Sunday, 19 July 2009

Sydney Design 09 - Exhibitions and events galore!

The Take a ball of thread... workshop I am holding at metalab is on in two weeks from today! Find out more on the Sydney Design 09 website

I am really looking forward to so many Sydney Design events this year including Cesar Cueva and Sabine Pagan's exhibition and Peta Kruger's exhibition both at metalab. Seeing the Knitted Convenience in all it's yellow glory at Taylor Square. Attending part of the Awkward Objects Symposium at Sydney College of the Arts and seeing the accompanying exhibitions at SCA and of course participating in the Alter Ego - the other I exhibition at gaffa gallery (we had an exhibition installation run through at the gallery yesterday and it is going to be such an excellent show! It is so exciting to see how everyone has worked with the brief). 

But before all of this there is the installation and opening of Le fil (the thread) to look forward to at gaffa gallery! This is going to be such a beautiful exhibition...

Some other pink things, naturally

I thought it would be fun to post a sneak preview of some of the pieces I am making for the exhibition I am in with Lauren Simeoni at metalab in October called Unnatural, naturally. We are both having a great time playing with some shared materials - namely artificial plants. These brooches are some of my favourites that I have made so far...
Cluster and Flutter Brooches, Freshwater Pearls, Artificial Plant Foliage, Marine Ply, 925 Silver, Acrylic Paint

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Inspiration - what is jewellery?

I was just reading Katherine Bowman's beautiful blog - she has posted a fantastic quote by just about my favourite jeweller EVER Warwick Freeman about what jewellery is. Read it here and enjoy! 
I am excited to be going to Melbourne for a day-long jewellery adventure this Tuesday with some fellow jewelling nerds. One of the many exhibitions we will see is Warwick's latest exhibition at Gallery Funaki. So excited... 

Spined Bloom

Spined Bloom Neckpiece, 2009, Coral, 925 Silver, Cotton Thread
I have been making neckpieces like this one in a range of different colours recently for a two lady exhibition: Unnatural, naturally with Lauren Simeoni. It opens on 1st October 2009 at  metalab
My work in this exhibition plays with the idea of a blurring between botany and the body, something which has come out of Take a ball of thread... it has been a good opportunity to make different work (not pink!) and explore some new materials, although I seem to have started a habit as the many of the materials I am using are ones that I have found already in my studio, Lauren and I are also sharing some found objects that we are both incorporating into our pieces. This exhibition has meant shopping for different coloured thread, I have had fun visiting rag trade wholesalers. It has also allowed me to finally chart approximately how much thread is in each neckpiece - around 500 metres, this means each of the larger rope brooches would have around 200 metres of thread. 


This brooch was inspired by a trip to the Maritime Museum in Sydney with my Dad. Shamefully I had never been to the Maritime Museum before... I can't believe I waited so long. The exhibitions were interesting, inspiring, fun and beautifully designed. True to form, Dad and I spent almost as much time examining the exhibition furniture as we did the exhibits! The brooch below is of course inspired by the exhibitions...

Navigator Brooch, 2009, NYC Pink Wax, Shells, 925 Silver, Cotton Thread

This is the only piece I have made using plaiting. I have experimented with all kinds of thread work including plaiting and macrame during this project, but have found that they speak too loudly about the technique (or scream, in the case of macrame - although I may be tainted by a childhood spent doing macrame nearly every day, it will just never be neutral for me. They were very happy days spent doing macrame I should add!). The 'rope' technique common to most of the works since early 2008 speaks softly technically and loudly conceptually which is why it is so dominant. I deliberately used plaiting in this piece for it's resonance with the exhibition we saw about ancestral voyages across the Pacific at the Museum.

'Pink, you stink'

Rot Brooch, 2009, NYC Pink Wax, Coral, Vintage Glass Imitation Gems, Freshwater Pearls, 925 Silver, Cotton Thread.

Rot felt like a good companion image to the second catalogue essay by Amber McCulloch... I have linked to this essay in a previous post, but here it is on the blog!

Pink… You Stink


My dad thinks he’s pretty funny, and in fact he is, in a slightly absurd way. And so I spent my childhood subjected to his abstract humour, one manifestation of which was his putting on a silly voice and saying “Pink. You stink” whenever the colour was mentioned. What the hell did this mean? Pink is the colour of roses and bubble gum. It’s a girl’s colour. How could it ever smell bad? As well as being annoying, my father’s catch phrase made no sense. How could something sweet and lovely be pungent and unpleasant? How could something be beautiful and ugly?


I had forgotten all about dad’s weird saying until I was introduced to Melinda Young’s collection of pink objects. Pulsing, visceral conglomerations, they are at once arresting in their beauty and just a little bit icky. Like strange sea creatures, or disembodied organs, Young’s creations are dangerously ‘alive’ - living, growing and feeding on themselves. Rubies and pearls are swallowed by globs of wax, crystals push out of the surface and delicate fringes sprout from the edges… and all of them pink, pink, pink.


The incongruity of these beautiful/ugly works is echoed in their materials and production. Precious gems are coupled with inexpensive casting wax; and while the pieces appear roughly clumped together, closer inspection reveals them to be meticulously constructed, the products of a long process of collection and collation. Dichotomous to the last, each piece doubles as both artwork and wearable – functioning as rather pretty sculptures and, at the same time, somewhat ‘out there’ pieces of jewellery.


