Monday – gun day

In a not-so-happy coincidence, on the same day that many of us found out about the latest mass killing in the USA, I received the cheque for the sale of my Gun work to the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

So here’s a little about work, for which I began the research in December 2012, and finally finished the last part of about a year later, in early 2014.

Gun (2013/2014) consists of:
154 @ 30 rpm – scale 1:4
(scale 1:4)
AR-15 (bandolier)

The work Gun (a suite of three wearable pieces) is from the Escalation series. The works in Escalation are each made from domestic objects, taken out of their usual context and transformed into loaded jewels. Together the complete series reflects thousands of years of human history, the history we have of making weapons of war. The works (there is at least two wearable items for each ‘piece’) are loosely grouped into branches, based on the proximity to which the assailant would have to have to the victim (and vice versa) when used, which makes the whole Escalation project into a kind of family tree of tools for killing.

The Gun work is the Sword’s companion on one branch, as I see the gun as the successor to the sword in close combat situations. Rifles were the earliest effective firearms, so it was not a huge leap to use the Bushmaster XM15-E2S as my gun archetype. Sold as a hunting rifle in the USA, it is “a variant of the AR-15 first built by ArmaLite,”[i] “as an assault rifle for the United States armed forces.” (also known as the M16)[ii]. This Bushmaster is the weapon that was used for the Newtown massacre in 2012. If you see the whole series together, it becomes more obvious that this piece is the only one in my Escalation series that does not focus the wartime outcomes of a particular weapon. In making this exception, I wanted to make the point that these military grade weapons are available far too easily to the citizens of the US, and thus are in the homes and lives of ordinary people, which results in the premature deaths of this country’s most vulnerable citizens.

I made this piece from a strangely long and slightly medical-looking tray I bought new, at Daiso. I gave it 30 full-sized NATO shells (I chose there to depict the military round rather than the hunting round made by Remington), as 30 is the magazine’s capacity. I made 77 holes in the tray in the unfired bullet diameter, and strung the 77 cutouts on steel cable, which together add up to the 154 bullets expended within the school. The gun is made at 1:4 scale, making it very obvious to wear and more realistic than the miniature gun bling that is occasionally in fashion. The neckpiece with the 77 cutouts is 15m/40′ long, to represent, again at 1:4 scale (full scale being at least 60m/197′) the minimum distance that the shooter would have traversed inside of the school. I read the police report and literally plotted the shooter’s movements onto a floor plan of the school that I found online, to calculate the approximate length.

Finally, in all the pictures that accompany this series, I am wearing the works. They are photos I took of myself, by myself, and when these works are shown, they were a part of the display. It is important that the works, and the troubling histories that they represent, are on me. Like they are on all of humanity. And I for one am not at all happy about it.

[i] ‘AR-15’. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 26 April 2013.

[ii] Ibid.


5 years

Australia and the USA from the Coat Hanger series, 2012. Recycled steel, steel, vitreous enamel.

St Patrick’s day; the middle day of 3 straight days of anniversaries, for me. From the image above I think it’s easy enough to guess what happened to me on the 17th of March 2012. My life, my work, everything changed. But, one can say that about every day that we get to share on this planet. For me, this last 5 years has been full of days like these.

Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box

Image of Tanya Lippe's Lunch Box - pre transformation
Image of Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box – pre transformation

In answer to a reader question; yes, the material that makes the work My House – Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box is all from Tanya’s old lunch box, barring the stainless steel rivets, c-shaped connections, chain (handmade and otherwise) and cable that joins the altered parts together.

In fact there’s actually a few parts missing. The plastic handle and chrome fittings are not part of the design, and there is a series of five small pins (about 27 x 4mm each) that are not part of the installation. One of these I have kept (not a habit of mine, but these were particularly meaningful to me, in a piece that became surprisingly personal over the course of the design and making), and four were given to Micki before the piece was installed.

What you can’t see in this image is the hinge pin that was removed, the handle tethers, and an internal feature meant to hold a thermos flask in place in the top section of the box (it was roughly the shape of the stylized ‘V’ on the front.) All this was wire, in approximately 1.5 – 2mm diameter steel, which was cut up, drilled into, enameled and re-joined to make the chain that holds the big ‘snowflake’ section in the centre.

Detail image of work My House - Tanya Lippe's Lunch Box, made out of lunch box steel, stainless steel, vitreous enamel.
Detail image of work My House – Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box, made out of the lunch box, stainless steel, vitreous enamel.

And like Bilk just announced…

If you’ve already seen this on Instagram my apologies, but the lovely co-director of Bilk, Mio Kuhnen, let the world know over the weekend that two of my pieces from the recent Body Politic exhibition in Canberra were just acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. This takes their Melissa Cameron tally up to 3!

I was in a bit of shock to have such a long and considered gallery visit with Dr Robert Bell (curator of decorative arts at the NGA) while I was in Canberra, on the day before the official opening of the show. He was very inquisitive, and if you’re read any of the text surrounding these works, you’ll have seen that there are a lot of stories to tell, so I was honoured to impart my narrative of these and the other works. He even asked my opinion – what I thought of the pieces he was deliberating and why – and I had to tell him that it took me a long time to come to terms with the Tank piece especially, as I found it brutal and dark when I first finished it.

Finishing that work as one of the earliest in the series – the Cannon and Tank were conceived at the same time – made continuing and then creating even more complex pieces an easier pill to swallow. I look back now and see that they were really just a prelude to the Gun piece, which, while only completed in late 2013 early 2014, was really begun with the horrific events in Sandy Hook in December of 2012. I see now that I put those details away for a while, and decided to start in more neutral territory – a Civil War era cannon and an M1 Abrams tank as fitted out for use by the Australian Army, as a sort of way to first test and then brace myself before moving deeper into this series.

