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.

Collecting Microplastics in Western Australia

After over a year between visits I recently made the trip home to Western Australia for my childhood friend’s wedding as well as my grandmother’s 80th Birthday. I love living in Adelaide and am truly grateful for all the opportunities it has to offer as well as the fantastic friends I have made but gee it’s nice to go home sometimes! It’s great to catch up with everyone and spend time in the place where my love affair with beach combing began. I feel so connected to the environment in WA and when I am home, I always make an effort to travel down to my favourite beaches to take the dog (and usually some unsuspecting friend or relative) for a walk to comb the shore line for plastic gems. 

Collecting micro plastic for my exhibition pieces always leaves me with contradicting emotions. On the one hand, the process of searching through the sand in front of the beautiful ocean is peaceful and meditative. It is like a never ending treasure hunt where there is always something new to discover and I am absolutely elated when I find my next precious plastic jewel. I love the way the ocean wears the pieces of plastic beyond recognition, leaving only a trace of the original item. On the other hand, I am horrified that these tiny fragments of plastic are being ingested by beautiful sea creatures and destroying the ocean with toxic chemicals as they break down. 

A handful of toxic treasures. I have a love/hate relationship with the beautifully weathered microplastics I collect along the shoreline.

A handful of toxic treasures. I have a love/hate relationship with the beautifully weathered microplastics I collect along the shoreline.

My home town is Fremantle and given our close proximity to the busy port, I never have to search too far to find a whole bunch of junk washed up on the beach. In my local area, the best beach for plastics is Port Beach, just north of the Swan River mouth. Around this time of year, seaweed lines the shores and invariably, under ever single clump, lies a trove of deadly treasure. 

Port Beach, just north of Fremantle, Western Australia, just after sunset. It is a beautiful, quiet beach which is constantly choked by discarded plastics.

Port Beach, just north of Fremantle, Western Australia, just after sunset. It is a beautiful, quiet beach which is constantly choked by discarded plastics.

When I collect, I first scour the surface as I walk, removing the larger items that I see. It is not often that I keep this part of the collection as it mainly consists of discarded water bottles, take away cups, lost sunglasses and thongs (flip flops for those in the UK), or used dog poo bags. Yuck! I collect it all up, discard the dog poo bags and take the rest with me to sort and recycle at home rather than using the beach bins which go straight to landfill. From there I get down onto the sand, inevitably doing several hundred squats and lunges, lifting each mound of seaweed to reveal tiny fragments of plastic as I go. I scour through the seaweed, pray to the gods that a dog hasn’t marked its territory on each mound, then collect my precious bounty.

Port Beach in North Fremantle, Western Australia, is regretably one of the best beaches to collect microplastics that I have found so far. Each clump of seaweed hides an abundance of deadly plastic jewels.

After many hours spent gathering plastics and removing whatever nasty rubbish I can, I go home to clean and sort the collection. I remove and recycle the large pieces I don’t need, then wash the plastic fragments using water and a sieve. I dry the fragments and sort them into different containers depending on size. The large pieces which are interesting enough to avoid the recycling bin are kept aside. I often like the look of these bits as they are more recognisable than their smaller plastic friends, however, have yet to release a range large enough to accommodate them, so into the studio hoard they go. Small plastics range from around 5mm – 15mm and are kept for my Plastic Soup Sculptures. Microplastics, which range from 0.1mm to 5mm and are the most time consuming to find and most deadly to marine creatures as they are often mistaken for a tasty treat. These tiny specks are sorted into colour and reserved for Plastic Soup jewellery.

A handful of microplastics found at Port Beach, North Fremantle. Each piece is unique, deceptively beautiful and the perfect size for my  Plastic Soup  Adornment.

A handful of microplastics found at Port Beach, North Fremantle. Each piece is unique, deceptively beautiful and the perfect size for my Plastic Soup Adornment.

My Plastic Soup Sculptures and Adornment house only a minute proportion of the devastating quantities of plastic choking our oceans and shorelines. Given the drastic consequences our waste has on these fragile ecosystems, it seems crazy that we aren’t doing more. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the thought of tackling the world’s plastic issues but if everyone did their bit by rejecting single use plastic, using a bin and removing just a few pieces of rubbish when they went to the beach we could really start to make some improvements. 

A close up of one of my  Plastic Soup  brooches containing a tiny portion of the microplastics I found while beachcombing around the Western and South Australian coastline. Photograph courtesy of  Bianca Hoffrichter .

A close up of one of my Plastic Soup brooches containing a tiny portion of the microplastics I found while beachcombing around the Western and South Australian coastline. Photograph courtesy of Bianca Hoffrichter.

For more information on how you can make a difference, visit the fabulous crew at Take 3 on their website or @take3forthesea on Instagram. Originating in Sydney, Australia, Take 3 have started a wonderful community of likeminded beach combers from around the world who are doing their bit for our oceans and documenting it along the way.

You're Invited to Solastalgia @ Murray Bridge Regional Gallery

It’s not long now before our exhibition, Solastalgia, opens over at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery and we would love for you to join us. Running until the 15th of October, 2017, the show will be opened by Leah Grace on Sunday the 3rd of September and features a range of very different responses to the pertinent issue of climate change.

Solastalgia Exhibition Invitation Front
Solastalgia Exhibition Invite Back

You can read all about the tour on my news feed and we hope to see you there.
 

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.