Brigitte Clavette is an alchemist turning things we waste into actual silver

The New Brunswick artist uses silver to transform objects we waste into sculptures we covet.

The New Brunswick artist uses silver to transform objects we waste into sculptures we covet

(CBC Arts)

New Brunswick artist Brigitte Clavette wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She grew up in a family of humble means in Edmundston, New Brunswick, under the shadow of a church. As a silversmith, the irony is not lost on her that she has now spe​nt the last three or four decades working with a material that is expensive, exclusive and, to many, a luxury.

In her recent project Wasted, Clavette cast rotten food in 1,861 grams of sterling silver. The work explores what it means to live in a world where excess and waste are all around us — a world where we are encouraged to consume more than we need and waste more than we should.

Watch the video:

Brigitte Clavette's silverworking

5 years ago
Duration 3:42
Featured VideoMetalsmith Brigitte Clavette takes found objects from animal parts to wasted food and turns them into objects of opulence. Filmmaker: Matthew Brown.

By casting discarded foodstuff into silver and piling it around empty vessels, Clavette challenges viewers to contemplate the futility of having perceived wealth and status. Although she could use another less expensive material, she uses silver because it's her medium. "It's my paper," she says.

For her most recent project, Futile Abundance, Clavette has begun to create a series of tableaus that will further incorporate foodstuffs, animal parts and other materials. Her intention with this work is to create an atmosphere or feeling of wealth and opulence — of attraction and repulsion.

In this video by filmmaker Matthew Brown and producer Zoë Boyd, you meet Clavette as she creates Futile Abundance. Her journey begins at Government House in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where she reflects on her own upbringing and social class and imagines what it might have been like to have been born into a home of wealth and privilege. She conclud​es that art, like silver, can end up being nothing more than a status symbol if only looked at as a material thing with a price tag attached.

(CBC Arts)

"When paintings go for exorbitant prices to a private collector — that we don't even know where it's going, and that happens a lot with the big auction houses...There's somebody somewhere — with millions of dollars — looking at that painting, probably in a vaulted room with special lighting. It's so far removed from where I am today and where I come from, and what I'm trying to say with my work. It's a travesty that people collect things just to covet things."

Follow Brigitte Clavette here.

(Brigitte Clavette)
(Brigitte Clavette)

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Matthew Brown is a filmmaker based in New Brunswick. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Brunswick, he studied photography at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. He is the creator and producer of Studio Tour, a Bell TV1 show that profiled Atlantic Canadian artists and that aired for four seasons in Atlantic Canada.