I had a terrible grief-ridden winter this year as I finished up this series, and while the Drone probably didn’t help, I can’t say it hurt either. I now conflate the two in my memory. The Drone and last winter were inevitable, and surviving each of them needed the other as a crutch, in a sort of incongruous symbiosis.

But before all that, when I just had a Tank and a Cannon in my arsenal, I wasn’t sure if I would continue. The duo could have easily remained an outlier, an experiment that was discontinued before it had really begun. So it’s also them I have to thank for begetting the rest of the Escalation series, including the Drone that got me through.

Goodbye good friends, I hope to see you again some time 😉

1100 Shot Round (breastplate) and M1 Abrams (neckpiece)
1100 Shot Round (breastplate) and M1 Abrams (neckpiece)
Jewellery from the Escalation series of altered new and vintage objects by Melissa Cameron
Seven Personnel (neckpiece) and 11 RPH Cannon (brooch)

Put a pod on it

I don’t know if I have mentioned my love of podcasts here before? I don’t think I have. It’s what I do. I make jewellery in the afternoons, and listen to people talk.

I was listening to a favourite today, 99% Invisible with Roman Mars. It’s a design podcast, and it’s chock full of ‘aha’ moments – you know, that point when someone links two phenomena that you were already familiar with and explains how they’re interrelated or interdependent?  I love those moments. It’s the awe of pure learning.

This latest episode though really spoke to my heart, as it echoed back what I found out about the quatrefoil during my MFA research. One at a time, I’ve probably strung over a thousand of these shapes in my jewellery works. And hell, any podcast that name-checks Owen Jones gets two thumbs up.

Middle Ages #5 from The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, 1856. Scan from, 2006. Sourced 2009
Middle Ages #5 from The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, 1856. Scan from, 2006. Sourced 2009 (notice how he even arranged his crosses into a cross shape? Attention to detail, y’all!)

And then Alex Sandifer (@Refidnas) in the comments section of that page has linked a clip to Sesame Street; because of the connection to Jones’ works by the ‘Street animators. See what I mean about the ‘aha’?

JMGA conference 2013

The speakers list for the Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia conference Participation and Exchange has been finalised and it looks like a very interesting lineup, (and that is despite my bias of actually being on it.)

My buddies Mary Hackett and Christine Scott Young are going to talk about a couple of Melbourne-based organisations that are very close to my heart, Part B particularly so. Going from the title alone I’m also guessing that Helena Bogucki is also going to tug on my heartstrings, as she talks about her work that both comes from and engages with my home-state, Western Australia.

And I’m presenting a paper entitled How to become an Artist jeweller: a community Case Study (which probably should have ‘in the US‘ appended after jeweller), about the options available for training wannabe artists and metal smiths in Seattle. This is not as straightforward as it sounds given the closure of the approx 90 year-old local university program at the University of Washington a few years ago. Mary Lee Hu was the head there for many years, and when she finally decided to retire the university took the opportunity to close down the course. Sound like a recipe for disaster that could only happen in the US? Well, for a while there it looked as though my alma mater, Monash University, might be facing the same fate, so it’s a topic that I have more than a passing interest in. Lucky for Melbourne the program there still exists, but my investigation on Seattle unearthed a few more reasons as to why the loss of this college program was a tough blow to artists and school leavers in this city.

I was also hoping to carry on from this discussion to some more details of the other side of the industry – how to make it in the world once you have graduated from uni. There are a few different ideas on that here in the North America, but I had to cut that section owing to time constraints. What I’m saying is, if you manage to corner me in a bar some time, there’s plenty more of the tale to tell…

Hope to see you there, it’s going to be a great conference!

Jewellery Unleashed!

There was this amazing symposium recently, I have just found out. And part of the awesome was a presentation by Ben Lignel. I can’t remember where I got the link from (so very sorry, but I started watching the clip earlier in the week whilst jet-lagged, and didn’t finish it til last night, and in the intervening space I forgot where it came from) so my heartiest of apologies if it was you. Anyway, the presentation itself gives much food for thought. Interesting times.

Jewellery Unleashed! The Symposium – Benjamin Lignel from Premsela, The Netherlands Inst. on Vimeo.


I finally got around to reading ‘Interview with Postmodernism Curator at the V&A, Glenn Adamson’ by Katherine Elliott last week.

This was the bit I was particularly interested in;

Q: In your opinion, what is the difference between critiquing work created as art and work created for use, like product design?

A: I think it’s a continuum or maybe even just a shift in emphasis. You can treat a design object like an art work (Duchamp started doing so a century ago after all) and you can also treat an art work like a design object, by considering its production and distribution narrative. So to me, the difference is in the manner of questioning, not the supposed inherent nature of the object, or even the maker’s intention.

The question and answer that directly followed this was particularly thought-provoking, to me, given that they explore further that last part – intention – and what importance is has to historians/theorists, when forming a historical narrative. Not as much as I might have thought.

In the field of research jewellery, you’d have to argue that it is a particularly intriguing arena to investigate.

More from Midland

The whole reason I was reminded of my day in the Pattern Shop in Midland was because when I visited again, after being escorted by security to the door, I was welcomed by Jon to check out not only the exhibitions that were on in the adjoining building, but to look at the works in progress in the workshop that immediately precedes the gallery space. This space has a door into the back to the Pattern Workshop, through which Jon disappeared after a brief introduction to the show, to continue his work.

He works in the ground floor of the pattern workshop, and by sticking my camera lens in, I figure (perhaps incorrectly?) that the patterns and detritus still remain above.

Some more photos from my visit. My camera eventually ran out of battery, and I took these with my new (at that stage) smartphone.