And We Have Lift Off!

After months of burning the midnight oil, my campaign is ready and only moments ago, I pressed that big blue button to start raising funds for my awesome new jewellery teaching space here at Karma & Crow. The campaign runs until early December and if you have missed my last few posts, I have designed some great new jewellery to say a very big thank you for your generous donations.

As part of the big push to get my campaign off to a flying start, I have been working with a very talented videographer, Amanda Davis from Wild Light Projects to create a beautiful introductory video about what I am trying to achieve.

The 'Help Claire' button below will send you straight through to the campaign. Please donate whatever you can to help me set up a great space and if you can’t donate, I would love you to share what I am doing with your friends. Your support means so much to me and will help me make our beautiful space here at Karma & Crow even more vibrant.

I'm so happy with my campaign video produced by Amanda from Wild Light Projects.

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.

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

New Contemporary Jewellery Gallery Opens at Henley Beach

When I first visited Adelaide for a jewellery conference in 2008, I fell in love with the vibrant contemporary jewellery community and was surprised by the number of flourishing jewellery galleries located in such a small city. I was so impressed with South Australia’s support for the decorative arts that I decided to move to Adelaide in 2014. Upon arrival, I toured the same galleries I had once visited but was sad to see that contemporary jewellers Kath Inglis and Naomi Schwartz’s wonderful gallery, Soda and Rhyme, had since closed its doors.

Luckily, my disappointment was short lived and at the beginning of this year, Naomi left her home studio to begin another big adventure: to open up her own gallery and workshop in Henley Beach, just west of Adelaide.

A bright and inviting entrance into Naomi's new gallery. Photograph courtesy of  Craig Arnold .

A bright and inviting entrance into Naomi's new gallery. Photograph courtesy of Craig Arnold.

Given that most of the beaches I scour for plastic treasure are far off the beaten track, I am still getting around to visiting all the inner city beaches in Adelaide and Henley Beach was a first for me. Overlooking the ocean with a variety of excellent cafes and restaurants, Naomi has chosen a stunning location for a gallery and has worked really hard to create a working space which displays the hand crafted pieces beautifully. The space is light and airy, featuring jewellery from a variety of emerging and established South Australian artists (myself included) in elegant displays which she designed and made herself.

The gallery space is also a fully equipped workshop.  Naomi uses anticlastic raising, a specialist metalsmithing technique, to create stunningly organic jewellery. Photograph courtesy of  Craig Arnold .

The gallery space is also a fully equipped workshop.  Naomi uses anticlastic raising, a specialist metalsmithing technique, to create stunningly organic jewellery. Photograph courtesy of Craig Arnold.

Naomi's bench full of silver goodies. Photograph courtesy of  Craig Arnold

Naomi's bench full of silver goodies. Photograph courtesy of Craig Arnold

My sterling silver Microscope range is available for sale through Naomi's gallery. Each piece features a collection of tiny fresh water pearls which move freely behind a magnifying lens.

My sterling silver Microscope range is available for sale through Naomi's gallery. Each piece features a collection of tiny fresh water pearls which move freely behind a magnifying lens.

After years of decimated arts funding, cuts to arts education and a wave of contemporary jewellery galleries having to close their doors in Australia, it is both inspiring and reassuring to see artisans such as Naomi fighting back to keep Australian contemporary jewellery alive. It is such a courageous move and one which is sure to pay off. Well done Naomi!

 

Naomi Schwartz Jewellery Design Gallery
Shop 4A, 340 -352 Seaview Road
Henley Square Pavilion
Henley Beach SA 5022
www.naomischwartz.com.au
8235 2683

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.

Fixing Fast Fashion - A Special Order Silver Necklace

Given the increasing popularity of ‘Fast Fashion,’ a phenomenon where trends are in one day and out (or thrown out) the next, it is no surprise that I regularly have customers coming to me with jewellery that they love but have not lasted the test of time. To keep up with fashion at such a speed, items are made quickly and cheaply to last a season rather than a lifetime. Not only is the throw away mentality terrible for the environment, but the premature death of a beloved piece of jewellery is often upsetting for the client. 


