Blunt Blades Exchange is a social engagement art project by artist Arabel Lebrusan wherein police-confiscated knives were repurposed into rings and given to 9 women at the Women’s Support Centre Surrey in spring 2021. Through a series of conversations and a bespoke design process, Lebrusan and the women collectively explored the meanings and associations of the rings. They came up with personalised symbols of empowerment that were later engraved onto the ring and customised for each participant.
The project questions the meaning associated to objects and materials, exploring what happens to its former narratives when we transform an object’s materiality. The project interrogates what these rings might symbolise now for this group of women: Do they become a trophy, a bad memory, a symbolic token, or a healing tool?
Objects and materials have the potential to hold memories, handling and touching the material or objects can play a crucial role in unlocking those narratives. Blunt Blades Exchange explores transformation of materials and meanings, as well as the tension within that transformation.
Blunt Blades Exchange was supported by Quiet Down There CIC, an art organisation that encourages and supports individuals and communities to articulate and develop their own culture. Many thanks goes to Women’s Support Centre Surrey who supported all communication with the group of women and organised the sessions and made this project possible.
First, they were knives and other artefacts, confiscated by the Bedfordshire Police Department from stop & search, amnesty bins or seized as potential weapons.
Housed in plastic crates, the objects were given to Lebrusan to be examined and disintegrated. Lebrusan categorised them and photographed them based on shape, colour and function.
Lebrusan decided to melt them into recycled stainless steel to be shaped into rings. Then some were melted into recycled stainless-steel bars to be shaped into rings.
The rings were then co-designed by participants of the Women’s Support Centre Surrey with their own empowering symbols for personal wear.
Lebrusan invited women from vulnerable backgrounds to collaboratively design rings with their own empowering symbols for personal wear. Each participant received a package containing a blank ring, a ring sizer and project brief with trigger questions to stimulate the process.
A participant shared with the group that she used to have a special knife to cut herself, but that she didn’t do that anymore.
The ring will be something symbolic that represents how far she has come.
It’s about pushing the boundaries and the comfort zones. Sometimes it’s really hard to keep going when you’re sort of in the depths of whatever you’re going through; and sometimes you do need that vision, that visual reminder that you keep going for a reason and you’re not going back because you don’t want to be back there.
For the women involved, Blunt Blades Exchange allowed them to visualise a physical change, reminding them that even if the start of their journey was tough, the next chapter can be transformed into something positive. The designs focused on courage and strength with the women stating that it would remind them not of their often-traumatic past but of their resilience to bravery and change, as “nothing changes, if nothing changes”.
Arabel Lebrusan is a leading artist, award-winning jewellery designer and pioneer of the ethical jewellery movement. For the past 25 years she has been creating works that belong to one of these realms – or bridge the gap between them. As an artist Lebrusan’s sculpture, one-of-a-kind art jewels and site-specific interventions function as social commentary. Focussing her lens specifically on material culture and the ‘feminine’ tactile environment, her works investigate wider issues of power relationships, exploitation and inequality. Meanwhile, the jewellery that she designs and sells under her eponymous sustainable jewellery brand, Lebrusan Studio, encapsulates traditional artisanship and ethical design practices. Read more
Visit Blunt Blades in-person
The Higgins Bedford
Bedford MK40 3XD
Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm
Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday 2 – 5pm
Closed on Mondays
+44 1234 718618
© 2021 Arabel Lebrusan
Arabel Lebrusan (b.1974, Madrid) is a UK-based visual artist whose practice centres on material culture and the feminine tactile environment, exploring wider issues of power relationships, exploitation and inequality.