How our approach to memory and making can help overcome adversity

For jeweller Naomi Tracz, lockdown has urged a rediscovery of the complex ways people and memories can live in the jewellery we wear

On the edges of the Kent Downs in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there is a holiday cottage, surrounded by footpaths with landmark oak trees, meandering into the hills and poppy fields beyond. It’s the kind of place you start visiting every summer, then several times a year, despite a voice in your head saying you should go somewhere else for a change. For jeweller Naomi Tracz, it’s where she has formed memories that will stay with her for the rest of her life. On some level we’re aware that these moments don’t last forever, and memory is a form of reactionary response.

MAKER SPOTLIGHT

Naomi is a goldsmith specialising in traditional metal-working techniques such as piercing, etching and Kuem Boo. She has a background in fine art and photography.

“It was my parents’ house but it was sold last year,” Naomi recounts, “we’d go a good few times a year and get all of the family together. We spent a lot of time walking and it’s the poppies that have always stayed with me. I loved picking the late summer seedheads – there’s something about their form and appearance that echoes the passing of time so beautifully.” The countryside started to inspire different items of jewellery – a departure from her usual style – but not for customers, for her family. One Christmas, Naomi made a gift for each member of the family based on their time away including poppy seedheads, linden cones, a small pine cone and Agapanthus buds.

Jewellery is packed full of meaning and can take on new significance as you go through life.

And the gift to herself? A cast of a poppy seedhead made into a silver pendant. It’s been the item of jewellery that she has been finding herself wearing the most since the start of the national lockdown. It’s also the first piece of jewellery that Naomi wore to remember people, place and past. “Jewellery is packed full of meaning and can take on new significance as you go through life.”

Naomi says she is lucky at the moment to have access to a bench and is working on some new commissions including rings and even more labour-intensive items such as chains and new gem set pieces scheduled for later in the year.

 

Adjusting to the new routine hasn’t been easy, there was a time at the start of lockdown when she didn’t do any making and struggled to find focus on work: “I needed time to figure things out and get used to the new routine and to make sure the kids were happy and coping – it’s a juggling act, but family life takes precedence.”

When faced with any new challenge, we instinctively reach for places in the past where we can draw on strength and experience, and for many of us, family is where we find this resolve, both in the present and from the past. Now blessed with a happy and healthy 9-year-old son, she recalls that the loss of his 14-week premature twin at birth was, “an extremely intense and difficult experience. Looking back at it now helps me to see that this too shall pass and as hard as things get I believe they will get better and one day we can look back at this time in the same way.”

i Naomi Tracz, jeweller, photographed at home

Along with the silver gifts Naomi gave to her family for Christmas, there was one other piece that she gifted to her mother-in-law that shows she has always had a deep understanding of the way people and memories live in the jewellery we wear. It was a pendant with four stones; an aquamarine for her niece, two diamonds for her twin boys and a blue sapphire for her daughter.

Crisis can force us to change our behaviour and the way we see the world and although her designs haven’t changed as a response to the pandemic, there is a sense that something deeper may be moving through her work: “I’m starting to be more aware of the things I make and the people inside the pieces”.

Naomi reminds us that while some memories are formed as a reaction to a fleeting moment and others are meant to be crafted and recreated – both can make us stronger.

 


Author: Curtis McGlinchey| Photo and video Credit: Naomi Tracz

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MAKER SPOTLIGHT

Naomi is a goldsmith specialising in traditional metal-working techniques such as piercing, etching and Kuem Boo. She has a background in fine art and photography.