Creating something permanent from something transitory

08 July 2020

Earlier this year, Sanlam was the lead sponsor of the prestigious 2020 Collect Open Award at the International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design. In the third of a series of interviews with exhibitors, we talk to Julia Griffiths Jones – a renowned artist based in Wales, who pulls most of her inspiration from her global travels and the beauty of locally produced textiles.
Textiles is where it all began for Julia Griffiths Jones. She studied them in detail at the Royal College of Art, and her love of beautiful fabric, weavings and embroidery has taken her all over the world, making it the source of much of her inspiration today. But unlike the relatively short life of a fabric, Julia strives to bring its beauty to life in a rather more permanent way using wire and metal - a process which fascinated us when we met with her at Collect Open 2020.


Julia's inspiration

In 2017, Julia was invited to a residency in Bhuj, India, and it was this enlightening trip that inspired her work for the exhibition we sponsored. In 2001 there was a huge earthquake in Bhuj, and many people lost their lives. In response, the government built villages specifically for weavers and gave them a place to work and sell their craft. During her trip, Julia visited many of these weavers in their small villages in the middle of the desert. But it was the embroidered fabric dowry sacks, used by the nomadic Rabari tribe to transport their possessions on their camels, that really inspired her.  
Her interpretation of this work for the Collect Open exhibition included large metal tassels welded into the seams of brightly coloured metal sacks, which are full of wire and enamel utensils. She also created a wire and enamel wall drawing, full of people, their possessions, and animals, moving through the landscape.


Bringing her ideas to life

The process of bringing her chosen textiles and ideas to life can take many weeks. It starts with a drawing, which can be two metres in length, depending on what she is creating. Julia said: “When I stand back and look at my drawing, it must make an impact. It must tell the story I am trying to portray.”
Every element of her work is a labour of love, involving many different skills and years of experience. A metal object will be lovingly welded then sandblasted over and over until it is clean and has no obvious joins. It will then be powder coated to give it a bright colour. A screen print will be created using a drawing inspired by the textiles she found in India. Once printed onto the enamel surface it will be placed into a kiln and fired multiple times until the surface is just right. The patterns will be overlaid onto the metal, after covering it in wet-coated enamel, to give it the depth and detail of the original piece of fabric that inspired it in the first place. And that’s not to mention the work involved in manipulating wire and welding it into place once she is happy with how it looks. It is an immensely intricate and time-consuming process, but the results are nothing short of incredible.


Knowing her craft

The skills and experience that Julia brings to every one of her creations is something she has learned and honed over many years. While her designs are inevitably constrained by the processes she uses, you would never know it. She understands her methods so well, that she designs and draws accordingly. She sees the potential limitations that metal and wire can bring as less of a constraint and more of a foundation from which to hang her ideas.
Her creations are as bold and unique as they are beautiful. She said: “I love textiles, but I wanted to find a way of bringing their beauty to life in a more permanent way. Something that could last forever, telling the amazing story that inspired them for generations to come.”
It’s creating this legacy with such expertise, care a precision that really inspired us here at Sanlam. While our financial planners could never claim to create something so beautiful, they also use their passion, skills and expertise to help clients create a meaningful legacy, even if there are constraints and challenges along the way.

The worlds of art and wealth management are surprisingly similar. We set out to craft something meaningful and of real value that lasts for generations to come. The same spirit that guides and inspires artists to create cultural wealth is what drives our wealth managers to grow and preserve clients’ wealth. The traits and characteristics typically associated with artists, such as inspiration, innovation, hard-learned skills, comprehensive experience, care and patience – even the need to take calculated risk at times – rings true for portfolio managers and financial planners and reflects our brand proposition, Wealthsmiths.

For more information on Julia’s work, please visit her website.


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