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Senior Lecturer and artist Andrew Last talks about making a sanitiser bottle pump from pounamu.

"Contact" is made from pounamu, carved into the ubiquitous form of a hand-sanitiser pump nozzle. Placed on a sanitiser bottle at the entrance to an exhibition venue, “Contact” performs its day-to-day function while metaphorically referencing a touchstone; absorbing mauri from all who touch the pump. This touch and subsequent cleansing invite thought about states of restriction and normality.

The pounamu for “Contact” was a koha from a colleague. Alistair’s father was a rockhound and this material was passed to Alistair as part of his father’s estate. The first work I made from this material was a cabochon set in a silver ring. The ring was made in jeweller Kobi Bosshard’s workshop & follows a traditional way of hand-working championed by Kobi. I offered to koha the ring back to Alistair who received it gratefully, enacting a reciprocity that becomes a part of the stone’s biography.

“Contact” also functions as a pendant with the cord retracing the flow of sanitizer through the nozzle’s interior channels. When worn “Contact” offers a reminder of the body’s susceptibility to the entry of virus via touch or inhalation. This awareness generated by the jewellery might be considered a talismanic function. Taking the nozzle away from its usual context obscures its immediate recognition but it is somehow familiar. A scrutiny of the pendant reveals the elegance of the intersecting surfaces and the careful transitions from top to side to base. The admiration of form pays tribute to the work of the industrial designers who invest time and creativity in humble utilitarian objects so often overlooked after their function has been performed. Transmutation from a mundane object into carved stone is a strategy that gives a nod to contemporary jewellers such as Joe Sheehan, Warwick Freeman and Craig McIntosh. There is a fascination with this methodology that is particular to jewellery from Aotearoa New Zealand.


Image credit: Jodie Gibson, © Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic

February 2021