A Bespoke Necklace for a Very Special Lady

Choosing to be a contemporary jeweller is certainly the road less travelled as far as career paths go. The journey is long, thoroughly rewarding and cannot be travelled alone. I am extremely lucky to have a great group of family and friends who have helped me along the way and if there’s one person who’s always had faith in my ability to turn my passion into a self-sustaining career, it is my lovely Mother.

Given our close relationship and shared passion for jewellery, Mum is usually the lucky recipient of my new prototypes or any pieces that never quite makes it to market for one reason or another. Though she is always very grateful, on the odd occasion I also like to take the time to make her a specially designed bespoke piece, and late last year I did just that.

Poor Mum has spent many hours being dragged along for yet another beach collecting expedition and as a result has become quite the fan of my Plastic Soup jewellery. Over the years she has developed an eagle eye for microplastics and at times gets more exciting than I do when she finds ‘a good one.’ It seemed only fitting that her next piece was to be a Plastic Soup necklace.

When constructing my Plastic Soup or Interlace Adornment, I always begin with a pile of sticks which I cut, file level and sand. I then create the tiny little boxes which will contain a precious collection of microplastics.

It all starts with a pile of silver sticks.

It all starts with a pile of silver sticks.

The box shapes are loosely based on the shapes of phytoplankton: the tiny organisms which sea creatures believe they are eating when in fact, they are ingesting microplastics. For mum’s piece, we decided on circular boxes and so I constructed a variety of sizes to suit the necklace.

To form the tiny windows of the boxes, I have sourced industry offcuts of thin acrylic which I use sparingly to minimise my contribution to the plastic problem. I hand cut the acrylic and then file it until it fits perfectly within the outer ring shape. I then create another, slightly smaller ring which sits within the large ring and forms a ledge for the acrylic to rest on to avoid crushing the tiny plastic fragments within.

Each box is originally made from flat sheet silver which I bend into a ring to form the circular shapes. To be able to solder the inner and outer ring together, one has to fit perfectly within the other.

Each box is originally made from flat sheet silver which I bend into a ring to form the circular shapes. To be able to solder the inner and outer ring together, one has to fit perfectly within the other.

The boxes fit just right and are ready to be soldered together.

The boxes fit just right and are ready to be soldered together.

Once all the components are ready, I bring them to the soldering bench. I first create a seaweed like structure to form the geometric foundation of the piece, then strategically position each box on the structure to give the illusion of the plastics being snagged within a seaweed tangle. As all of the Plastic Soup pieces are handmade and unique, they will sometimes come together perfectly and other times look a little unbalanced. At this point I will cut pieces off and reposition the components until I am satisfied with the composition.

The beginnings of an interlacing seaweed structure (and some earrings on the side).

The beginnings of an interlacing seaweed structure (and some earrings on the side).

Once the seaweed framework is constructed, I begin to play with a very sophisticated tacking substance (blutack) to experiment with the position of the boxes.

Once the seaweed framework is constructed, I begin to play with a very sophisticated tacking substance (blutack) to experiment with the position of the boxes.

Choosing where to hang the seaweed structure from can be a little tricky and it is always important to ensure that the piece hangs well when worn. Once I have decided on a suitable position, I attach the chain, check that all of my joins are well soldered and then construction is complete.

Now that the boxes are soldered in place and the pendant is well balanced on the chain, the piece is ready for filing and sanding.

Now that the boxes are soldered in place and the pendant is well balanced on the chain, the piece is ready for filing and sanding.

From there the most time consuming part of the process begins: clean-up. I file off any excess solder and scratches to the surface of the metal then sand the piece to remove the file marks. Any surface scratches will distract from the overall effect of the whole piece so I really take my time, spending days to ensure that the finish is consistent. This can be rather fiddly given the intricacy of the interlacing structure and so I have developed a range of tiny sanding tools to access those hard to reach places.

Once I am completely satisfied with the finish, I blacken the necklace and begin to choose the precious but deadly plastic collection to sit within the boxes: In this case, turquoise, blues and greens.

A freshly blackened seaweed structure ready for setting.

