Tag Archives: mining

The view on craft from the West–for Form’s sake

The Western Australian craft and design organisation Form has just released a publication New Narratives for Craft: Balancing Risk, Opportunity, Skill, Experimentation that seeks to chart a course for craft in the continent’s largest state. It’s a welcome addition to the nation’s discussion about the state of craft, reminding us how rare it is to find a platform for this kind of discussion after the loss of Craft Australia. It’s particularly pleasing to see it coming from Form, which was one of the organisations that emerged from the corporatisation of craft infrastructure at the end of the 20th century. This involved moving away from the membership model towards broader opportunities for growth. At the time, Form seemed to identify itself against craft, as a redundant subsidised model based on individual expression rather than market and audience needs. Since making the break with studio craft, under the inspiring leadership of Linda Dorrington, Form has realised some epic ventures, such as Canning Stock Route Project, that have re-defined the limits of possibility for an arts organisation. So it’s particularly significant that they now return to the craft conversation. We have a lot to learn from them.

New Narratives for Craft aims to articulate the role for craft in Western Australia. As such, it is quite a sobering tale. Elisha Buttler outlines the challenges of craft, including the need to connect elite practitioners with community and to combat the sense of isolation. Travis Kelleher’s reflection on craft education tells a depressing tale of closures in most of the craft courses in the state. The failure of the Western Australian government to take up the opportunity of the Midland Atelier is a real tragedy. The positive picture is provided by Paul McGillick’s profiles of Helen Britton and Penelope Forlano, which provides models of engagement developed by two leading individual practitioners. But in the end, it’s hard to deduce from the publication what a future path might be for craft in the west.

Much space is given to promoting Form’s achievements. Few would dispute these, but it does make the publication seem more of a marketing exercise than an industry analysis. The cost of corporatising craft in Australia has been a focus on internal marketing, which fails to speak for a broader community. The stellar rise of Critical Craft Forum in the US has shown how quickly a sector can embrace a forum that speaks with a broad voice.

One glaring absence from the publication is reference to the broader West Australian scene. As the dominant economic and cultural force in the state, it seems important to mention the impact of mining. The decline in craft resources that is charted by this publication should prompt some reflection on the costs of extractivism. The radical loss of manufacturing and the fear that Australia is no longer a country that ‘makes things’ does put craft at the centre of an important national debate.

Nevertheless, warm congratulations to Form for a welcome entry into the conversation. But now you’re here, we need your help in facing up to important questions of our time:

  • Can craft practitioners adopt emerging forms of social practice in order to recognise the value in community participation?
  • How can we focus national attention on the costs to our culture in too great a reliance on mining for future prosperity?
  • In what way can we use craft to strengthen our connections in the Asia Pacific region?

Regine Schwarzer creates Royal Jewels unique to Australia

Regine Schwarzer

Regine Schwarzer

Born 1961 in Germany, Schwarzer grew up in Bavaria, training in jewellery making and metalwork at the Zeichenakademie Hanau one of the oldest training institutions in Europe. In 1993 she moved to Australia where she lives and works in the Adelaide Hills.

In the Australian outback she discovered her passion for the abundant gems and minerals she loves collecting on field trips. Inspired by the colours and structures of these minerals, she learned how to shape them and uses them often in her work.

Visual uniqueness gives value to common materials that are often overlooked or disregarded. By slicing into the materials I discover structures, patterns and colours, traces of their geological history hidden in the layers.

GeoMorphing, her latest body of work, is inspired by the crystalline formations of minerals which grow in a variety of different systems. By designing and constructing both jewellery and objects that reference and utilize gems and minerals she investigates the term precious as it is often attributed to certain materials.

Schwarzer holds a Masters Degree in Visual Arts and Design. She exhibits widely nationally and internationally, her work is included in many private collections and has been published in Crafts Arts International as well as 1000 rings, 500 Gemstone Jewels and 500 Silver Jewelry Designs by Lark books.

Regine Schwarzer 'Royal Jewels' Necklace, Royal Jewels, chabazite in basalt, cubic zirconia, sterling silver, 2008, 23 x 23 x 1.4 cm

Regine Schwarzer 'Royal Jewels' Necklace, Royal Jewels, chabazite in basalt, cubic zirconia, sterling silver, 2008, 23 x 23 x 1.4 cm

Here is the statement about her work:

The minerals on which I base the design and construction of my work are sourced from the Australian outback; the raw materials are a rich inspiration for exploring the nature of what is deemed precious.

I value visual uniqueness and thus devised the piece The Royal Jewels.

The rocks used are inexpensive yet I consider their uniqueness and expressivity far exceeds the commercial worth of classical gem material such as diamonds, rubies and sapphires. This combination of the known, cubic zirconia as diamond simulants and the unknown, chabazite in basalt and the deliberate juxtaposition and obscuring of materials are used to question commonly held assumptions about preciousness.

This neckpiece was conceived as a piece that could be suitable for Royalty, appearing to be expensive yet using gems that have a relatively low market value. The chabazite in basalt has volcanic origin and was mined in NSW. The crystal clusters, zeolite, which are nestled inside the rock, inspired me to add large sparkling gems of cubic zirconia which simulate diamonds: the precious placed next to the worthless.

Contemporary Australian Art practice is informed by our unique geography and the complex interplay of European settlement, more recent regional development and our role as 21st century global citizens.

In The Royal Jewels I mine this rich lode to present a garland featuring material often overlooked or discarded, referencing both the ephemeral nature of laurel wreath / floral garland and the spectacular pieces in precious stones and metals by which they have often been replaced.

Curator’s note: In the history of jewellery, wealth has been most often symbolised in diamonds and gold. While for a country like Australia, much of its wealth is derived from much cruder materials, such as iron and coal. Regine Schwarzer’s necklace helps us appreciate the materials that underpin preciousness. Her work has parallels with the Queensland jeweller Ari Athans, whose rings include the quartz characteristic of gold fields.

Regine Schwarzer’s work is part of the exhibition Welcome Signs.