Marian’s work explores the artistic quality of silver, using a unique combination of casting and drilling. Using silver as a creative language, she is able to express quite rare forms of Australian nature. Her work attends to the fine detail of flora, rather than the large iconic forms.
Her use of filigree in the work especially made for Welcome Signs demonstrates the capacity of silver to reflect the flowing organic forms of nature.
In her words:
‘The Mighty Simplicity’ is inspired by the well-known local wisdom of Indonesia with its friendly, pleasant and warm characteristics along with beauty of landscapes, cultures and traditions.
Floral arrangements such as jasmines and orchids are often used as welcome signs apart from being used as ornaments in many traditional rituals. This is why I chose these two flowers for my work; they have rare beauty, exotic look also as the icon of Indonesia’ natural wealth.
Within the whole production process that takes about one month long, I find out my own challenge in dealing with complicated yet exciting details. The traditional filigree technique was combined with some other techniques to bring out strong traditional elements in modern look.
I personally wish ‘The Mighty Simplicity’ could represent the civilization, beauty and warmth of Indonesia which is presented to those who are longing to visit Indonesia.
Yu-Fang Chi is a Taiwanese jeweller who studied metalsmithing at the Tainan National University of The Arts. She has been represented in a number of international exhibitions, including Schmuck and Talente, Korea and Japan. She is currently a lecturer in the Department of Art and Design, National Hsinchu University of Education.
Her series ‘Laced with Lace’ involves delicate silverwork that forms organic like patterns that drape over parts of the body. Chi’s work explores the space between the body and jewellery by creating work that does not obviously attach to the body as a foreign object. Her work follows the natural contours of the body as though it patterns the skin itself.
Chi’s work reflects an experimentation with form and content, applying a technique associated with needlework to metalsmithing. The result has the kind of easeful grace that we might associated with the floral garland. But its ephemerality is also a challenge. Like the traditional garland, does the fragility of this lace work limit its durability?
Chi reflects on the work in her own words:
In contrast to classical lace, objects in the “Laced with Lace” series do not have dyed or inlaid borders surrounding a central body of work. Rather these pieces are a natural extension of closeness, radiating outwards from spaces and holes at the corners and seams, following the joints and hugging the body. Through this light and fine “layer” the physical form is part of an intriguing mixture – actively “wearing” and passively being “embraced.” Without a central motif, the objects are partial forms that can be used to reflect on the past, similar to the interrelationship of the skin and the organs, alluding to the certain area of the body. – Shoulders? Wrists? Chest? Posterior? The light, mobile nature of the lace skin evolves from being merely a display, into something that is glimmering and alluring. Viewers focus on and are soon lost in the complex and difficult to understand lattice work, with no single thing on which to focus or reflect. The soaring, extending pattern causes one’s line of vision to move rapidly. Within this flattened visual experience, patterns, totems and messages are removed for a more visually stunning effect without feeling or name.
Yu-Fang Chi is one of the participating artists in the Welcome Signs exhibition
Karl Millard is a Melbourne metalsmith whose work has gained high profile, particularly in the Transformations exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. He has mastered a particular method of combining metals in a patchwork pattern that is quite unique and highly regarded. As part of his interest in artisanship, he has also travelled to India where he resided in Tamil Naidu village specialising in metal casting.
Last year he was invited by the Indian silverware company Ravissant to design and make prototypes for silver tea sets. Ravissant was established in 1992 after regular visits by a Dutch silversmith developed a local industry in this medium. One of their designers saw Karl’s work on display at an exhibition of RMIT metal that travelled to the Australian High Commission in Delhi. Karl’s ‘multi-metal’ technique appealed to their interest in colour and pattern.
Technical drawing of water jug
Two Ravissant workers developing a mock-up
All hands on the bench, ready to fill orders
So they invited Karl to spend four weeks at their factory where he would design new tea sets. When Karl arrived, they were in the process of setting up their own casting and enamel departments. Karl found them very easy to work with, ‘You can realise a piece from a drawing quickly. It takes only four days to go from drawing to mock-up in metal.’ It was up to Karl to produce technical drawings for each of the designs that would enable them to be made on commission whenever required.
The ebony handle insert was unusual for Karl, who had never used wood before. But there needed to be heat protection for the hand, and Ravissant had a policy never to use plastic. Karl was also impressed by the way their casting was based on a non-central axis, which contrasted with the Western value of symmetry. He enjoyed making more fluid forms. That’s something he take more advantage of next time.
According to Karl:
The culture of metal in India is so strong. The use of metal in tea pots is like our ceramic teapot here. Their silver tea pots are about everyday use, not about hiding it away in a cupboard. They buy it as a family gift: older people buy a set for daughter or son who is about to be married, or New Year’s Day gift giving.