A freshly blackened seaweed structure ready for setting.

I then dust the piece and set the acrylic on the underside of the boxes. From there I carefully place the tiny collection of microplastics in their new home and close the lid. The protective tape is removed from the acrylic and the final piece is revealed.

The finished necklace all ready to wear. Photograph courtesy of  Bianca Hoffrichter .

The finished necklace all ready to wear. Photograph courtesy of Bianca Hoffrichter.

It was a little while in the making but Mum was thrilled when she received her bespoke Plastic Soup Necklace. The colours and length of the chain suited her perfectly and she ‘feels wonderful wearing the piece.’ It means so much to me to have her support and knowing how proud she feels when wearing my jewellery makes my day. Thanks Mum!

If you would like to commission a Plastic Soup piece of your very own, please contact me to make an appointment.

Handmade Jewellery which is Truly One of a Kind - Interlace Studs in the Making

When I first designed my range, Interlace Adornment, I wanted to create an edgy, paired back version of my Plastic Soup exhibition work while continuing to develop my focus on sustainability. Leaving the microplastics aside, the recycled silver collection challenges traditional ideas of jewellery while also being very wearable. I maintained the same asymmetrical, geometric aesthetic and still hand make each piece with no set composition, ensuring that very little metal goes to waste. No two pieces are exactly alike meaning that when you purchase a pair of Interlace Studs they are very much your own.


To make a pair of Interlace studs, I begin by straightening my 2mm recycled silver wire which I then sand and cut into a variety of lengths. I always cut more pieces than I need to give me many options choose from when it comes to constructing the perfect shape. Nothing hinders my ability to create a masterpiece more than running out of sticks.

I begin the process by preparing a collection of tiny silver sticks.

After the lengths of silver are cut, I use a special tool, called a mitering jig, to hold them in place and file each end flat. I remove any excess metal and add them to the pile.

I then give the sticks a refined, geometric look by filing each end perfectly flat.

Once I have a good collection of silver sticks in different lengths, I move over to my soldering bench where the creative part of the process begins. I place the sticks together and the intersecting pairs are fluxed and soldered. I then progressively add more lengths of interlacing silver, positioning them at different angles all the while trying to create balance within each tiny composition. When soldering the lengths of silver, I have to be really careful not to overheat the piece as too much heat usually results in the surface tension of the melted solder pulling all the sticks together into an unsightly clump which means I have to start the piece again. 


The stud shapes are now complete and I choose a surface to attach the post onto, carefully attach it using a solder, then construction is complete.

A much faster version of the soldering process. This is my favourite part as I get to be creative while playing with fire.

After a good long soak in a mild citric acid solution to remove any remaining flux and oxide from soldering, the studs are ready to be cleaned and polished. I meticulously study each one, filing off excess solder and removing all imperfections. They are sanded to remove all file marks and then placed in a tumbler to give the silver a beautiful homogeneous, matte finish.

The final and most labour intensive part of the process is filing and sanding the studs. Though it is a long process, I use the opportunity to catch up on Netflix and podcasts. That's my kind of multitasking!

From there I look at all of the studs and select pairs from the group. Each individual earring I make is unique but I try to pair them to complement each other aesthetically. 

Depending on the piece, I either choose to oxidise the finished earrings, giving them a semi-permanent rich, black surface coating, or leave them with a brushed silver finish. I can never decide which finish I prefer and so I have pinched a pair of each!

Interlace Studs ready to go. No two pairs are exactly alike.

Interlace Studs ready to go. No two pairs are exactly alike.

You can purchase your very own pair of recycled silver Interlace Studs through my Online Shop. They are most certainly made with love.

Interlace Adornment Now Available at Platform Gallery

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of being contacted by a brand new gallery in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. Founded by partners in crime, Kelly and JL, Platform Gallery offers beautifully crafted wares from Australian makers to a region which has previously been overrun by more traditional art forms such as painting. With a background in writing and a passion for the handmade, the pair have formed a deep understanding of both the maker and consumer. Given this enthusiasm and understanding, when they asked me to join the highly curated group of contemporary jewellers they support, I naturally jumped at the opportunity.

