Miniature works of wearable art by Tinsel

"Tableaux", an exhibition of one-of-a-kind figurative jewellery pieces, opens at Tinsel Gallery in Joburg.

A new exhibition, titled Tableaux, at the new Tinsel Gallery in Joburg features the eye-catching new collection of singular, figurative jewellery designs by owners, husband-and-wife team Geraldine Fenn and Eric Loubser together with fellow jewellery-maker Marchand von Tonder.

The word “tableaux” is French for “painting” and alludes to the inspiration behind the show.  Many of the pieces include miniature paintings by artist Marita Johnson. 



“This show came about in conversation with Marita, who is Eric’s aunt,” says Fenn, known in the local industry for her one-off jewellery designs and for pushing designers to develop their own original aesthetic. “I showed her some painted ‘lover’s eye’ brooches from the 18th and 19th centuries and asked if she could paint some for me to make jewellery with. She then also painted some other miniature pieces, and I thought it would be nice to build it into a proper exhibition and invite Eric and Marchand to join us.”

Fenn’s novel pieces emulate the delicacy of antique jewellery with miniature painting by Johnson and materials such as silver, seed pearls, onyx and silk thread.
The three designers reinvent the traditional perception of jewellery by creating “wearable art” though their use of unusual materials. They inventively juxtapose fragments of Perspex, wood, precious metals and found objects in a dance of delicacy and eccentricity.

Loubser works with silver, 9ct yellow gold, seed pearls, onyx and silk thread to frame Johnson’s original miniatures on brass.

Fenn describes their individual styles:  “I like using vintage cameos and intaglios. and try to re-interpret them in a contemporary way. Eric has quite a cute aesthetic and does some very out-of-the-ordinary pieces with unusual materials. Marchand’s pendant pieces are a collection of abstract faces inspired by wooden African masks.”


Van Tonder's design uses oxidised silver, 18ct yellow gold, coral and gold-bearing ore.


Tableaux is at Tinsel Gallery in Johannesburg from 23 May until 12 June.

Watch the Talk with Geraldine Fenn

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