The general concept that underpins Shelley Norton’s work is the notion of meaning and how we construct it, and how this fascinating production in turn, defines, supports and constrains us, in our daily existence.
Jouer, is the etymological root of the word jewellery, meaning to play. Norton decided to play with our culturally constructed stories about what jewellery should be – small, wearable, precious, decorative.
By taking the discarded or the lesser valued, in this instance the humble plastic shopping bag, Norton seeks to create pieces that engage the viewer, to draw attention to existing knowledge, ways of seeing things, whilst at the same time being aware of new ways of looking and understanding, to liberate a degree of free association in the viewer’s conscious.
Jewellery, especially in regards to its serious games of signification around wealth and status, provides a huge area in which to start questioning and opening up paraspaces from which to examine these narratives. Roland Barthes described plastic as “abolishing the hierarchy of substances. A single one replaces them all the whole world can be plasticized…” This description of plastic resonates with Norton and is exciting conceptually, as it feeds into the ideas in her practice of manufacturing meaning. The plastic shopping bag, the discarded container of the purchased desired object reconstituted into object.
Norton’s making practice spans 20 years, and was further supported by undertaking a BVA at Auckland University in the early 2000s. She lives in central Auckland.