Platform Gallery on their very first opening night. Photograph courtesy of Georgia Blackie.

Platform Gallery on their very first opening night. Photograph courtesy of Georgia Blackie.

Gallery owners Kelly and JL. Photograph courtesy of Ona Janzen.

Gallery owners Kelly and JL. Photograph courtesy of Ona Janzen.

Nestled in the heart of Katoomba, the gallery now includes a display of my Interlace Adornment which looks great together with their art deco styled branding and clean aesthetic. As well as stocking a number of local and interstate makers, the space will be hosting a number of regular exhibitions and has also begun a series of exciting new residencies.

Interlace Adornment goodies are available in store and online through Platform Gallery. Photograph courtesy of  Perth Product Photography .

Interlace Adornment goodies are available in store and online through Platform Gallery. Photograph courtesy of Perth Product Photography.

A beautiful display of my work. Thanks guys! Photograph courtesy of Platform Gallery.

A beautiful display of my work. Thanks guys! Photograph courtesy of Platform Gallery.

Platform gallery is a space which is truly invested in their creatives and definitely worth a visit if you are visiting the Blue Mountains.

Our Show is on the Move

After the success of Solastalgia, the exhibition we held at Gray Street Workshop earlier this year, our small group of environmentally inspired artists have decided to take our show on the road. Up next the exhibition will tour to the beautiful Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, South Australia, where it will run from Friday the 1st of September, 2017, to Sunday the 15th of October 2017.

To keep the show fresh, each artist will be adding to their initial collection and we will also be encouraging a select group of regional artists to respond to their experience of climate change. For this leg of the tour, Lesa Farrant has made a collection of plant specimens from debris found along her local coastline, Jo Wilmot has developed some photographic works to contextualise her porcelain installation and I have added a range of Plastic Soup wearables to accompany my sculptures.

Lesa Farrant's beautiful porcelain 'Lycium Ferocissimum' recently shown at our Gray Street Workshop Show.

Lesa Farrant's beautiful porcelain 'Lycium Ferocissimum' recently shown at our Gray Street Workshop Show.

One of Lesa's new pieces, 'Brown Algae 1,' made from plastics and other detritus found along the coastline. Photograph courtesy of Heidi Wolff.

One of Lesa's new pieces, 'Brown Algae 1,' made from plastics and other detritus found along the coastline. Photograph courtesy of Heidi Wolff.

Jo Wilmot's wall installation, 'Last Chance to See,' from our last show. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Jo Wilmot's wall installation, 'Last Chance to See,' from our last show. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

One of Jo's beautiful photographic works which will be displayed alongside her original collection.

One of Jo's beautiful photographic works which will be displayed alongside her original collection.

A close up of my 'Plastic Soup' Sculpture from the original show. Photograph courtesy of Jo Wilmot.

A close up of my 'Plastic Soup' Sculpture from the original show. Photograph courtesy of Jo Wilmot.

Some 'Plastic Soup' jewels will be accompanying my sculptures at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery Show. Photograph courtesy of  Perth Product Photography .

Some 'Plastic Soup' jewels will be accompanying my sculptures at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery Show. Photograph courtesy of Perth Product Photography.

For more information about the show and the tour, you can head over to the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery's website or keep an eye on my news feed.

Single Origin Rose Gold Ring - A Very Special Order

When it comes to custom orders, you never know who might call or what project a customer might have in mind. I was recently thrown one of these exciting jewellery curve balls by a lovely client who had named her son Tanami after the Australian desert. Located on the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the vast Tanami desert is known for its iconic red dirt as well as its gold. My client loved the idea of presenting her son with a single origin Tanami gold ring in a rich rose colour to symbolise the landscape he was named after. The whole concept sounded like a wonderful challenge and so I got started.


As a jeweller, I use a variety of suppliers who mainly deal in recycled metals so knowing where to start to find gold from a specific region required a lot of detective work. Through my research, I found a few metal refining companies who source freshly mined gold from the Tanami. Unfortunately, they also purchase their gold from other mines to keep up with demand. During refining, the Tanami gold would probably be mixed with other gold from elsewhere and they couldn’t guarantee that it would be of single origin. 