The growing Indian middle class market provides Karl with an opportunity to make work at a scale and quality he’d rarely find in Australia. Here, his classic pepper grinders are sold only as works of art, for collections rather than use. At Ravissant, they have 122 silversmiths at work, who are able to turn an order for a whole tea set around in a week. For Karl, ‘it’s not based on supermarket or fashion cycle where you have to make 2,000 to make it work.’
Karl’s work represents a new cycle for craft and design in Australia. Rather than a designer commissioning handmade product in a poor country for Western consumption, an Indian company buys the designs themselves, makes them with craft labour, and then sells them to their own middle class. Here’s an opportunity in Australia for seeing our own talent realised, albeit by someone else.
Karl’s work is part of the World of Small Things exhibition
For years we have been reading predictions of a financial crisis. It wasn’t so much a question of it, but when. There was just too much leveraging going on. It would take a small shock for the market to suddenly call the bluff of derivative dealers, and the system would implode.
So while we’ve enjoyed an unprecedented period of economic growth, we have always had in the back of our minds the sense that this would come to an end. This leant an air of unreality to our prosperity—that we were living on borrowed time, as well as money.
And now that the crash has come, with prospect of a long and hard recession, we can’t help experiencing a little relief. It’s like sitting in the dentist’s chair, squirming at the pain, but inwardly knowing that at last that nagging toothache is being addressed.
While the financial situation is the ongoing story of late 2008, it has special pertinence here today, as we welcome the next generation of jewellers into the fold of Melbourne’s extraordinary jewellery culture. The last five years have seen amazing growth in the jewellery sector, with one or two new galleries opening every year. I can’t think of a city in the world with this many new jewellery galleries. And this has provided a rich field of opportunity for young jewellers, who have been extraordinarily successful in attracting the surplus capital created by an economic boom.
So what will the future hold? Jewellery is very much at the discretionary end of a personal budget. Apart from wedding and engagement rings, there is little reason other than whim to purchase an item of jewellery. We need to face the prospect that Melbourne will not have so many jewellery outlets next year, as it does today.
That’s a difficult prospect to consider right now, as we are cheering on these talented young jewellers, into a world that may not be so inclined to buy a $1,000 necklace, or $800 brooch.
But in the immortal words of Percy Bysshe Shelly, ‘If winter comes, can spring be far behind?’ While for the past few years we have been distracted by dark clouds on the horizon, now the storm is here, we can focus instead on the silver lining. As Spinoza said, ‘There is no hope without fear, and no fear without hope’.
So while cycle will eventually begin its upswing, we have possibly two or three years when things will be tight. What can be done during the lean years?
I’ve been recently fascinated by the contrast between rich and poor in Australian jewellery. This is self-evident in jewellery, with the quality of metal and stones marking a clear class distinction in their wearers. There’s an obvious contrast between the elite conceptual works made by jewellers purchased from galleries with an international reputation, and the cheap manufactured chain wear you find on the pavement in Swanston Street.
But rich and poor do not always follow a clear demographic divide. These styles quite readily flip their assigned position in society. Nothing so defines the working class as bling with bold fake stones, while versions of poverty chic are enduringly popular among the cultural elites. Ali G versus Naomi Klein.
Poor craft provides a potential rich vein of creative endeavour during a recession. And Melbourne jewellery has a strong tradition of found materials—what Penelope Pollard refers to as objets trouvé in her erudite catalogue essay.
But how will this jewellery circulate if there are fewer galleries. I think it’s interesting at this point to look across the Pacific to our cousins in Latin America, which experienced quite radical financial crisis in the early years of this millennium. In Chile’s capital, Santiago, there is a new cultural movement they called abajismo, from the word ‘abajo’ for below. This movement is led by the young people who are leaving their wealthy families in the suburbs to live close to the street in the inner city. Like Melbourne’s enchanted glade of Gertrude Street Fitzroy, a new streetwise economy has been borne.
By chance one evening recently I was walking down a very busy street in Santiago’s Bellavista, equivalent of Fitzroy, and stumbled across an incongruous looking vegetable garden in the middle of the sidewalk. Various greens showed signs of a loving care and there was a sign in the middle inviting neighbours to take a leaf or two, as long as they left enough for the plant to keep growing. I traced the garden to a small shopfront right opposite called Jo!, which contained a wild assortment of inexpensive jewellery made from found materials like computer keyboards. Talking with the owner, while she continued assembling these pieces on her shop counter, it seemed she had a real engagement with her neighbourhood.
That’s an enduring story of financial downturn. It brings people together. When things look good, our focus is more on individual aspirations, distinguishing ourselves from others. But during bad times, we must rely more on others.
10,000 hours is a long-term investment. You have a lifetime ahead to reap the rewards. Thankfully, these skills will be honed in the first several years after graduation. Necessity will be a faithful companion, guiding your choice of materials and design.
As the Chinese say, ’the gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.’