Wired Up

Julia Griffiths Jones bends steel wire to her will, and her will is folk-inspired

Welsh artist Julia Griffiths Jones moves from Eastern European folk costume to art and back again, in an often-humorous look at outfit and identity, formality and affection.
 
A research scholarship took Julia Griffiths Jones to Poland and Czechoslovakia in the late 1970s, where her first exposure to folk costume and embroidery was a revelation.  The serious symbolism and skill of Slavic embellished textiles, combined with the whimsy inherent in their flowers-and-birds-and-more-flowers way of communicating, has fueled her work ever since. “My work is concerned with the translation of textile techniques such as stitching, quilting, patchwork, embroidery, into a wire and metal form; thus changing its original nature and function but retaining the meaning and the decoration. I am very inspired and influenced by textile work created by women alongside their domestic duties as much as for need as for warmth,” Jones summarizes her work.
 
Over the four to six weeks it takes to create a piece, Jones balances ideas of structure influenced by garment-making, a sense of expression and narrative characteristic of Alexander Calder, and the stories of men and women communicated through traditional folk clothing.  In steel wire, she sometimes seems to talk of slowly falling in love (as in two folk garments merging across a void) or of the deliberate care the lover takes of her beloved (as in a precisely rendered outfit placed just-so on a hanger).  
 
Once the steel is curled and bent according to a drawn plan, Jones spot-welds the wire to keep it in place, and then frequently colors the piece with anti-rust paint. At times, aluminum plates create solid surfaces to contrast with the lacy see-through quality of the wirework. 
 
While teaching places demands on her time, as does her role as artist in residence at The National Wool Museum in Drefach Felindre in West Wales, she continues to shape and weld steel in her work. She reports that her hero Calder once said, "Art need not be so lugubrious." We can see she has taken his words to heart.
 
For more information on Julia Griffiths Jones, visit her website www.juliagriffithsjones.co.uk.
 

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