I needed to take a step back in the supply chain and decided to contact the mines directly. Given that they don’t usually deal with jewellers or the public, they thought I was a little nuts and couldn’t really give me much information. I persevered for days and finally found a company who was willing to help me which was music to my ears. 


The time had come to start the project. I went to make my order at which point the company informed me that the entire mine was closing! Panic ensued but luckily I had a brainwave which saved the day… Gold nuggets! 

A handful of single origin Tanami gold nuggets.

A handful of single origin Tanami gold nuggets.

Now you may think I am crazy for melting down gold nuggets, given that their value as a specimen will often exceed their value in terms of gold content, however, I can assure you that no spectacular gold nuggets were harmed in the process of making this piece. After more research, I managed to find a hidden gem of a supplier, my new friend Wally. Wally had been fossicking for gold back in the 90’s and managed to find himself quite the collection which he released for sale from time to time. The stars must have aligned and at the very moment I was looking for a Tanami gold nugget, he was selling some.


Wally had an array of large gold nuggets for sale but I didn’t want to melt down such a beautiful specimen. I gave him a call and discovered that in his private collection he also had quite a few small nuggets which he would sometimes sell to metal refining companies around Australia. Finally, I had some single origin Tanami gold but what to do with it?

The best kind of certification!

The best kind of certification!


Australian nuggets are some of the most pure in the world but they still need to be refined to ensure that that the metal contains 99.9% fine gold which can then be alloyed. I couldn’t send them to my usual suppliers as they would mix it in with the rest of their gold, defeating the purpose of the whole exercise. I searched far and wide, finding an amazing company who agreed to help me by refining my gold individually. When their work was done, I was left with a lovely fine gold ingot which I then made into an elegant rose gold band.

My freshly melted Tanami gold ingot.

My freshly melted Tanami gold ingot.

The beautiful ring all clean with a matte finish.

The beautiful ring all clean with a matte finish.

My delightful customer received her beautiful ring and presented the keepsake to her son, Tanami. Finding single origin Tanami gold was a tricky but rewarding process. It taught me a lot about the origin of my materials and made me think about part of the jewellery making process that I had always taken for granted. I was so happy that the project came together in the end and was really honoured to be able to produce a custom ring which was so meaningful to my client.

 

Want to have your own bespoke piece of jewellery made? Contact me to make an appointment.

Private Jewellery Classes @ Karma & Crow Studio Collective

Good news, Adelaide friends! As of this week, I will be running one on one jewellery classes from my studio in Richmond. I will teach you a range of different skills such as how to design, beginner to advanced soldering, filing, sanding, riveting and basic stone setting just to name a few. Whether you are an absolute beginner or an experienced maker wanting to brush up on your skills, contact me to arrange your first class.

Private Jewellery Tuition Flyer.jpg

A Bespoke Ring for an Artist - Ellie Kammer

One of the things I love most about working in a studio collective is meeting like-minded creatives who appreciate the handmade just as much as I do. I am really lucky to spend my days with such a talented group of artists and am so grateful to be able to exchange experiences, skills and advice with them.

One of those artists is painter, Ellie Kammer. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Ellie uses her experience of having endometriosis to inspire her paintings and uses them to raise awareness of this painful medical issue faced by many women. I have been a fan of Ellie and her beautiful work ever since meeting her, so when she had a challenge for me, to help her design and make a custom piece of jewellery, I happily accepted.

One of Ellie's amazing paintings, 'Endometriosis (Imponderable),' Oil on Canvas, 76cm x 61cm

One of Ellie's amazing paintings, 'Endometriosis (Imponderable),' Oil on Canvas, 76cm x 61cm

Ellie was looking for a contemporary variation of a traditional men’s silver cygnet ring in a geometric style for her partner’s Birthday and was keen to help make the piece. To add a personal touch to the gift, she wanted the ring face to feature three fine lines which would act as a subtle representation of their family: herself, her partner, and her stepson.

