Jan Donaldson is a highly respected artist jeweller/maker and long-time teacher, who studied at RMIT University in Melbourne and holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Fine Art, Master of Art (Fine Art) Degree, and a Diploma of Fine Art in Gold and Silversmithing.

Her work ranges in scale from jewellery to large sculptural works and she is known for her use of the figure and text, as well as for research into the relationships between objects and identity. Jan’s recent work explores the relationships between artifacts and identity, provoking us to think more deeply about the doll as a cultural artifact. She has investigated the doll as not just a plaything, but as an object intimately linked to identity. Imbued with human attributes,the doll is revealed as a source of identity and social conditioning; considering image, form, symbol and meaning.

Artist Statement • Artifact and Identity

For this project I developed a body of work that investigates the relationships between objects and identity, focusing on the doll. The research investigates the doll as not just a plaything, but as an object intimately linked to identity; considering image, form, symbol and meaning. I have created a collection of doll artifacts that function as projections of human character through cues that suggest aspects of emotions, personalities and characteristics. The doll, imbued with human attributes, reveals beliefs about human personal and social interactions, and contributes to an understanding of the interplay between creativity and identity.

I have investigated the use of dolls and puppets in cultural contexts in order to identify the various ways they are used to convey ideas, customs and life-styles relevant to their particular cultures, whilst equally maintaining and enriching a sense of identity. Research into historical dolls, their use and significance and the use of the doll motif in contemporary art complements the studio investigation.

In the project I have utilized jewellery and small object making skills and techniques to construct objects, sculptures and dolls as adornment from a wide range of materials, including precious metals such as gold and silver and non-precious metals such as bronze, copper, brass and nickel silver. These metals have been used in combination with natural, organic and found materials such as carved wood and bone, fabrics, porcelain, paper, plastic and leather.

Experimentation with the ‘marionette doll’ and ‘puppetry’ is an important aspect of the research. The theatrical nature of the marionette doll and its ability to reveal and express identity through movement is a particular focus. This theatrical quality in the dolls allows the exploration of larger narratives, alluding to the drama and folly of human existence.

Individually and collectively the dolls reveal something characteristic of the intimate and the personal.

Jan Donaldson, 2014

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