We asked five questions of the five artists who participated in Northart’s very first exhibition in 1998 and have been invited back for ‘First Five’, one of two stunning shows celebrating Northart’s 20th anniversary.

We kick off this ‘First Five’ series with jewellery maker Warwick Freeman.

What media do you work in and what attracted you to it?

Many media in the material sense – any material that can be put to the task of making jewellery and lately, larger scale domestic objects.

What artworks or achievements in the past 20 years are you most proud of?

A sustained studio practice for over 40 years. I’ve heard the death knell for this type of production tolled several times over that working life.

How has your practice developed over the past two decades? Tell us about any significant stylistic changes.

You hope you get better but looking back doesn’t always prove that point. Each work is a child of its time. You just hope as an artist – despite the stylistic influence of each period – that you are providing a constant, something that glues it all together.

Tells us about the works you have selected for ‘First Five’. Are any of them from the original ‘5/100 New Zealand Craft Artists’ exhibition?

Two old, two new. The two old ones are typical examples of my interest in the 1990s in the emblematic qualities of jewellery. The ‘Poppy’ is fairly obvious but the iconography of the ‘Bulb Brooch’ is a bit more obscure: light on/light off – good idea/bad idea. No, on second thoughts that’s obvious too, but then I always find the ‘bleedin’ obvious’ a good seam to work. You can still see that attitude in the two newer works – that’s the constant I mentioned above.

How has the exercise made you reflect on your own practice and its development over the past 20 years?

Helen Schamroth’s !00 New Zealand Craft Artists was a significant publication in 1998 so to be included meant a fine addition to the publication list on one’s CV.  You can wonder what a muster of a 100 artists would look like today – some of the same names might be there but I imagine there would be a swag  of new and exciting voices vying for a place on the list. Move over old man!

Warwick Freeman has been a jewellery maker since 1972. His works are in museum collections in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and the USA. He was made a Laureate of the New Zealand Arts Foundation and the Françoise van den Bosch Foundation, Amsterdam in 2002. Warwick lives and works in Devonport, Auckland.