Vikki Duncan - Various

Podcast Transcript


Anna: Why did you want to work in Museums or did you always want to work in Museums and Galleries?

Vikki: Oddly enough, I had always wanted to travel, which I did for many years and it was whilst I was travelling that I had the opportunity to visit some of the most glamorous museums in the world, housing some of the finest collections. The ones that made the most impression upon me were the ones that had jewellery on display. I though then that it would be a privilege to have the opportunity to display decorative arts in such a way that other people could experience that same wow factor.

Anna: What's your favourite part of the job?

Vikki: My favourite part of the job is that moment when I can do some Sherlock Holmes-style detective work on a particular piece, find a result and then share what I've learned with our visitors. It's a two-way street at that point because some of our visitors might have additional information for us once the piece is out on display.

Anna: What's your favourite object or objects?

Vikki: I rather greedily have a few favourite things. Firstly, the collection of Chinese Kingfisher feather hair ornaments which were owned by James Cromar Watt. They are on the wall in the Lure of the Orient exhibition currently. They are designed to be worn around the upper part of the body, in particular in the hair by brides on their wedding day in China in the Far East. There are also neckpieces, earrings, hair slides and combs. All of them are decorated with the most exquisite blue feathers from Kingfisher birds, commonly mistaken for enamel work as they are so vibrant and smooth. This collection dates from the 18th century, but were acquired by Cromar Watt in the late 19th century or early 20th and then placed in a lacquer work box frame in the 1930s, presumably to make them easier to display. Other favourites at the moment are the two brooches by Georg Jensen, both date from the late 1960s and were designed by different in-house designers. Henning Koppel collaborated with Jensen over many years and designed the amorphic Shooting Star brooch and Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe designed the iconic Mobius piece. Both pieces are symbolic of what we have come to associate with the classic simplicity of Scandinavian design. Each piece epitomises the style of its respective era and could easily be discussed in the context of corresponding pieces of architectural, interior, fashion and popular design. Both of Jensen's brooches are manifested in the work of architect Eero Saarinen who invokes suggestions of flight in his designs for the terminal at Dulles International Airport outside Washington D.C. and the TWA Terminal in New York - both finished in 1962. There are two pieces of jewellery in the collection designed and made by Norman Grant. Grant was born in Forres and studied at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen, initially in graphic design before diversifying into silversmithing. His early pieces were colourful and derived inspiration from both organic and pop art forms. His trendsetting work acquired must-have status in the mid-1970s and was worn by celebrities such as Sandy Shaw and Mick Jagger. We've recently acquired a brooch and a pendent by Grant, both dating from the 1970s, which I think continue Aberdeen Art Gallery's long tradition of collecting enamel work jewellery made by superior craftsmen with an incredible eye for colour, detail and delicacy. I'm thinking of course of James Cromar Watt, whose own work is prized here in Aberdeen. That takes us full circle since I started talking about Cromar Watt at the beginning. Not content with being a superb jeweller, he was intrigued by the craftsmanship practised within other cultures, hence his own desire to travel, explore, collect. Many of the pieces that he collected, including the Kingfisher feather hair ornaments, were left in the form of a bequest to the people of Aberdeen and are in the Gallery collections.