Welcome to Mamamia’s art endeavour, the Voulez-Vous Project. Every week we celebrate emerging artists, designers, illustrators, creators and cats who dress like their owners (not joking). Our aim: to help the internet become a slightly more beautiful, captivating, or thought-provoking place by making art accessible. To find out more about the Voulez-Vous project, click here. Click here to see all the previous Voulez-Vous posts.
Melbourne-based artist Rosaleen Ryan captures small fragments of memories, and turns them into incredibly beautiful jewellry.
She is predominantly inspired by memento mori, which is an art movement based on the Latin phrase meaning ‘remember you must die’. A basic memento mori painting would be a portrait with a skull, but other symbols include clocks, candles, fruit, and flowers.
Modern artists have continued to explore this genre, including Ryan, who was inspired to continue creating memento mori works after creating a few pieces in her first year studying at VCA.
“I have been centring my energy into those themes ever since. What I like most about memento mori, or at least my contemporary view and incarnation of it, is the idea that these pieces and memories will outlast my own existence, whilst also retaining my touch, ideas, and life within,” Ryan says.
“Every single piece encapsulates a place I have been to or lived in, a gift from a loved one, or insects and de-constructed landscapes that are captured like a photograph would capture a scene or moment. The resin acts as a viewing window for the memory, but the memory is also given greater value for being framed by the resin.”
Ryan began making jewellery for herself, and quickly found herself getting commission pieces, which gave her the confidence to dive in and begin her company, Mamoru.
While she doesn’t have formal jewellery making experience, she spent time learning sculpture, and how to cast, which gave her the tools to begin working with resin. The materials she chooses are often inspired by her own day to day life.
“I think the process chooses me more than I choose it. All my materials such as dried/pressed flowers, insects, and hair come into my life through a process of serendipity and evoke a strong memory for me, but also these materials often have a strong universal connection for many people and so once made exist for others to use as tokens for their own stories,” Ryan explains.
“I find it really interesting and extraordinary how people have such strong emotional ties to certain flowers, and how they can transport them back to a time or place. Sometimes you just can’t forget the first time a flower affected you and I love when someone shares their stories with me too, it is a real privilege.”
Ryan speaks openly about her struggles with her mental health, and how making jewellry has been a form of therapy for her.
“I have pretty serious manic depression, and an irrational fear of death, so the ideas held within memento mori really resonated with me and have been a constant expression and outlet for my fears and also a way to preserve my life, loves and memories in an attempt to prepare myself for my own death,” Ryan says.
“Working with my hands and keeping myself distracted from my own thoughts is such a therapeutic release for me too- and so far it has aided my mental health in such a huge way, not to mention my self confidence in knowing I can achieve things and problem solve on an individual levels.”
For Ryan, being her own boss is also incredibly important, because it means she doesn’t feel guilty on the days when she can’t perform at her best. Ryan tells me that on some days, she will be lucky enough to get out of bed, but on others, she is juggling her final year of her Bachelor of Fine Arts at VCA, as well as creating pieces for Mamoru.
“Usually I will document how I am doing both mentally and creatively on my social media accounts and reach out and speak about mental illness, which is a huge part of my life and my day,” she says.
“It’s been a really healthy experience for me because I have met heaps of people who can relate to my situation, whilst also allowing my customers an understanding of where I am coming from every day and an appreciation and support when orders are slower then usual because I can’t physically perform at 100%.
“I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am for the sincerity and understanding so many people have afforded me over the past few years.”
Ryan has an upcoming exhibition as part of the Secret Garden exhibition, which runs from October 1-18, as well as working on a couple of collaborations with other artists and a new range for Mamoru.
Do you know an artist (or are YOU an artist) who creates beautiful or thought-provoking work and whom you think should be featured on Mamamia’s Voulez-Vous Project? Send an email to [email protected].