I’ve heard that some jewellers prefer not to go near costume jewellery repairs and remakes as they can often be tedious or not to their particular aesthetic, however, I really enjoy working with these pieces. Not only do I see it as a great opportunity to learn, but I really like the idea that I can either repair something that would otherwise be thrown out or remake the piece so that it will last a lifetime. It is more sustainable approach to fashion and encourages my customers to truly treasure their piece of jewellery.


One particular client came to me with her beloved necklace which was so well worn that the plating was patchy and the chains had fallen off so many times that there were layers of glue from desperate attempts to save the its life. My delightful client had two options. A: Discard the necklace she wore so much it practically became part of her body, or B: Find a good jeweller to remake the piece in silver. Luckily for me, she chose B and so I got started.


I began the process by taking direct silicon moulds from the original necklace as I wanted the silver version to be as closed to the original design as possible. I then melted and poured a special type of jeweller’s casting wax into the mould. The wax cast would form the shape for the final metal discs so I had to be really careful to get all of the bubbles out of the wax before it hardened to prevent any holes in my metal.

My highly sophisticated mould making setup. Aka - kitchen stove and patty pans.

Once the waxes had hardened, I filed the discs back to the exact size and shape I needed and then sent them off to be cast.

The freshly carved wax models. 

Freshly cast silver disks. During the casting process, fine plaster is poured around the wax moulds. Once the plaster sets, it is put into a kiln, melting the wax away and leaving a perfectly formed cavity for molten metal to flow into.

The discs on the original necklace had no backing plate to cover and protect the unsightly solder joins which is something I wanted to improve on in the remake. I used my computer to design a backing plate that would protect and help position the points where the chains were attached. I also made sure that the plates included holes to rivet everything together. These designs were then printed in wax and also cast in silver.  

Preparing the disk shapes with their rivets before cleaning to make sure everything fits snugly.

The original piece had a very specific size and patterned chain which was integral to the design. I wanted to use a high quality chain that would last which was quite a challenge to find. I ended up with a beautifully made Italian chain and soldered it onto the backing plate.

Inner workings of the necklace complete with some luxurious flat sterling silver snake chain.

After casting, there is a lot of clean up to be done to give the pieces a fine finish. I filed, sanded and polished the pieces to a near mirror finish, just like the original. 

The necklace is all ready to be riveted. I decided to give the backing plates a brushed finish for a bit of contrast against the shiny chain and feature disks.

I then riveted the piece together by hand and gave it a final touch up polish.

All riveted together!

And I'm finally done. The original necklace on the left and the new one on the right. I know which one my favorite is!

My lovely customer was very happy with her new and improved necklace and hopes that she will one day hand it down to her daughter.

One very happy customer!

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

Plastic Soup Sculptures in the Making

Exhibiting at Gray Street Workshop has definitely been a highlight of my year so far and after receiving some wonderful feedback and selling a few pieces, the show wrapped up last week. In celebration, we had an artist get together to see where the show might go next and it looks like we might take it on tour, adding new pieces to the collection, which is really exciting.

Making works for exhibition is one of my favourite pastimes as there are fewer limitations on time and money compared to production work. This means I can go nuts on detail! It is also a much more creative way of working and I feel more freedom to address concepts that I care about such as the environment.

For Solastalgia, I really wanted to use the opportunity to develop my work further. I have been making wearable Plastic Soup pieces for some time now to explore and engage people with the issue of excess plastics circulating our oceans. The response has been really positive, however, I have observed people struggling with the tiny scale of the work. Given their intimate location on the body, some people have been too shy to approach the pieces whilst others miss them altogether. In response to this, I wanted to experiment by removing the pieces from the body and increasing their size to see whether larger sculptural works would be more successful in engaging my audience.

The increase in scale I wanted to achieve meant that silver was no longer a viable material as is too soft and tricky to work with at that size. I needed to find a metal which would stay rigid and was also able to be coloured black to give the pieces that seaweedy feel. I began experimenting with mild steel which can be blackened with white vinegar, a product which is good for the environment and can be reused as a cleaning product. It sounded like a win-win to me! Working with steel was an enjoyable challenge and a welcomed variation from my regular work with precious materials.

Experimenting.... My first attempt at welding mild steel.  

To construct the sculptures, I began cutting various lengths of steel and finished each end to a blunt point which gave them a geometric feel.

Many sticks to cut = very dirty hands.