The titles of Young’s pieces point to a longstanding fascination with notions of abjection, referencing artists such as Louise Bourgeois, who is famous for works that both seduce and repel. So too, Young’s blog reveals a more personal inspiration for her pink series - photographs of the artist’s insides, taken for medical tests. Entries entitled Innards and Gut Instinct further explain the bodily connotations, but it’s one image that says it best – an unidentified organ, bright pink and studded with droplets of blood. It’s luminous and gorgeous and horrible too. Suddenly, “Pink. You stink” makes perfect sense.


Amber McCulloch

Mounds and Text

Mounds Brooches, 2009, NYC Pink Wax, Polystyrene Balls, Freshwater Pearls, Coral, 925 Silver, Cotton Thread
The results of attempts to make coil pots out of the thread and then remembering my 'wearable' rule... no vessels for me! I stuffed the little pots with some conveniently handy polystyrene balls to hold the shape. These brooches have secret gems embedded on their backs.

As I have been sitting here updating the images of work made this year it occurred to me that I have not posted much writing about the project apart from my comments here on the blog. I have done a bit of writing about the work and asked two marvelous writers to contribute pieces to my exhibition catalogue. As I am posting so many images just now it is hard to think of something snappy to add, so here is an image (a detail of the exhibition installation at Craft Victoria) and some text by Debbie Pryor... 

   And I looked

At my big ball of string,

And I said,

NOW I will find

A thing of some kind –

Some GOOD kind of thing

To do with my string!1


When Marion Holland wrote my favourite children’s book, A Big Ball of String, she created a character (not surprisingly) obsessed with making the biggest ball of string he possibly could. He began to do everything a child could do with an incredibly long piece of string- fly balloons into the sun, construct a machine out of a bike, a trike and a toy jeep- until he was bedridden. Then he discovered he could do even more- he could rig up the entire contents of his room and continue playing without needing to leave his bed at all, all with one ginormous piece of string. But if only he had some pink wax and a few pearls…


In her self-assigned project Take a ball of thread… Melinda Young has set herself three fundamental rules: Make from the one industrial spool of pink thread until completely used. Only materials already in her studio can be sourced. Every item made must be wearable. These simple rules are reminiscent of Miranda July’s Learning to Love You More 2 project, such simple beginnings for pieces that ultimately represent very intimate concepts and experiences.


The works themselves pose questions about our notions of wearability/function (through use of materials) to wearability/classification of beauty (through the creation of alluringly grotesque forms). The curious bubbling piles look like chewed candy, or a discarded sun-melted plastic Barbie accessory, somehow finding its way into a gallery (or onto a lapel). The pieces harbour uncomfortable yet familiar feelings- candy pinks at once seduce and sweetly sicken, reminding us of childhood toys. Simultaneously, the works have a visceral quality, mimicking the body’s interiors. Linking them with our exterior, we are prompted to contemplate cultural attitudes and ideas about the abject and the female body.


I’ll be your plastic toy. 3   



Debbie Pryor

Gallery Director, metalab



1. Marion Holland, A Big Ball of String, Random House Inc, 1958


3. Just Like Honey, Jim Reid (Jesus and Mary Chain), 1985

Sweet melt

Melt Brooch, 2009, NYC Pink Wax, Plastic Drink Bottle Tops, Freshwater Seed Pearls, 925 Silver, Cotton Thread, Acrylic PaintThis brooch uses a sample I made during a workshop with Mark Vaarwerk . Again, a step in a different direction with the work. I made the brooch below at the same time. 

Sweet Brooch, 2009, NYC Pink Wax, Carved Wood, 925 Silver, Cotton Thread, Acrylic Paint
This piece is another turning point - I enjoyed working with the wood and paint and after I had finished this went to my 'wood' box in my studio and found some beautiful huon pine that I have had since I was a student. I have made several pieces using the huon pine for the project - I had forgotten how much I love to work with wood! I have been making lots and lots of pieces with wood recently...


Lick Neckpiece, 2009, NYC Pink Wax, Freshwater Seed Pearls, Cotton Thread


Dry Brooch, 2009, NYC Pink Wax, Plastic Drink Stick, 925 silver, Cotton thread
This brooch is a nod in the direction of my cowboy 'thing'. It is also a nice linking piece between this project and other found object work I was making in 2006 - 2008 using vintage plastic drink stick mascots - I still have a huge collection to be used... (my favourites are the cowboys).


Mane Brooch, 2009
Another swarovski extravaganza!

Corps Brooch.

Corps Brooch, 2009, NYC Pink Wax, Coral, Cake Decorating Flower Stamens, 925 Silver, Cotton Thread, Acrylic Paint

Dew Neckpiece

Dew Neckpiece, 2009, Rose Quartz, Malaysian Jade, Cotton Thread

Ear tassels!

Tassel Earrings, 2009, NYC Pink Thread, Freshwater Pearls, 925 Silver, Cotton Thread
... another imaginative title!


Perhaps it was inevitable that I would end up making a piggy brooch working with pink... this brooch ended up looking like a pig quite by accident...