Hoorah: 5 years and 1200 posts

1 03 2014

Today is my fifth anniversary … five years since I started writing this blog.

The first year anniversary called for paper (traditional) or clocks (modern).
The second year anniversary called for cotton (traditional) or china (modern).
The third year anniversary calls for leather (traditional) or crystal (modern).
The fourth year anniversary calls for fruit or flowers (traditional) or appliances (modern).
The fifth anniversary calls for wood (traditional) or silverware (modern) … ooh…

Perhaps to celebrate, an image of my favourite silversmithing object : ‘Avebury‘.

Avebury; image not to be reproduced without permission

Avebury; image not to be reproduced without permission

‘Gold and the Incas’ @ National Gallery of Australia

22 01 2014

There are two amazing exhibitions on in Canberra right now; and this dear heart believed such magnificence warranted a personal appearance. And so off to our nation’s capital I traipsed for a day of art-fatigue-and-visual-overload.

First: ‘Gold and the Incas‘ at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA).

Exhibition media: “Gold and the Incas showcases the splendour of ancient pre-Hispanic cultures of Peru. Art made of gold, silver, precious stones, textiles and ceramics will excite our visitors and provide a new experience at the National Gallery of Australia. More than 200 objects are included, from gold regalia, intricate jewellery and striking vessels to elaborate embroidered and woven cloths. Australian audiences will encounter the aesthetic depth, drama and beauty of the famous Incan empire and its predecessors.

The most important comment I’ll make to potential visitors – it’s not all about gold. There is a rich collection of ceramics and the most exceptional textiles in this exhibition; and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of items. So if gold isn’t your thing, perhaps it’s still worth a visit.

Best overheard comment: “they sure did like nose rings”. Yes, yes they did. Below are some sketches of some of my favourite nose ornaments [left, top right, bottom right].

nose ornament 1inca_003

One of the pieces that made me giggle was a Nazca forehead ornament: with an central impressed design of a face (serious, straight mouth), with little heads floating above his head, and little serious faces in the eleven ‘rays’ from the top of the object … a forehead object, with a man who looks like he also has a forehead object on, with little men with foreheads … ha, iteration hilarity, oh the fun I had in that little moment.

Along with nose-rings and being quite obvious about the sexy-time (I was terribly disappointed to realise that I had missed seeing the splendid cock vessel in person … boo), they also liked huge headpieces. The last room in the exhibition is worth the visit alone. The sketch below only gives the barest of ideas – but it is splendor you cannot imagine, on a scale that is formidable, in a display that is stunning. Earrings the size of your forearm? Oh for sure!


The most breathtaking object is the Sican-Lambayeque mantle – it is lit in such a beguiling and entrancing manner, and the unevenness of each of the individual little ravioli-shaped silver components (sewn on to cotton I think) plays beautifully in the light.

The most surprising to me were the textiles – stunning.

Finally, the objects I found most moving were the Quipu. Strange really, considering their use was actually for trade; but when I first saw them I thought they may be maps or objects for personal memories.

My most significant, though minor in perspective, gripe is the darkness of the rooms … truly, many times I couldn’t see where my pencil was on my paper (explaining my less-than-fine drawings). I do understand that this is often necessary for conservation, especially for the feathers and textile pieces; and on the upside, it did make the gold stand out (perhaps the most pertinent reasoning for the low voltage?); but it was disorienting and tiring and somewhat oppressive.

I must admit that my most recent visits to the NGA have been enjoyable, to the extent that I would say (now the value of timed entry ticketing is well understood) that I like how the NGA does blockbusters – specifically, (so far) avoiding traps of ‘ambiance’ manufacturing, ‘real life dioramas’ and ‘virtual experiences’ and such banality some exhibitions fall for.

Gold and the Incas‘ is at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, until 21st April 2014.

See my other posts about exhibitions at NGA here.
Please note: sketches in this post not to be reproduced without author’s permission.


Update (28th January): It’s been on my mind since my visit … the low lighting that is.

To give you a gauge of how odd it was: the round nose ornament in bottom right of the top image is actually half silver and half gold, and the lighting was such I couldn’t even tell they were different. It should have been obvious right?! And in the same case, the nose ornament on the left in the sketches has two twisted wires between the plate and the spiral components, but the lighting was so poor I couldn’t tell what was going on there, just that it wasn’t flat and not round – I just couldn’t see the detail. The room was dark but the display boxes so lit that the contrast was washed out.

And from memory the lighting was in fact brighter in the places where the ceramics and textiles were displayed – so may I be so bold as to suggest that the low lighting in the gold displays was for dramatic effect only? I mean honestly, gold or silver is not going to fade or be damaged by a little more helpful lighting; certainly no more so than feathers and textiles.