I then welded steel sticks together in pairs, intersecting them with other pairs to let the pieces take shape. I added more and more sticks until the shapes were completed then began working on steel boxes which were to contain the plastic fragments. I decided to make them using a range of different shaped and sized steel tubes and discovered a real difference in the quality of welded steel tube compared to the usual silver products I have grown accustomed to. I cut each tube to size and spent days grinding down the messy seams to give them the finer finish I required.

A whole bunch of steel tube slices fresh off the Brobo. They are really sharp and messy looking.

So many hours work to clean these guys up, but the end product was definitely worth it.

So many hours work to clean these guys up, but the end product was definitely worth it.

I then hand cut the acrylic ‘windows’ and gently filed them down to fit perfectly within the tubes.

Each piece of acrylic is covered in tape to protect the surface and numbered so that I know which box they fit into. The acrylic has to fit the inside of the boxes perfectly so that they stay in place without glue.

Many sleepless nights and an injured shoulder later, the tubes were welded in place and finally, construction was complete.

All done! Yay!

When making jewellery and sculpture, finish is as important as construction. A beautifully constructed piece can be completely ruined if it is not finished well. I wanted to avoid this by giving my sculptures an even sandblasted finish which was then blackened and waxed.

A beautifully sandblasted surface. After this stage I make sure that the sculptures are handled with cotton gloves to avoid contamination before I blacken them.

Dipping the sculptures into boiling hot vinegar. Though I thought I measured enough before I began, unfortunately this one didn't quite fit and luckily I had some spare vinegar to top it up!

With only a day to spare I prepared a variety of plastic fragments I had collected earlier, and set them in place. Phew!

My favorite part of the process is choosing the plastic fragments to go inside each box. These plastic jewels were collected at West Beach and Aldinga Beach in South Australia.

The final piece all blackened and set with plastic jewels.

The response to the sculptural pieces was encouraging and my audience were much more inclined to approach the works to have a good look around at the colourful plastic treasure they contained. Even more interesting was their response to the related jewellery I wore after seeing the sculptures. They could see the relationship between the two and It really helped to open up a dialogue about the ‘Plastic Soup’ phenomenon which was my ultimate goal.

I wore one of my brooches to the opening night of Solastalgia and it lead to some great conversations about climate change. My audience seemed to have much more of an appreciation for the tiny brooch once they had seen the sculptures.

My First International Show

Ahh, 2016; a year that was meant to be filled with making product, releasing a bridal range and approaching a few more galleries around Australia to stock my work. As is usually the case, life had other plans and I had the honour of being invited to exhibit with a group of established South Australian Jewellers at a fantastic new space, San W Gallery, which has recently opened their doors in Pudong, China. How could I say no?

San W Gallery is an absolutely stunning space with a fully equipped teaching studio, specialising in jewellery, glass and ceramics. Their passionate founder, Yiwei Wu, has worked closely with South Australian craft and design association, Guild House, to ensure that the space is a world-class facility. 1

San W Gallery in Pudong, China. Image courtesy of San W Gallery.

The exhibition, Nature, featured eleven contemporary jewellers, Julie Blyfield, Catherine Buddle, Jess Dare, Christian Hall, Kath Inglis, Sue Lorraine, Leslie Matthews, Alice Potter, Regine Schwarzer, Lauren Simeoni and myself. Each artist was invited based on their creativity, innovativeness and craftsmanship and the work showed great variety in technique and style. 2

A new Plastic Soup Brooch I made for the show at San W Gallery

The gallery had some beautiful images taken of my exhibition pieces worn by a model. Image courtesy of San W Gallery.

I am also excited to report that after the success of the show, the gallery have asked to display a collection of my work in their retail space and soon to be launched online store. While I am supplying them with some of my original Interlace styles, I will also be releasing some new asymmetrical earrings. I think I will definitely be keeping a pair of these for myself!

Thanks to Yiwei, the San W Gallery and Guildhouse for a fantastic show!

My new Asymmetrical Interlace Earrings for San W Gallery

 

(1 http://guildhouse.org.au/projects/san-w-gallerystudio, accessed 04.04.2017)

(2 http://guildhouse.org.au/projects/nature-san-w-studio-jewellery-exhibition-pudong-shanghai-28-may, accessed 04.04.17)