To leave a bit more room to experiment with the shape of the ring, I decided that we would work in wax and cast the piece. I first taught Ellie how to cut the wax blank which would form the initial shape for the ring. She then removed the excess wax from the centre of the blank, ensuring that it was the right size for her partner’s finger. It was Ellie’s first time making jewellery but she got the hang of it quickly.

Ellie testing her jewellery making skill on my unusually tidy workbench.

Ellie testing her jewellery making skill on my unusually tidy workbench.

From there I took over to work with the overall shape of the ring. I strategically removed wax from different areas to form an angular aesthetic. Once the carving was complete, I made the piece lovely and smooth, then sent it off for casting.

From a plain piece of wax to an almost finished wax ring.

From a plain piece of wax to an almost finished wax ring.

After the carved wax piece was cast in silver, I filed back a fine layer from the entire ring to remove any impurities and imperfections from the casting process. I then sanded the ring giving it an even finish.

Before and after casting.

Before and after casting.

Now it was time for the most important detail: the line work. I marked the three lines and sawed each one very carefully. When creating such a precise, geometric shape, any wrong move with the saw frame would almost certainly ruin the design, a fate which I wanted to avoid. Luckily, I managed to saw some good lines and moved onto the final clean-up and polish of the ring. To give the piece a more masculine and slightly grungy feel, I blackened the ring, then sanded it back leaving the patina in the relief areas only.

It was a delight to work with Ellie in creating this beautiful piece. We managed to make her deadline with time to spare and her partner was stoked to receive such a thoughtful gift. 

The final ring complete with crisp line-work all ready to be gifted. Photography courtesy of  Bianca Hoffrichter .

The final ring complete with crisp line-work all ready to be gifted. Photography courtesy of Bianca Hoffrichter.

Feeling inspired? To have your own custom piece of jewellery made, contact me to make an appointment.

Don't Miss the Final Show at Gray Street Workshop - Up North by Claire McArdle

After many years at their Adelaide city site, the infamous Gray Street Workshop have decided to pull up stumps and move to Thebarton, just west of the city. Having offered the community a unique display of contemporary jewellery and object for the last 7 years, the dedicated team are taking a well-earned break from their busy exhibition program to focus on their own practices as well as an exciting residency program for interstate and international artists. The local contemporary jewellery community will greatly miss the wonderful gallery space. A rather large hole will be left in the Adelaide arts scene for a small, supportive, experimental craft-focused space who are open to both established and emerging exhibitors – one which I hope will be filled soon. 

The final show at Gray Street featured none other than Victorian artist, Claire McArdle. With 10 solo exhibitions under her belt, Claire has not let us down with this stunning show, Up North: a fantastic conclusion to the exhibition program. 

Up North responds to Claire’s month long residency at Textílsetur Íslands (The Icelandic Textile Centre) in Blönduós, Iceland; an unexpectedly small and isolated village. Unlike her fellow textile centre residents, she began her residency without preconceived ideas of her project, leaving room for exploration and experimentation. Claire embraced the unknown, responding directly to the fascinating scenery, wildlife, tradition and culture she saw before her. 

A sample of  some Claire's more elaborate Sheep Neckpieces and Brooches from her exhibition. Each piece was meticulously hand sewn with hand dyed Icelandic yarn.

A sample of  some Claire's more elaborate Sheep Neckpieces and Brooches from her exhibition. Each piece was meticulously hand sewn with hand dyed Icelandic yarn.

The exhibition was made up of several small series’ of work, each telling a poetic story of her experience. On the far wall of the gallery were a range of delicately placed sheep which she had hand stitched to form necklaces, brooches and bracelets. Positioned in threes, she emulated the sheep seen on her journeys who also traveled in groups of three: a mother and her twin babies.

Sheep Neckpieces travelling in threes.

Sheep Neckpieces travelling in threes.

Claire hand dyed every strand of Icelandic yarn she carefully threaded using local plants and other things she found along her travels. Meticulously recording her recipes as she went, Claire was highly innovative in her approach to the hand-dying process. From sunburst lichen, rhubarb roots and dandelion flowers to crowberries, yarrow and downy birch twigs, she created a sea of exquisite mustard, wheat and grey tones. The colour pallet created from these natural dies gave the pieces a beautiful earthy feel which helped me to imagine the stunning scenery she must have experienced during her travels.