Yes, I’m unreasonably annoyed by the lighting … but the exhibition is still worth a visit.


RMIT graduates ‘Good+as+Gold’ @ fortyfive downstairs

9 12 2013

I walked out of this exhibition impressed, with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

Gold+as+Gold‘, at fortyfive downstairs, is the year-end exhibition for graduates from RMIT Object-based Practice, Gold and Silversmithing.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

This is such a fabulous gallery space. The pieces look elegant on their spindly-legged tables; so much better than thick imposing plinths.

photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

Participating artists (in alphabetical order by surname):

  • Ruby Aitchison (Honours), Natasha Avila [website], Megan Ayton
  • Sue Buchanan, Pamela Chan, Katie Collins
  • Natt Diamond, Rachel Fares
  • Eli Giannini, Fatima Grant, Ceciella Ezra Gregory, Annie Gobel (Honours) [hibernating blog], Marcos Guzman (Honours) [Kit & Caboodle profile]
  • Zahrah Habibullah [website], Sarah Jones (Stubbs), Kim Jonsson
  • Varuni Kanagasundaram (Honours), Inari Kiuru (Honours) [hibernating blog], Wendy Korol (Honours) [hibernating blog]
  • Steven Leslie, Bethwyn Mell (Honours), Roslyn Ann Peric [Kit & Caboodle profile]
  • Stephen Robb (Honours) [blog], Jana Roman [blog]
  • Elise Sheehan (Honours) [tumblr], Kate Wischusen [website]
  • Michael Wong, Xuelin Wong
photograph taken with gallery permission

photograph taken with gallery permission

Dominant materials, in my initial perceptions, included mild steel and enamel.
There were hardly any, if any, stones or gem setting.
Smithing was also more evident than previous years.

I enjoyed looking at much of the work, especially though:

  • Zahrah Habibullah’s ‘Family Heirloom Brooch Series – Brother’; my most outstanding single piece in the exhibition, I loved the shape and the colouring

    photograph taken with gallery permission

    photograph taken with gallery permission

  • Inari Kiuru, ‘From Saturnalia Industrialis-series‘; I saw some of this collection in the ‘Wondernamel 2013‘ exhibition
  • Kate Wischusen ‘Montparnasse‘ brooches; also admired at ‘Wondernamel 2013
  • Michael Wong, beautiful smithing vessels
  • Natasha Avila, ‘Immersed reflections‘ brooch
  • Sue Buchanan, ‘Gold seams‘ bangle
  • Pamela Chan, ‘A Brushwork‘, lyric blackened mild steel objects
  • Elise Sheehan, ‘No full stops‘ group of objects [foreground]

    photograph taken with gallery permission

    photograph taken with gallery permission

  • Wendy Korol, ‘Goodbye Blue Wren #2‘ [middle-ground] & Rachel Fares objects [foreground], creating a little dialogue as they sat together

    photograph taken with gallery permission

    photograph taken with gallery permission

  • Eli Giannini, contemporary mourning jewellery displayed on custom-made mirrors

Naturally I purchased the accompanying book (as I do every year). It is of beautiful quality, and I like that this year it includes artist statements. However I’m in two minds about whether the $20 is a little on the expensive side; on one hand it’s pretty special, but on the other hand I expect those of us choosing to buy the book as a momento are also those who have supported the auction and fundraising efforts already.

The gallery works listing did not include contact details for the students, as the NMIT and Box Hill students did for their exhibition. It’s a small thing, but hopefully an artist can be found if a gallery visitor is exceptionally excited about their work.

Gold+as+Gold‘ is at fortyfive downstairs until 14th December 2013.


2012 As Above, So Below‘ @ Victorian Artist Society

2011 It was like a Fever’ @ No Vacancy Gallery

2010 Bell Weather‘ @ £1000 bend

2009 Cornucopia‘ @ Guildford Lane Gallery


ps. I wish I could point you to the 1st and 2nd year exhibition, but for the first time in ages there isn’t one. I may write about this development soon, but this makes me quite sad. And unfortunately I didn’t get my act together to see ‘Oomph‘, the Honours exhibition at RMIT First Site Gallery; for some reason I had in my mind that they were open on a Saturday.


Studying jewellery in Melbourne

27 11 2013

There have been some changes to the jewellery-education landscape this year, and it’s time to update previous posts about where to learn.


