Large Star

Warwick Freeman (New Zealander, b.1953), Artist 1992 © All rights reserved See full details

Object Detail

Large Star has been fabricated from two layers of pearl shell joined together - a technical solution to the problem of attaching the findings (a pin and catch) to the brooch. The red paint that runs along the notched edge of the brooch has two functions. On the one hand, it gives Freeman a way to complicate the meanings that pearl shell carries with it - evoking Pacific adornment, for example, or acting as a sign of the Pacific, of islands and of nature. On the other hand, the paint has a technical purpose, obscuring the glue line that runs through the edges of the star.

A star is born
The star motif first emerged in Freeman's work in the late 1980s. In its initial form it was attached to a scoria heart - another of Freeman's signature motifs of the period. Large Star, so named because it was bigger than the star form Freeman was using elsewhere - was first produced for an exhibition at Gallerie Ra, Amsterdam, in 1989. In a notebook from 1989 Freeman wrote: 'A Pacific Star - simple, flat, open star - whetu.' Freeman made two versions of the star for the show at Gallerie Ra, but finally settled on the Large Star version in 1990.

I collect stars
Since the late 1980s Freeman has been involved with a project called 'I collect stars', in which he collects images of four pointed stars. Sometimes these ready-made forms have found their way into jewellery - the star in the Chase Manhattan Bank logo in New York became a piece called Hard Star, while the Miller's beer logo was transformed into a piece called Soft Star.

Large Star isn't so directly connected to a found design, but, like all of Freeman's work, it has complicated origins. The notching around the edges of the brooch is a reference to Pacific adornments made of shell that Freeman saw in the Auckland Museum in the 1980s, and which were important for the development of contemporary jewellery in the 1980s. Large Star, though, doesn't just reproduce Pacific techniques, or use them in the same way as the original models. In this sense, the red paint is a kind of speech marks, a way of highlighting the differences between Freeman's work and the sources that inform his jewellery process.

Text from Te Papa website, in an entry about this editioned work also in their collection. Accessed 10/11/2016 by Sian van Dyk
Large Star
Production date
mother of pearl shell, paint, silver
62 x 61 x 11mm (h x w x d)
Credit line
Collection of The Dowse Art Museum, purchased 1993
Accession number


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