Why Rabbits?

This is one of a series of posts introducing our Artists, letting you have a little insight into why they make what they make.

Vaune Mason is a jeweller who is perhaps best known for her detailed carved Rabbit head pendants. Carved into wax and then cast into bronze and precious metals or painstakingly carved out of native timbers and given a final polish to let the timber glow. The pendants come in all shapes and sizes and are deeply treasured by their eventual owners.

A collection of little animal pendants made by Vaune Mason

Her workbench is often populated with these small sculptures, piles of in-progress pieces like these rabbit and dog pendants. The design process begins with observation. Time spent watching the animals she wants to carve. Then a series of rough sketches to get a real feel for the shape of the animal. Once she feels comfortable with the shape she delicately carves the master form in wax. 

Then the wax is put through the casting process, and the metal piece is ready for careful clean up and finishing. Even though a piece like the Rabbit Head Pendant is able to be reproduced from the master mould, every single head is individually and painstakingly cleaned up and finished to bring it to life. 

So why rabbits?

As a contemporary jewellery student, Vaune says she was encouraged to analyse her choice of motif. Not just a "cute" animal to her, she chose her animals almost like a spirit animal for her own purposes, but also because of the meaning and history of the animals in her western culture.

At the root of it, Vaune says, she had kept rabbits as pets for many years. She loved watching them stretch and hop, scrunch up, then elongate under their silk fur. "They are amazing shape-changers - I love their structure, their shapes."

Their mercurial and hard-to-tame wild nature felt like something very precious to her. A relationship you had to honor and work hard for. Rabbits and hares also have a long history of meanings hidden in folk lore; they can be messengers or guides between worlds.

"I think it's interesting to play with the imagery of rabbits. Our subconscious still picks up on the memories of childhood stories, and leaves us with a certain feeling. Everyone experiences that feeling and memory differently - but I love that. "

In New Zealand and other places where rabbits and hares are an introduced

species, they have a darker side - that of a pest. More than that, a huge problem that decimates environments and livelihoods. Vaune says that duality sits with her rabbit pieces, rather than ignoring it.

"I often see duality like this in the human-managed world. We treat nature carelessly and create massive imbalance. There's always some kind of flip-side to things. When I look at my rabbits now, I see a reminder to tread carefully. To not assume that being human makes me in charge. "

The duality in being passionate about conservation and pest control, but also being someone who loves rabbits as an animal, and cares for their wellbeing also comes into the messages underlying Vaune's rabbit pieces.

"Even though the image is a cute or elegant rabbit on the surface of things, underneath it, there is a story about balance and respect."

Vaune currently works from the Manawatu. Her local area is mainly used for dairy and beef farms, and is very rural and remote. Wild rabbits and hares are a pest problem in the area, though currently not at extreme levels. Vaune works to observe the wildlife and livestock around her home, using this as inspiration for new pieces when she can steal valuable time at her bench.

Jeweller's Q & A

When did you start making jewellery?

I was one of those 'creative kids'. I began making jewellery using beads and wire as a teenager. I moved onto working with seaglass and copper. Eventually I took some night classes at Workshop 6 in Kingsland, Auckland when I was about 23. I got completely addicted!

Did you take any special training or are you self taught?

I moved to Wellington to study jewellery at Whitireia Polytechnic. I did three years study there, under Peter Deckers and Owen Mapp. I was priveleged to also work under a real range of other artists while I studied there, including international artists. It was a great experience and gave me the grounding I needed to begin a career. The great thing about jewellery making is that you never ever stop learning -even after "training" jewellers teach themselves different techniques all the time, we're constantly pushing ourselves in our craft.

Do you have a favourite technique or material to work with?

I would have to say that carving is my favourite thing to do. I love to work in wood - especially the native timber Maire. The wood smells like honey on toast when you are working with it! It has a beautiful grain and is great to work with. I also love beautiful coloured gemstones. I love colourful jewellery!

Who is your favourite jeweller at the moment - who's work would you love to wear?

I am absolutely in LOVE with Adele Stewarts' work. I do own a pair of her little enamel flower studs, and I would love to own one of her gem-studded rings. I think Adele and I would make a great collab range...flowers and animals and jewels.... maybe one day!

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