Blunt Blades Exchange

Year: April 2021

Medium: Social Engaging Art Project with support from Women’s Support Centre Surrey and Quiet Down There

Dimensions: variable

Blunt Blades Exchange (2021) is a social engagement art project 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 with 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? 

Multidimensionality of meanings and resonance run through the rings. Transforming and recontextualising confiscated weapons into jewellery for empowerment, ‘Blunt Blades’ compels us to reconsider the notions of power, fragility, scale and meaning. It reveals the antithesis of human capacity – how we move between a state of inflicting pains to a state of survival and creativity. Lebrusan’s alchemy can be read as a vision on ownership, ephemerality and the ways in which humans could be ‘detached’ from histories and circumstances that reduces us. If we allow ourselves to rewrite traumatic narratives, it becomes a heroic act.

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.

“Don’t give up on the caterpillar because one day it’ll turn into a beautiful butterfly.” – Participant

Notes from the Virtual sessions

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. – The Serenity Prayer

Blunt Blades transforms objects once linked to aggression, into a gift. Confiscated knives from the Bedfordshire Police Department were rescued from being destroyed. The metal of which is reconstructed into rings of intimate significance, co-designed by participants of the Women’s Support Centre Surrey. Posing the question, does this eradicate the objects former story?

For the women involved, the project 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”. – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“What do the rings mean or symbolise now? Do they become a trophy about memory, a symbolic token or even a healing tool? Maybe by transforming them we are helping those memories or thoughts to evolve.” – Arabel Lebrusan

“Whatever happened didn’t happen in complete vain.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“It could help us move forward from our own negative thoughts to becoming more positive, and maybe helping others as well.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“It’s about pushing the boundaries and the comfort zones.” – Arabel Lebrusan

“you’ve taken something that’s so ugly… and you’re turning it into something really beautiful.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

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. “A paring knife was my cutting knife” “That’s who I was, I’m not that person anymore”. The ring will be something symbolic that represents how far she has come.

“If you were to have that on your hands, you can see in front of you a transformation, which is symbolic of how far you’ve come.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“Don’t give up on the caterpillar because one day it’ll turn into a beautiful butterfly.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“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.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“when I’m at my weakest I can hold it.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

The temperature of the metal changes from being cold, having connotations of danger, whereas being on a finger, it goes warm which reflects safety. The touch of a living things warms the metal up, as if it is being activated. “By touching the ring, you’re activating yourself as well.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

A participant shared the experience with her son and he found the origins of the ring “cool” and said that he saw the ring as having a story, the knife being the original then the ring being the sequel. He suggested that this type of project be opened to schools to learn about knife crime practically rather than sitting through an assembly, children would benefit more from visualising the story of the knife.

“I have never felt so positive over something so small.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.  

“People make mistakes, and that mistake can be turned into something positive.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“I am enough” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“be brave” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“I could see that every day then when you feel not very great, or you feel like you’re sabotaging yourself. You just might look at it and say no… it can bring a sense of peace.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“It was nice getting a package in the post that was just for me.” “It’s not something that happens very often. You know, you give everything to everybody else all the time and you put everybody else first and it just really means such a lot.” – Participant of the Women’s Group.

“It’s pretty amazing how women can connect on such deep levels without having so much prior knowledge of each other; to be able to share something, possibly very traumatic, and still connect and create something as beautiful as this in such a short time as well, I think is amazing.” – Arabel Lebrusan

“Socially engaging jewellery” – Arabel Lebrusan