2ndSKIN Jewellery: a project to internationalize cork

The project 2ndSKIN Cork Jewellery has been developed in partnership by two institutions. Socially and in this project, they assume different roles: DesignLocal, Cultural Association settled in Santa Maria da Feira, and ESAD, Escola Superior de Artes e Design, Matosinhos. Together, our aim is internationalizing a new cork image, betting in jewellery, an area almost unexplored, till today.

Ana Campos, 2005

[Texto publicado em 2ndSKIN Cork Jewellery, Matosinhos, ESAD e DesignLocal.]


The project 2ndSKIN Cork Jewellery has been developed in partnership by two institutions. Socially and in this project, they assume different roles: DesignLocal, Cultural Association settled in Santa Maria da Feira, and ESAD, Escola Superior de Artes e Design, Matosinhos. Together, our aim is internationalizing a new cork image, betting in jewellery, an area almost unexplored, till today.

Cork oak, a Mediterranean tree, has a strong symbolic presence in Portugal. Planted at south Tejo, its transformation is done mostly between Mondego and Douro. In both areas, this natural product expresses local identities, performing labour and economic practices.

All over the country, cork materializes a consular myth – country representation in foreign land. It works like an ambassador to economical activities beyond frontiers. Considering Portugal is the world top producers of cork, this material has a symbolic capital with worldly repercussion over cork production and transformation. Therefore, the material itself and a few products we use to see, as well as, several associated activities, express interior cohesion.

However, the cork identity in Portuguese land may be revitalized achieving a new temperature fixed in mentioned aspects which show, as Appadurai says, a “primordial substrate of affect deep within each of us that [can be] brought up and out into wider sorts of social engagement and group action”1. In this way, a new image may be showed, sitting on the use of either the vernacular material, such as it‘s taken out of the tree, or in transformed products, allowing new uses, nowadays, on the account of technological characteristics obtained from studies and researches. More-value may result from jeweller-artists and designers intervention.

In the jewellery world, above all since the 60’s, like as in art and design, expansive energies show, in many ways, a wish to rebuild the worn out jewel concept. This includes performances that may be defined as challenges of the jewellers, or forces tending to act over the social limits elasticity, and over what jewels mean in arenas where stagnated ideas still last. Trying to introduce changes in creative productions and pointing out new ways to understand and use jewels, in the jewellery field increase, since then, questions about wasted ideas, decomposing them, dissecting them, in order to construct alternative senses.

In this transforming process materials played an import role. The resources became multiple. Unexpected materials, sometimes associated with precious stones or metals, contributed, in an important way, to express this social challenge. With techniques and technologies in association and renewing, materials became as one of the ways able to show the jewellery contamination by other artistic orientations. From here appear hybrid expressions, configuring dialogues. They allowed jewellers to arrive to new configurations, to express artistic speculation and aesthetic experimentalism, to introduce colours and textures, which give life to a concept that is being rebuilt. They contributed to create a mainstream and to help to understand that jewellers want to pass ideas through the jewels they create. For example, rethinking the jewel use on the body, to criticize public space or to consider sustainability. Materials made possible to spread those and other volitive forces through these communicative interfaces, the jewels themselves.

Curiously, in spite of a lot of materials that had been used, rarely cork has been chosen. Remarkable exceptions are the necklaces conceived by Paul Derrez, Dutch jeweller. Recently, during 2ndSKIN Cork Jewellery project, has been concluded that cork, an ecological product, offers itself as one more way to experimentalism, to challenge, to communicate ideas, and to build concepts.


Paul Derrez, Pebble necklace”, 1985. Cork, textile. Photographer unknown. Acknowledgement: Paul Derrez

2ndSKIN is a double meaning concept.

In an anthropological point of view, jewels, as a second human skin, temporary, are social mediators, because, as Augé writes, “la propria apariencia, como la obra de arte, es una llamada a testigos; expresa un deseo de intercambio”2 [look itself, as well as art woks, wants witness; expresses a exchange wish].

Cork, the second cork-oak skin, plays in this project the role of main material to be used to shape ideas, associated to many others.

Jewels issued from the 2ndSKIN project show, in different ways, how these two senses, the social and the biological ones are related.

2ndSKIN project includes three phases.

At the first one, ESAD former and current students as well as other foreign students, studying at this school as partnerships of European Socrates/Erasmus program, participated. They took part of a workshop where they experienced cork. It was followed by projects improving. At first, that which Robert Baines calls “(inner) thinking of the makers (…) the mental planning”, they concentrated in this material which, as spite as well known in Portugal, they had never worked with. Portuguese and foreign students met at the same level. Shaping ideas with cork is a strong challenge! To Baines, “preliminary design thinking, when concentrated on materials (…) have been generally overlooked or disregarded, but signage of planning and designing can identify them as the visible working out of an idea. This offers a window into the design thinking or strategies of the maker identifying methodologies that are principally invisible”3. Later, the process followed the other side of the 2ndSKIN concept: jewel as a temporary human skin. They try, in each jewel, fiction – plot, and invention – to report it with experiment, with emotional temperatures with the colours of cork mixed with other materials, to make the concept live. Jewels showed in this catalogue, as others exposed in itinerary exhibition, had been chosen by a jury.

At the second phases, in ESAD took place an international symposium, with the presence of Carla Castiajo, Eija Mustonen, Kadri Mälk, Leonor Hipólito, Manuel Vilhena, Pedro Sequeira, Ramon Puig Cuyàs, Tanel Veenre and Theo Smeets. In the workshop took place an animated discussion of ideas and a change of experiences between all of them, performed by work methods and individual practices of each of them. In the conferences of these invited jeweller-artists, occurred all along the week, we could see shows which revealed, implicitly, debates occurred in workshop. They showed how interventions in the jewellery field, deeply pragmatic, are also different one from the others. Above all with Eija Mustonen, Kadri Mälk, Tanel Veenre and Ramon Puig Cuyàs, we could see how each own cultural environment imbues ideas and work processes. It had been possible to see different ways of live time during the creative process, as well as the attraction on natural scenery in Finland, by twilight in Estonia, by hot colours and memories in Mediterranean culture, in Catalonia. Theo Smeets spoke about is own work and Idar-Oberstein New Jewellery. Carla Castiajo, Leonor Hipólito, Manuel Vilhena and Pedro Sequeira showed that Portuguese keep alive certain old Lusitanian characteristics. All of them acquired several experiences in different countries, go on travelling all over the world in a continuous movement to take and to bring, leaving something personal in other places, bringing other else things, in a continuous hybridising ideas process, producing the unusual, performing different creative processes.

At last, an itinerant exposition which, beginning in earlier phases, shows, in several European cities, jewels conceived by invited, graduated and students. This exhibition will begin its itinerancy in Portugal, in Santa Maria da Feira Library, in this distinguished land of cork transformation. Will visit, afterwards, other countries, and will be exhibited at Villa Bengel, Idar-Oberstein, Deutschland, in JOHAN S. Gallery, Helsinki, Finland, in ETDM-Aplicated Arts and Design in Tallinn, Ra Gallery, Amsterdam, Holland and in Artesania Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain. From these phases we hope the overcome of the internationalization of a new cork image, associated with a new area, jewellery.



1                APPADURI, Arjun (Ed.), 2003, Modernity at Large: cultural dimensions of globalization, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press: 164.

2                AUGÉ, Marc, 2000, El diseño y sus objectos, in revista Experimenta 98, Dez., nº 32, Madrid, Experimenta: 98.

3                  BAINES, Robert, Reconstruction of historical jewellery and its symmetry with the contemporary document: http://members.tripod.com/vismath7/proceedings/baines.htm


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