Artist profile: Claire O’Halloran

1 10 2009

It has been quite a while since my last Artist Profile (Katherine Wheeler; and before that Nicole Polentas); and following her fabulous success in the recent RMIT postgraduate awards [see here], I thought Claire O’Halloran would be the perfect subject for more insights into makers and their art.

All images used with permission of the artist; all rights belong to the artist; photographed Jeremy Dillon.

Necklace for The Grande; image used with artist permission; copyright belongs to the artist

Necklace for The Grande 2009

Claire started her RMIT degree at the same time as I did, and Katherine and Nicole – yes, I am being parochial in my selection of artists to profile! During her degree Claire started to explore the ideas she is now carefully expressing, and commenced her experimentation with the techniques she is continuing to refine.

Claire’s website states: “My work has increasingly become about notions of memory and nostalgia – how events, people and places are remembered.

(1) What have you been up to since we graduated from our RMIT undergraduate degree (at the end of 2006)?

I really wanted to travel after finishing my undergraduate degree, so I worked for the first half of 2007 and saved money for a trip to South East Asia, China and Nepal with James (my husband).  We were away for six months and I loved the travelling lifestyle and just being in places where everything is so different to what you know.  I have particularly beautiful memories of walking in the Himalaya Mountains, and I hope to use some of the photos I took on our ten-day trek in my jewellery at some stage in the near future.  I also had my work in a couple of exhibitions in 2007 including the Contemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Exhibition at Buda in Castlemaine.

In 2008 I decided to be practical and undertook a Grad Dip in Teaching.  It was a demanding course and jewellery-making was sadly neglected during this time.  By the beginning of this year, however, I had bought a kiln and began making my first serious piece since 2006 (Necklace for The Grande [above]). Shortly after, I found out that I had been accepted in the Master of Fine Arts at RMIT and began studying again.

See image of a piece Claire had in BUDA in 2007 here (p17); or below.

Claire was also involved in the following:

Enamel bowl 2006; photograph used with artist permission; copyright belongs to the artist

Enamel bowl 2006

(2) Where are you currently exhibiting? Any upcoming shows?

Recently my work has been shown in It’s Got Legs – the RMIT Postgraduate and Alumni exhibition.  It was a very beautiful show so I was honoured to be chosen as the recipient of the Diana Morgan Postgraduate Award.

My first solo exhibition ‘Keepsakes’ opens on the 1st of October 2009 at Hand Held Gallery in Melbourne.

For links to these exhibitions see here and here. ‘Keepsakes‘ runs until 31st October.

(3) I remember enamelling was a practice you found as pleasurable as I did, as evidenced by its strong presence in your body of work – what is it that you enjoy and why do you feel it particularly suits the work you want to make?

From the beginning, I felt really privileged to learn enamelling – and especially to learn it from someone like Kirsten [Haydon], who I admire very much.  I think partly I love the fact that enamelling is an ancient process, but one that we are still practicing and teaching – I like that continuity with the past.  I also enjoy the process itself – especially the magical aspect of the enamel bonding with the metal in the kiln.  I love the surfaces it can create – smooth and shiny or rough like crystallised sugar.  In terms of the content of my work, I feel that the use of enamel helps to create a sense of ‘preciousness’, which is partly to do with its history, the fact that enamelling is so labour-intensive, and those beautiful surfaces I mentioned.

Mt Fuji 2006; photograph used with artist permission; copyright belongs to the artist

Mt Fuji 2006

(4) I really like the necklace on your website [the first image above], this is a gorgeous progression; what are the ‘beads’ made of? Also, I notice your work is balanced between small enamelled bowls and wearable pieces (mostly brooches) – do you see yourself favouring or moving toward any one form in the near future?

Thank you!  The beads used in the necklace are pieces of enamelled copper tubing.  The bowls were made first and were a direct reference to crockery from the 1940s and 50s that used images to commemorate sites – often tourist sites – in Australia.  Sometimes they commemorate well-known tourist sites and sometimes they commemorate quite daggy places, like for example the ‘Bathanga Bridge, near Albury’.  I’m really interested in the latter kind and took a tour around country Victoria visiting ‘unremarkable tourist destinations’ – many of which were known to me from family holidays during my childhood – to gather my own images for the bowls I created.  Then later I thought it would be good to complement the bowls with some wearable pieces.  I chose to make brooches because I had been looking at those little pins that you can buy from tourist attractions.  I do enjoy making brooches.  I think it’s because they are like a little canvas  – but one that you can wear and take with you wherever you go.  I’m just starting to become really interested in neckpieces, though, and I think I’ll be making more of those soon.

(5) What do you like most about making?

I really love the fact that through making, you transform those ideas you have into something material.  That seems obvious, I guess, but I do love having that physical object in my hand at the end of the process – though sometimes it might be a little different to how I first dreamed it.  Having said that, I’m also the sort of person who really enjoys process itself (as do many jewellers).  I do actually enjoy firing multiple coats of enamel and creating multiple solder joins.  And I love the fact that making is often about problem solving, and that I’m constantly learning about the materials and techniques I work with.

claire_slide2005_adj claire_slide_2009_adj

The pieces above are among my favourites: Slide Brooch 2005 and Slide Brooch 2009. I remember Claire making the first one in our second year; and I love that she’s done a companion piece.

Claire and I sat next to each other in the first two years of our degree, and had a draw each in the pedestal between us. Over time we were able to discern each others stress level by certain indicators – the more tense I was, the more I entered into one-sided dialogue with my metal and tools (yes, I talked to my tools). Claire’s stress level was directly proportional to how far she pulled and left her draw out.

(6) Do you still leave your draws out when you’re feeling tense?

Yes – but now I have four draws to leave hanging out!  In the run up to the opening of ‘Keepsakes’ the draws have been left hanging out quite a lot.

(7) What is the next step for your work / What does the next year or two hold for you?

Next year I’ll be mostly occupied looking after our new baby, but I intend to keep working when I can and I want to extend on ideas relating to travel and tourist destinations.  I’ve been interested in mountains for a while and I’ve just finished reading a biography of Freda Du Faur who was an Australian and the first woman to climb Mt Cook in New Zealand in 1910.  I think it could be interesting to make some jewellery around mountains and early female mountaineers.  I’d also like to learn some more techniques, particularly repousee and chasing.  After a break next year, I’ll return to my MFA in 2011.

Lily Brooch 2006; photograph used with artist permission; copyright belongs to the artist

Lily Brooch 2006

Claire was very much a calming influence on my first few years in goldsmithing; her gentleness and placidity were the perfect counterpoint to my occasional periods of discombobulation! I love that she found her muse so early in her making, with the souvenir and memory playing a significant role in her degree work; and that her art portrays those intents so beautifully.

Best of wishes to Claire for her imminent special arrival.

Be sure to visit Claire’s upcoming exhibition, opening tonight; I am given to understand that the work is a further evolution of her work, and includes pieces similar to those that won the Diana Morgan award.

All images used with permission of the artist; all rights belong to the artist.

… previous artist profile: Katherine Wheeler



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14 10 2009
Claire O’Halloran ‘Keepsakes’ @ Hand Held Gallery « Melbourne Jeweller

[…] O’Halloran ‘Keepsakes’ @ Hand Held Gallery 14 10 2009 As mentioned in the artist profile I wrote about Claire O’Halloran recently, she opened her solo exhibition […]

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