As part of the State of Design Festival, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the studio of Blanche Tilden and Phoebe Porter to learn more about their collaborative project ‘General Assembly‘.
The hour started with a well-prepared talk to slides, describing the conceptualisation and production of the work. I didn’t know a lot about this project beforehand, so I enjoyed hearing about the steps the artists went through and why they made certain decisions. The explanation of the different components in the Melbourne and Canberra series was especially interesting.
The fundamental idea was to create jewellery that the wearer could construct themselves, using pre-fabricated components. There are literally thousands of combinations, so each made is as unique as the person making it.
The above image shows the Melbourne series – with finished examples on the right. The components were drawn from the Melbourne city-scape, with the colours and shapes (particularly the mesh) being particular to our city. Blanche is an experienced glass-worker and the beads add motion, as they slide along the slots in the metal pieces.
The above image shows the Canberra components – finished pieces are in the top-left tray. I really liked how Blanche and Phoebe described why and how they changed their approach to this city, following the Melbourne series. The colours are beautiful and I was impressed to find that they anodised the metal themselves.
Blanche then showed us how she creates the small glass beads by lamp-work. This was fascinating! And for non-jewellers, Phoebe gave a quick demonstration of saw-piercing a prototype element – showing how labour-intensive this investigative stage can be. I think these kinds of demonstrations are valuable – for non-makers, it is sometimes not easy to understand the pricing of contemporary jewellery (if not made from ‘precious’ metals), so seeing first-hand how much work is involved is crucial for developing community understanding.
As a kind of aside, Blanche explained the choice of brooches as opposed to rings or bracelets – that alongside the appealing connections to name badges, signifiers, identifiers worn on the body, that brooches were the less gender-specific. This adds a little more to answering the question I had recently about the proliferation of brooches at ‘Schmuck 2009‘.
More detailed information on this project is available at their website: Studio Hacienda. Thanks to Blanche and Phoebe for generously sharing their time and process!