With respect to formal degree study, the schools in Melbourne are:


Now, short courses for jewellery and silversmithing:

  • NMIT : there are seven short courses currently on their website; Silversmithing and Enamelling are offered as a short courses, which is truly fabulous!; I did the Leisure Jewellery course (basically studio access) a few years ago and I thought the facilities were very good for jewellery; while I was there I witnessed the Intro course and thought it was well-structured (there is also an Intermediate course); I (still) intend to undertake the Gem Setting and the new CAD courses over the next year or two
  • Northcity4 : I’m an unashamedly huge supporter of NC4!; there are Beginners and Intermediate courses; Lost Wax Casting is offered too, as is Tutored Access (love this idea); there are also regular Workshops and Seminars to take part in
  • CAE : there are so many courses offered under ‘jewellery’ and ‘silversmithing’ at CAE; the courses range from bone carving to pearl stringing, casting and pendant in an evening ; CAE is connected to the now-defunct jewellery courses at Box Hill Tafe, so I wonder if their offering may change with the removal of jewellery courses at Box Hill? my experience at CAE wasn’t fabulous, but it was some years ago now and I wouldn’t be surprised if the facilities have since improved
  • RMIT : regularly holds a master class in Jan/Feb each year, though these are usually only for experience artisans
  • [update: 2nd Dec] Monash : just spotted there are short courses here too!


There are also many jewellers who regularly open their studio doors and generously share their knowledge and passion.

… I’m sure there are many more, so I’ll add to this listing as I uncover them.


I’d really like to create a listing of the best short courses in Melbourne for jewellery making – can you recommend where you’ve been or heard is good?


Update (31st Jan 2014): via comment: The Gordon Institute in Geelong also offers jewellery making classes.

Update (24th March 2014): note that Redox Jewellery Studio has moved and has been renamed as Annie Broadway Studio, and they still offer classes


Two questions

17 11 2013

Please tell me if you know the answers:

1. unless I’m suffering from online-blindness, I cannot find any media for ‘Fresh!‘ this year (the annual survey of graduate work that has been at Craft for many years; I couldn’t make last year, but these are the stories for 2011, 2010, 2009) … is it not happening?

2. again, perhaps I’m not using the right search terms, but I cannot find any listing for an exhibition of RMIT 1st and 2nd year Gold & Silversmithing students (other years’ stories 2011, 2010, 2009) … is it not happening?


Update (21st November): please see the comments (from the most excellent Katie Jayne Britchford) for the full answers, but in short:
1. yes it will be happening early in the new year
2. no, it’s not happening


Whitehorse Jewellery / Box Hill graduates ‘Allegory’ @ No Vacancy

14 11 2013

I do like graduate exhibition season; though would prefer it if Melbourne’s weather could sort itself out – I mean honestly, where’s the sunshine?!

Allegory‘ is the graduate exhibition of the students from Box Hill Tafe Advanced Diploma of Engineering Technology (Jewellery); as a group they go by the title of Whitehorse Jewellery.



My initial impressions:

  • muted / restricted colour palette (with the exception of Megan Greenwood)
  • lots of silver
  • quite a bit of metal-smithing (a good thing) and especially copper
  • perhaps casting was a focus during their course?
  • No Vacancy gallery is a pretty big space to fill!

The accompanying (free) book is well produced. And I noticed this in the NMIT book too, that graduates are publishing contact details (email, site, facebook); while I’m sure this isn’t the first year this has been done, it’s worth giving it a mention and acknowledging that this is a good thing to do.

While talking about the book, it always makes me a little sad that the deadlines for photography and printing usually mean that the most complex and accomplished pieces are not able to make it into the booklet … this is by no means a criticism (I’ve had this happen to me too) and I can’t think of a solution, it’s just a little bit of a shame in terms of a representative keepsake.



Participating makers are (alphabetical by surname):

  • Man Chaing
  • Helen Diprose
  • Megan Greenwood [facebook]
  • Melanie Hilder [facebook]
  • Samantha Lee [site]
  • Tanya Louey
  • Alicia Hannah Naomi [site; blog]
  • Helen Paterson
  • Georgia Pignolet
  • Jesse Thomas

Many of the students contributed work to Lord Coconut’s recent ‘Melbourne Cufflink’ exhibition and prize.

Megan Greenwood's work

Megan Greenwood’s work

I especially liked Megan Greenwood’s object (right in the image above); and the raindrops neckpiece by Helen Diprose. My gallery-visiting-friend very much admired the work of Alicia Hannah Naomi [check out how much she loved them in her post]; I also like the rings that looked like they were from out-of-space minerals (maybe made by electro-forming or casting?). I also got a huge kick out of the artist statement for Jesse Thomas, especially the last sentence: “He blames Star Wars for this”.

Allegory‘ is at No Vacancy Gallery until 17th November 2013.

2011 silverspun‘ @ £1000 bend

2009 Peep Show‘ @ Self Preservation