Artist's Statement: Lina Peterson on Imagined Objects of Desire

Interview by Ben Miller | 02 November 2010
Jerwood Contemporary Maker and Craft Council award-winner
Lina Peterson is one of the UK’s most talented jewellers. This
year, as part of Museumaker, she worked with the University of Nottingham Museum's ancient artefacts. After creating moulds of the precious pieces, Peterson recast them in bronze, brass and silver, and spent the summer showing local women a few secrets of the show…


"I visited the University of Nottingham Museum before I wrote my proposal. Some of the things that I ended up making I had to sketch up really early on. There were meetings for me to come to the museum and explore downstairs and go through the drawers, which was quite exciting.

You could just open up a drawer and it would be full of old pipes. There were a few things that didn’t work because they were so badly corroded and were quite scrappy, so I couldn’t have made a cast of them.

I’ve worked with nine objects. I worried that the curator might say ‘no, you can’t work with these’ on certain items, but it was just a case of making sure we worked with them in the right way and checked out the materials I used on them. A backup plan was to 3D scan the objects.

I had a few favourite objects which were so beautiful but they were almost too intact to work with, because one of the things I was interested in was filling in the gaps or reimagining things which were broken. It’s the unknown, the mystery – I wanted to work with things that weren’t on display as well, the more overlooked objects.

The museum has a collection of these urns from the 6th century AD. They’re all decorated beautifully, which makes them stand out. They’re for cremated remains, which is why they were made more special than the other pots.


A photo of an ancient urn
Cinerary urn for cremated remains (6th century AD), from Kingston-on-Soar Cemetery
Some of them are beautiful stand-out pieces, and others are tiny fragments which aren’t normally on display. These pots are really beautiful, but from a jeweller’s point of views it’s kind of ‘what do you do with a pot?’

They would have had stamps to repeat the patterns on them, and I thought ‘that would be nice to remake the stamps’. When I talked to people who worked in the museum they believed that women would maybe have carried these patterns around with them to different areas.

I press a soft dental wax into the pot to get the shape of it, and then I carve the wax using a lost wax carving technique. So you get an identical replica. It’s a very common jewellery technique but it can be used in lots of different ways.

With the hairpin, I wanted to work with one which was incomplete or very sparse, but in the collection they had a beautiful one with a hand design, so that led me on to hand shadows. That was quite tricky to get a good cast from because it’s so skinny.

Hairpin or implement for mixing cosmetics (Roman, Margidunum)
Some of them were quite difficult to make casts from – I don’t even know if the necklace I used was a necklace. Originally it would have been made from sheet and hammered out, so trying to get a cast from it was really tricky.

I had to make silicone moulds of all the metal sheets and then use a wax injector, which is a machine which heats up wax and then uses pressure to squirt wax into the mould. When you’ve got a thin form that can go everywhere.

All the new objects are displayed next to the original numbers, so you can look at both of them and see the story behind them. There was a lot of debate about the technical way you have to preserve the old objects, so you can’t have wood or paint near them.

I wanted them to be in museum cabinets which were a little bit quirky and had colour, but you can’t paint them. We had to buy specific fabrics, not use chemicals and cover the wood to avoid contamination. That means the prices go up and there had to be a reduction in the number of plinths we could have.

I started properly making the casts in March and they went on display in October. I’ve done workshops during the summer on it, working with a group of local women whose pieces have also gone on display in the museum.

Our project is about ancient objects and contemporary crafts, so we have been asking ‘why do we attach meaning to objects? Why is it interesting to see them in the museum? How do we look at them?’ There were all those kind of conversations.

Each person had their own object of desire which they linked with things which interested them in the museum. One woman picked an accidental footprint. Her family is very military and her daughter’s boyfriend had just come back from Afghanistan. She was talking about his bootprint.

There were pieces in textile and embroidery…I think it comes across how they’ve taken on the skills and the techniques. Some of them were more interested in patterns in the pottery and using that in design. Some of them are really beautiful, turning shapes into broaches and pendants in silver."

Imagined Objects of Desire is at the University of Nottingham Museum until December 17, except November 12-14 when it will be at Lakeside Arts Centre, when Lina Peterson will also run a series of workshops.


Visit the project blog for more.

Imagined Objects of Desire is part of museumaker, a prestigious national project involving 16 museums across the country. museumaker is unlocking the creative potential of collections through imaginative interchanges between the heritage and contemporary craft sectors. It is supported by Arts Council England (ACE), the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and its Renaissance Programme. As well as offering new experiences for existing museum visitors, museumaker is establishing innovative ways of developing audiences. Each museum has commissioned one or more outstanding makers to create intriguing new work in response to the venue, its associations and collections. The programme also includes opportunities for partner museums to develop new products for retail. For further information on museumaker, see www.museumaker.com
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