] join. It is our mission to facilitate the growth of the art jewellery community, while meeting the different needs within that community.”

Halifax is already a notable city for art jewellery in Canada, as it is home to NSCAD’s Jewellery and Metalsmithing department. Both Gushue and Wareham have connections to NSCAD: Gushue as Gemmology instructor and Jewellery Studio Technician, and Wareham as a NSCAD Extended Studies instructor and recent MFA graduate. Over the last decade, Gushue and Wareham have noticed that many students who would typically finish their studies at NSCAD and leave Halifax to start careers elsewhere, began choosing to remain instead. As they describe, “We have seen strong, talented people taking off to everywhere in the world but Halifax. It has been in the last couple of years that we have started to see people staying or even coming back.…at the same time as this thought was ruminating in our minds, the Globe and Mail published an article recognizing and highlighting the jewellery scene here in Nova Scotia. We decided it was the right time to act.”

The Co-Adorn Board of Directors consists of K. Claire Macdonald, Meris Mosher, and Violeta Izquierdo. All Board members of Co-Adorn are NSCAD alumni, 2003-2017. While its connection to NSCAD is certainly present, Co-Adorn is not to be mistaken for an alumni association of jewellers. Having an institution like NSCAD at arm’s length, however, does have its perks. As Gushue and Wareham explain, “We plan to use our ties to NSCAD to our advantage by bringing opportunities that otherwise are exclusive to students to our members, such as guest artist talks and workshops…we simply want to use this connection to our benefit and the benefit of our members, while remaining autonomous as a society.”

Meris Mosher, Candy Coated Recollection Brooch 1 (2017) Silver, gold, plastic agate, steel

The Nova Scotian jewellery scene has what Gushue and Wareham see as a combination of traditional and contemporary practices. “We feel overall, the practices have remained steeped in traditional metalsmithing techniques but with a strong emphasis on design, form, and material language.” While generally, Nova Scotian jewellery work has been in a wearable context, Gushue and Wareham have also noticed a shift in this regard: “we are seeing an evolution in practice, with a new sense of focus on alternative materials and pushing the boundaries of wearability.” One such artist pushing the notion of wearability is Co–Adorn member and graduating NSCAD student Anastasia Pindera. She fabricates large-scale curving brass works, into which a body fits itself, contorting and viscerally engaging flesh with metal. As Pindera’s artist statement for her recent series Docile Bodies explains, her work “examines the feminine body as a site of control and…explore[s] how we control ourselves through disciplinary practices and their capacity to create ‘docile bodies’ or in extreme manifestations, disorders like anorexia.” When asked about Co–Adorn, Pindera states, “The art jewellery community Co–Adorn is cultivating is showing me [that] a supportive and proactive network can exist past the university experience. Amidst my transition from student to professional artist, I am grateful to be a part of Co–Adorn’s growth and development.”

Anastasia Pindera, Enclosure (2017) Brass

Critical discussion about art jewellery is a key element in contemporary practice, and the bringing together of diverse perspectives in the profession is a key component to the growth and vitality of art jewellery in Nova Scotia. As Gushue and Wareham explain, “another aspiration for Co–Adorn is to tap into these commonalities and [to] begin a more critical discussion of art jewellery that is specific to our region in hopes of better understanding our own practices.”

The question of where to exhibit work in the province has been an ongoing issue.  “We are a small, close-knit community. The Maritimes is a place where it is easy to feel supported and to be a part of something. But, with the small-size comes less local opportunities and resources,” say Gushue and Wareham. Being the Nova Scotian capital, Halifax is host to a provincially recognized craft organization called Craft Nova Scotia. Under this banner exists the Mary E. Black Gallery which, as Gushue and Wareham illustrate, is “the only fine craft mandated gallery in Nova Scotia.” Seeking partnerships in addition to this single institutional ally, they reveal that things are beginning to shift. “other local galleries [are] starting to recognize art jewellery in a fine art setting, [but] there is still work to be done.” With this burgeoning art form, Halifax is a fertile place to continue growing the scene and pushing art jewellery to an ever-expanding public platform. As Co–Adorn Exhibition Chair Meris Mosher explains, “Since our founding just a few short months ago, Co–Adorn already has changed the scope for art jewellery locally, and Halifax galleries are starting to take interest. As acting Exhibition Chair, I am very excited with the response in launching membership, and hope to see this collective grow into a strong resource and advocate for our craft.”

Meris Mosher, Forerunner Brooch 2 (2016) Copper, silver, steel, cement, paint, found object

There are plenty of Co–Adorn events already in the works. Kicking things off is an exclusive viewing and sale of gemstones with Montreal-based Pierre des Charmes, which took place earlier this month. The new year brings Co–Adorn’s first annual general meeting and launch party in January and visiting artist talks will be given by Hyun-Seok Sim and Janis Kerman as 2018 unfolds. Gushue and Wareham also mention “an open-call juried exhibition planned for the summer. Interspersed amongst all of that, we plan to host some workshops focusing on the needs of our members — photography skills, mentorships and sales opportunities.” With a thorough approach to addressing the diverse aspects of contemporary jewellery practice, Co–Adorn appears well prepared to effectively serve its members on a local scale and on a national level, enrich the Canadian perspective.


For more information, refer to the Co–Adorn website: