A home in Tacoma

>> I’m republishing this as I had a couple of little corrections from Micki overnight. She also very thoughtfully added a note that I will take up in another post:

I would suggest that you tell a little bit about the research that you did and the heart felt sensitivity that you displayed in this situation.

Micki Lippe

>> I absolutely will. I’ll link to it right here once I’ve done it. Previous posts about this work.

Back when I was living in Seattle I found out that the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington State – a quick trip down the I-5 from my Queen Anne home – has a pretty decent collection of contemporary studio jewellery. More than decent, in fact. I was surprised. Plenty of museums are pro decorative arts and/or craft, but surprisingly few have much on permanent display, or host regular exhibits. It was this AJF article that alerted me to TAM’s collection, in which Rock Hushka (current Director of Northwest Special Projects at TAM) actually said that “The jewelry collection is the fastest growing component of our permanent collection.”

They back up that support in their exhibits – the time I went to the museum was for the opening of Protective Ornament: Contemporary Armor to Amulets curated by Suzanne Ramljak, former editor of Metalsmith magazine. While in town for the opening she also spoke at the 19th Annual Seattle Metals Guild Northwest Jewelry / Metals Symposium in 2014 (for which I was on the organising committee) so us attendees got a special opening reception and tour of the show. At that stage the museum had several permanent display cases set up for jewellery, in which was arranged works by all of the significant Pacific Northwest jewellery artists.

I should also mention that in that article about Rock and TAM, written by Damian Skinner in 2013, Rock says that TAM’s mission is to collect works by Pacific Northwest artists that contain some sort of narrative thread.

Back in 2013, into my second year of making in the USA, I was still reeling from the Sandy Hook massacre and its aftermath of, well, bloody-awful government negligence. Their inaction prompted my action. Come April, I was getting uncomfortable in my studio whilst designing the first pieces of what would become the Escalation Series. Each piece was made from a domestic object, to cement its association with everyday life, and told a story about a particular weapon type. Chosen from history or from current times the weapons I focussed on were intended, when seen together, to reflect our history of being at war with ourselves.

Seeing my works gave Micki Lippe – Seattle jewellery living legend (she’s in the TAM collection of course) – an idea. It soon became the sort of commission that in equal parts delights and fuels dread in the heart of a recycled-object-reworking artist. She gave me the old Stanley lunch box (a beautiful example of 90’s retro chic that any teenager in the 90’s would have coveted, myself included,) that her daughter Tanya owned = delight. Tanya Lippe had died many years earlier = apprehension.

With it she gave me a book of poetry written by Tanya that was published after her death, and told me that maybe I could do something like cut Tanya’s words into the steel. A few pieces would be good, so then she could distribute them to a few of her family members.

I did not cut many of Tanya’s words into the steel – in the end the words I cut were the name of the poem that I used in designing the works, My House, and the name of the collaborators: Tanya’s full name, and my full name.

The rest of what I designed and hand-cut is a whole other story, but the outcome was a piece displayed in the 2016 Bellevue Arts Museum biennial Metalmorphosis. I sought and received permission from Micki to enter my proposal for the work into the juried BAM show, and in a nice piece of symmetry it was displayed around the corner from the works made by Micki that commemorated one of her friend’s losses – her house in rural Washington State to the fires of 2015.

in 2018 I convinced Micki to model the piece for me.

In the image above Micki wears on her back a heavy black cloak made from an unwanted inheritance, while her front drips with an assortment of jewels. The cloak carries images, scenes imagined by her departed daughter; flowers and honey, beach pebbles and pearls, bones and fog, waves and tears. The jewels allow the motifs to intermingle; pearls, tears, flowers, driftwood and wave caps all shimmer and rock against one another.

As the picture illustrates, I’d strayed from the brief more than a little. I had accepted the lunch box as a commission. In changing the brief – Metalmorphosising it you might say – I changed the scale and complexity of the work I was going to deliver. Micki graciously accepted the explosion of her container into a cloak of one colour. And she appreciated its display. But once it was done, neither she nor I felt as though we had ownership of the result. Tanya owned the box, she wrote the poem, it’s her cloak, the jewels are formed to her words.

To step around the issue for a bit we wrote a proposal to exhibit our works together, but our two sets of black jewels would defy our attempts. Perhaps it was our proposal, or maybe it was the content.

The cloak gives form to a poem by a Northwest artist, made for her mother, a Northwest artist, by storyteller who was at that time living in the Northwest. As a keeper on Northwest stories it seemed logical that Tacoma Art Museum to be its caretaker, so Micki and I asked them to accept My House – Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box as a gift. Towards the end of last year they graciously accepted.

In its particulars, this is a Northwest story. My House, the poem, captures a moment of Tanya’s life in Seattle. Her work and therefore mine reference Northwest scenes; where Tanya mentions a prison, I found an image of a fence at a local women’s facility to portray; where it says ocean, I sourced another of a choppy day in Puget Sound.

More broadly though, the narrative of this work must include the facts of its existence. The mutually acknowledged owner of the work, my collaborator on the project, is dead. Were she living she may never have consented to the publication of her poem My House – in fact she may never have sought the publication of any poems. Were she living the lunch box would not have become the property of her mother, and would not have accrued the significance that it had by the time it was handed over to me. And we may or may not have met, making our collaboration even less likely.

Were she living, this would not be her work. But because she is not, it is.

Loss caused the piece to exist. It had to effect the form, in that it was made for Micki because of her loss.

This part of story is of course not unique to the Northwest. A mother’s grief, the continuance of life in the face of trauma, learning to live with loss, and the accrual of baggage; these stories are universal. They are the invisible version of this cloak and jewels, the ones we wear everyday. For Micki, and because of Tanya, I was able to manifest this version.

2019 – 2 shows that were

I’m clearing out he inbox during the quiet season and I’ve found a few images of my works on display that I thought I’d share. First up, MasterMakers. (links today are to my earlier posts)

MasterMakers exhibition ©RMIT Gallery. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy
my works are a pair just south-east of the midpoint of this great photo. ©RMIT Gallery. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy

What can I say – I wish I saw this one. The photos are amazing. It got a write-up in Art Month Australasia. Look out for it touring in 2020.

Purpose Process Paper

This one was a part of SNAG in Chicago. Another one I really wanted to see. Big thanks to Kiff Slemmons and Cat Bowyer for the images, and for sending me the prints you made.

Installation image – Kiff Slemmons studio
The ‘paperwork’ for 1.1.2017 as printed and installed.

I was really proud to be invited to take part in these two shows. Thanks to all involved in mounting and documenting them both. I can’t travel as much as my work does, (though sometimes it seems like I’m trying to give it a go,) so I’m very glad my little emissaries get to be there for me.

Year wrap up + farewells

Contain neckpiece – available to hire or buy from Bridget Kennedy Project Space, North Sydney

Bye bye Bilk : (

If you’re an industry person in Australia you’ve probably already heard that Bilk Gallery is not renewing its lease next February. I’ve been with them since 2010 and they are the gallery which hosted my two recent solo exhibitions Body Politic in 2016 and Marfa, TX in 2019. Needless to say they have a sprawling collection of my work, so if you are in or near Canberra I encourage you to check them out for all your last-minute gift-giving! While you’re there I’d encourage you to get on the mailing list to attend the Carlier Makigawa opening in January, I know it will be an epic celebration.

Moodjar – Nuytsia Floribunda earrings at Bilk. Stainless steel, vitreous enamel. Real big ones!

Less is more

I don’t think I really mentioned it here, but I stopped making production line pieces when I moved back to Australia last year. I’m focussing on exhibition works with the occasional limited series. My galleries have returned a bunch of production works however, so if there was something in the Resist or Body Politic lines that you never got while they were in store please do get in touch, I might be holding the last of what you seek.

Ciao for now… Bini!

It also means that I will say farewell to having permanent stock at Bini in Collingwood, but I hope to tour some shows there in future. My plan for the new year is research, alongside coordinating and making works for the Connexions exhibition.

Connexions exhibition??

Why yes! Connexions is an exhibition conceived and created by Blandine Hallé and I, which will include ourselves along with Emily Beckley, Fatemeh Boroujeni, Eden Lennox, Sultana Shamshi and Maryann Talia Pau. It will show in Paris for the Parcours Bijoux triennial jewellery festival next year, and the following year will be presented in Perth for the Indian Ocean Craft Triennial.

Xmas shopping!

Future projects are on the up, but for the current moment you can also find a collection at Bridget Kennedy Project Space in North Sydney (top pic and below are both from this collection.) It’s from my limited series of last year entitled Contain and is handmade from shipping container steel that I cut from a segment I bought in Tacoma at a container renovator. They make old shipping containers into things like site offices and storage space. And sometimes their parts happen to become jewellery ; )

Contain pins at Bridget Kennedy Project Space in North Sydney. Little + large; steel, vitreous enamel

Happy end-of-year and solstice celebrations y’all, hope you get some time out to chill at this frenzied year’s end.

Apology and correction

Along with images of my Moodjar (nuytsia floribunda) small series of works on November 19 I published a story that was not my knowledge to share.

A friend and colleague pointed out to me last week that it did not belong to me or my people. I thanked her then, and again now, for correcting me.

On ending our conversation I rewrote the words that accompany the series and sent them to my gallery with apologies, and changed my social media posts and my blog post that contained the material. My gallery has also kindly updated their social media that referenced my original writing.

I am deeply ashamed.

I apologise to any people offended by the original post. I apologise to the Noongar peoples whose story I appropriated, and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I am so very sorry. It won’t happen again.

The work itself was designed from photographs and was completed before I read and appended the Noongar history of the plant to my narrative. In my excitement to share this knowledge I forgot my place, and I regret it deeply.



The Big Dry

We’re in it, here in Perth, though today I’m ready to rename it ‘the big hayfever’. The UV index says extreme, so it’s sunny all right, (though thankfully we’re back down to 20’s from the 40’s of last week) but the air – or more specifically the pollen and other particles in it – are really what’s doing my head in.

I have such empathy for the parts of this country who are smoke-haze clouded today, I know it could be seriously worse out there because it is in many places right now. I hope it’s ok where you are.

Bilk Gallery, 23 November – 24 December 2019

12 Palmerston Lane, Manuka, ACT 2603   Phone +61 (0) 2 61622761  

Hours Wed-Fri 11-5  Sat 11-4

I love working with Bilk and I think it has an effect on the works I make for them. They are an inspiring and inspired bunch, as evidenced by their recent Canberra Critics Circle win for their exhibition Transfer.

moodjar pin

A preview of a seasonal collection made for @bilkgallery And a reminder to WA folx that the JMGA-WA party is at my place on Friday night! Come celebrate moodjar season with us 🧡

Growing up I remember having a flowering plant pointed out to me as the ‘WA Christmas Tree’. It’s local to Southwest Australia, has the Indigenous name moodjar and was given the coloniser species title nuytsia floribunda. Early in the colony it was also known as the ‘fire-tree’, thanks to its bright orange colouring.

It flowers from October to February, a time that incorporates our Christmas period, thus its English name. When I was a kid it was was explained to me that it lives off other trees – the technical term is hemiparasitic. It’s very versatile in that can live off of many different species, but despite that it’s actually hard to cultivate. It was once widely seen around the coastal plain of Perth but its habitat has since been heavily cleared. I know of a few big patches of them that still hug the line of the Perth hills, which I smile at each time I see them. (1)


the festive is almost upon us

In honour of present-fest 2019 I have made some new jewellery AND I have sent over to the other side of the country some jewellery I made last year that had not been exhibited in Australia before. So industrious!

1/ Bridget Kennedy Project Space

Let me start with the second part first – Bridget Kennedy has come to the conclusion that for the experience-based and consume-less economy there should be an Art-Jewellery bank. Thus the work below – looking fiiiine on a sister of mine – is available at three, yes 3, price points from her gallery this season. A one-week rental, a 4-week rental, and an own-outright price. And if you rent and decide you can’t part with it, the price you have already paid will count against what’s left. Genius!

This is a very short summary of course, and Bridget explains the bigger philosophy around her grand idea here. And you should know that the artists’ ‘bankable’ pieces are supported by other matching works. If this neckpiece is on the large size for you there’s matching pins, earrings and pendants that will also be on display, all for immediate sale.

what she thinking? Bridget, what a great idea!

The opening for Bridget’s of year celebrations Little Forest by Anna Vlahos (another Perth girl out in the world and a personal fave of mine) and The Art Jewellery Bank is Thursday 28th November 5-8pm and is an RSVP event. Get along then or before the 23rd of December to:

53 Ridge Street,
North Sydney
NSW 2060
11 – 5pm Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday
10 – 6pm Friday

2/ And then there’s Bilk!

Please join us Saturday 23 November for our end of year exhibition, The Big Dry.

Featuring new work by Linda Hughes, Kath Inglis, Chris Bahng, Zoe Brand, Claire McArdle, Vicki Mason, Larah Nott, Thomas O’Hara, Helen Aitken-Kuhnen, Mio Kuhnen, Marian Hosking, Jane Reilly, Melissa Cameron, Eugenie Keefer Bell, Sean O’Connell and many more.

In previous years Bilk has celebrated the end of year with White Christmas.  This year we asked Artists to think of pressing issues which are affecting the wider community and Australia – the environment, water, biodiversity, wind and drought. ​Even with the harshest of environments and extremes in climates, there is still a beauty that can be seen through the heat, dust, cracking soils and the transforming colours water can bring.

Exhibition dates 23 November – 24 December 2019

12 Palmerston Lane, Manuka, ACT 2603   Phone +61 (0) 2 61622761  

Hours Wed-Fri 11-5  Sat 11-4

Last Week!

Marfa, TX, the exhibition will close this Saturday 19 October

venn c (6130, 6132, 6134, 6136, 6138, 6145b, 6149, 6151)
steel found in Marfa, TX, stainless steel, 750 gold, vitreous enamel

Dear friends,
This is the last week of my solo exhibition at Bilk Gallery in Canberra.
If that’s a bit far to travel, you can see images of the works and listen to my interview with ArtSound FM at the Bilk website.

xx m