Claire's beautiful display of naturally dyed Icelandic yarn.

Claire's beautiful display of naturally dyed Icelandic yarn.

In her other works Claire used minerals she crushed such a chrysoprase, malachite, rhodonite, red jasper and lapis lazuli to emulate the stunning Icelandic terrain. The central table of the gallery was covered in a series of hand raised, height adjustable mountains which she encrusted with these minerals. All of the pieces in the show surrounded the mountains, creating a landscape of memories within the intimate gallery space.

Mineral encrusted mountains.

Mineral encrusted mountains.

Close up of Claire's hand dyed and sewn 'Rapid Growth' Brooches.

Close up of Claire's hand dyed and sewn 'Rapid Growth' Brooches.

To tie the stunning works together, Claire displayed a pair of Icelandic Wolfish skin leather shoes. In Icelandic tradition, a journey is represented by how many pairs of fish leather shoes were worn through, for example, a one or two ‘fish skin journey,’ and so on. Claire displayed her delicate fish skin shoes on a bed of hand dyed sand to represent her ‘one fish skin journey,’ a rather poetic and meaningful touch to the magic she created within the gallery space.

'Coming Home,' the Icelandic Wolfish skin shoes that tied the show together.

'Coming Home,' the Icelandic Wolfish skin shoes that tied the show together.

I highly recommend visiting Claire McArdle's inspiring show and taking the chance to say goodbye to the Adelaide site of Gray Street Workshop. The gallery will be open from Friday to Sunday until the 25th of June, 2017. I wish the Gray Street girls success for their new adventure and hope that they enjoy the change of pace at their Thebarton studio.

The Ritual of Tea - JamFactory

If you plan to be in Adelaide anytime before the 4th of June, I highly recommend paying JamFactory a visit. They are currently holding a diverse group of exhibitions: Resolved: Journeys in Australian Design, which delves into the design process behind the works of twelve contemporary designers, NC4 Kick out the Jams which features the boundary pushing jewellery of the eleven artists from the renowned contemporary jewellery studio, Northcity4, and The Ritual of Tea, a show about…. well… the ritual of tea! 


I was really looking forward to seeing all of the shows, however, was most impressed by the exhibition I had heard the least about; The Ritual of Tea. Displayed in the front gallery, Collect, the exhibition featured works by artists Susan Frost, Studiokyss, Sylvia Nevistic, Ulrica Trulsson, Bruce Nuske, Sophia Nuske, Alison Jackson, Ghostwares and Yoko Ozawa

Sylvia Nevistic's stunningly handmade teaspoons. I love how she has carried intricate detail from the bowl of each spoon right up to the handle. Photograph courtesy of Anna Fenech.

What impressed me most about this particular show was each artist’s unique ability to perfectly balance outstanding craftsmanship with functionality and beautiful aesthetics. It was apparent that each artist had deeply considered the act of tea making and drinking while the curator had shown just as much consideration for the placement of the works. The display was simple, elegant and the show is definitely worth a visit.

Yoko Ozawa has used a subtle combination of matte and gloss glazes in her collection of black and white stoneware. These are some of my favorite pieces out of the whole show and my photographs do not do them justice.

I had the pleasure of meeting Alison Jackson when she had an exhibition at Gray Street Workshop last year. I have always been a fan of her playful use of traditional silversmithing techniques and love how she has combined silver with white acrylic in her teapot.

Exquisitely handmade Hendecagon Tea Canisters by Kenny Yong-soo Son from StudioKyss. Kenny has constructed these canisters with machine-like precision.

Ulrica Trulsson's porcellaneous stoneware canisters are perfectly balanced and look great as a collection. Ulrica is a talented craftsperson who is highly skilled at creating beautifully proportioned forms.

NC4 Kick out the Jams and Resolved: Journeys in Australian Design close on the 9th of July, 2017, however, if you want to catch all three shows, make sure you visit before the 4th of June 2017 as The Ritual of Tea has an earlier closing date