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.

South Australian Living Artists Festival 2017

August is a very exciting month in South Australia as creatives from all around the state come together to celebrate the South Australian Living Artist Festival. This year is the 20th anniversary of the event and its a big one with 660 free exhibitions showcasing the works of over 6000 local artists. 1  Every possible space is used to exhibit during SALA. From shop windows, cafes and galleries to wineries, aged care facilities and even a news agency just to name a few. The vibrant and accessible festival bridges the gap between the talented artists of South Australia and the general public which is great to see.

This year, I will be exhibiting my work in group shows at two of those venues: Zu Design, Adelaide and Naomi Schwartz Jewellery Design Gallery at Henley Beach.

Blackened and brushed silver Wallpaper Ring which is about to be displayed at Zu Design. Photograph courtesy of Perth Product Photography.

Blackened and brushed silver Wallpaper Ring which is about to be displayed at Zu Design. Photograph courtesy of Perth Product Photography.

For D'Angle It at Zu Design I will be displaying my Wallpaper range featuring hand cut silver lacework which I rivet to create wearable forms. The designs are inspired by the much loved gaudy wallpaper of my great grandmother's beach house in Inverloch, Victoria. When creating the designs for these pieces, I wanted to hint at the original pattern but remove the intense colours to symbolise the way in which memories fade and change over time.

Silver Wallpaper Bangle. Each of these pieces are meticulously hand cut, filed, sanded and riveted. No two are alike. Photograph courtesy of Perth Product Photography.

Silver Wallpaper Bangle. Each of these pieces are meticulously hand cut, filed, sanded and riveted. No two are alike. Photograph courtesy of Perth Product Photography.

For Naomi Schwartz's exhibition, The Ring Show, I will display my new range of engagement rings. The collection is a development of my Interlace range, however, I have swapped my usual go-to metal, silver, for 14ct gold and recycled diamonds. The rings look great individually or as a stack and can be purchased in either white or yellow gold. It will be great to see how the public responds to my new range.

New 14ct gold Interlace Engagement Rings which are off to Naomi Schwartz's gallery for The Ring Show opening next week.  

New 14ct gold Interlace Engagement Rings which are off to Naomi Schwartz's gallery for The Ring Show opening next week.  

If you are in Adelaide over the next month, head over to Zu Design from Friday the 4th of August or to Naomi Schwartz Jewellery Design Gallery from Wednesday the 9th of August to see the wonderful creativity  that South Australian jewellers have to offer.

 

1 https://www.salafestival.com/news/16/ (accessed 01/07/17)

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!