Interview: Antonia Boyle on Her Creative Pursuits and Ambitions in the Art Industry

You have been creating jewellery for the Company of Strangers, how has this
shaped your career as an artist? What have you learned from the experience?
I have been working with Company of Strangers for a few years now. Manufacturing their jewellery has taught me the value of my eye for detail. When producing jewellery for stores consistency is key and so the details really make a difference in the end product and the overall cohesive look of the collection that ends up in the stores. It has also taught me about communication, when working with a business producing work that has their name on it it’s important to me that they feel the work I produce accurately portrays their brand.

Working with Company of Strangers has taught me that there is more than one way of working as an artist. To me working as an artist has become a multifaceted job, each day being different than the next. One day I’ll be manufacturing for Company of Strangers, the next making a custom commission job and then working on more contemporary arts based jewellery (sometimes it all happens in the same day).
Your Master's of Fine Art project made a real statement about mental health. Tell us how this came about, what inspired you to create this collection?
Throughout my life I have dealt with mental health issues. It’s something I used to keep to myself a lot, while I was studying I realised how many of us are affected by mental health issues and I was shown a supportive place to talk about what was going on for me without shame. I guess my main hope with my works that speak about mental health is that they help someone in a hard time feel less alone. Mental health issues can be very isolating, especially with the stigma that is placed upon it. My work (to me) sends a message of hope, that yes life is hard and challenging but it’s not always going to be that way and that there are many people going through the same issues as you.
Which piece of your work are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my piece titled A.M Chatham Islands Forget-me-not neckpiece. I cannot even tell you how many hours I spent on this piece but it was probably more like days. Everything in this piece is crafted by my own hands replicating the Chatham Islands forget-me-not plant. Each petal and flower were crafted with great care and the leaves were built in layers to get the effect of the veins within them. Part of what I love about this piece is that it is large. People often think of jewellery
as small and petite, often a token of love or a significant moment in life. Jewellery is most definitely this but it can also be so much more. It can be an experience, an armour, a way of expressing life’s triumphs and challenges.

A.M Chatham Islands Forget-me-not Neckpiece, 2019, Thermoplastic, Polymer clay, Human Teeth, 40cm x 53 cm x 35cm. (photograph by Amanda Konijn) 

What does success in art mean to you?
To me success would be being able to make a living solely doing my art. At the moment my art provides a large part of my income but I still have to work part time to keep myself going. Being able to support myself making my art would mean more time to actually make art and therefore my practice would grow, I would be able to show more and get my name out there, a lot of different successes would come from that one success.
There is so much competition within the art world, which means we, as an industry, need to make sure that artists feel that they are being supported by the community. What can the public do to better support early career artists?
I think the best thing the public could do would be see the value in what we do. So many people leave art educations and don’t continue to make because they get discouraged by how difficult it is. If the public saw the value in our art and what we express for the world there might be more of a space in society for the artists rather than the outcasts that we are often portrayed as.

Go to shows, buy the art, talk about what you’ve seen with your friends, educate yourself on the ideas being portrayed, you might just learn something new about yourself.
If you could own any artwork/jewellery by any artist, who would it be?
This is probably the most difficult question you’ve asked. I would have to say Hanna Hedman. Whilst Hanna is not necessarily well known here in NZ she has most definitely made a name for herself in her home of Sweden. I am lucky enough to be currently mentored by her for 2020 and 2021 through the Handshake project.

Hanna Hedman, Enough Tears to Cry For Two, 2008, (source)