Melbourne and Perth and Sydney – events to get y’all out of the studio

Last Friday night I went to the Real to Reel Craft Film Festival here in Perth and it was incredible! Presented by local craft heroes Maker & Smith (organisers of workshops, talks and other beautifully thought-out and executed events) it is screening again this Friday night in Perth at Camelot Cinema. The fest is then touring to Melbourne – end of this month – and Sydney – early next – so check out that first link for dates. I love a short film fest, and this was one for the ages.

Also in Melbourne you have the Su san Cohn performance Meaninglessness in the middle of this month. Please go, it looks to be another powerful presentation from one of Australia’s finest jewellery thinkers. I look forward to living vicariously.

Ring Master

No, not me, I’ve made maybe a dozen rings in my career – but at least four of them will be on show at Bilk Gallery for the opening of Ring Master tonight! This group show of rings by makers from all over the world is a part of the Design Canberra Festival. To get into some jewels designed in AutoCad and handmade by me (with some laser cutting involved, though not in the little number above mind, it was hand-sawn all the way) you’d better get in quick 😉

Did I mention the show is on til Christmas eve? Timing!


rose turk—o


Rose Turko is a new jewellery gallery being opened in Richmond, VA (in the USA for all you Melbournians who now think I’ve sold out…) by long-time local Kathy Emerson.

I am now represented by this new space, and have the added pleasure of being in the inaugural exhibition, Angles: architecturally inspired jewelry, which has been curated by well known Richmond jewel-arts instigator, Maggie Smith. (Nope, not that one, but I do call her Dame Mags in my head most of the time.) She is also the creator of the gorgeously funny #ThisIsABrooch site, “because kids don’t know“!

Anyway, as you can see the Angles show is populated by the great (them) and the good (me!), and I’m very happy to be amongst them all, especially in the architecture/jewelry context. Finally! If you’re in the area, please check out the opening on Thursday night from 6-10pm, and say ‘hi’ to The Dame from me 😉

Writing about jewellery

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Martin Mull, and about a million others.

You’ve noticed that writing about jewellery is a big thing right at the minute? Yeah, I’ve been seeing it too. There’s the posts that are being cooperatively published by the AJF and Klimt02 websites on criticism (we’re up to post #4 by Garth Clark, which has links back to the other 3) and then there’s a few awards and competitions that are trying to get writers writing and submitting jewellery analysis and criticism. I’m going to mention them first because one is possibly self-serving and the other is really interesting.

The first on is the annual 2 Danks Street Award for Contemporary Art Criticism. Thanks to a heads up in the Studio 20/17 newsletter, I’m now aware that my collection of works currently on display in the gallery, One Design, is an eligible exhibition to write about for the award. So if you’re an aspiring critical writer in Sydney, you’ve got a couple of days to go see my show and write about it to submit it to the award by the 15th of October. And let me be plain, I’m happy to answer any questions, and approve use of/furnish you with images for you to use alongside your essay.

Secondly, Sienna Gallery have just announced that alongside their biannual emerging artist award (you get a show in the gallery – for goodness sakes apply, American residents!) they will also be sponsoring an emerging writer platform award. This is a chance for an emerging writer to write about the emerging artist show, and be published, with editorial help provided.

This is all good. And a little hopeful. Possibly towards being overly optimistic.

I want people to write about jewellery, and I want jewellery artists to write about jewellery. But I also want the writing to be good. And when people are not practiced at it, when they have not been trained as writers, or have even chosen a profession because they know that they will be able to avoid structuring sentences for perhaps even months at a time, then the ramp-up to reasonable communication, let alone useful criticism, is going to require the endurance of a Tour de France type of  ascent, rather than the gentle up and over of mounting a kerb (or curb) in an SUV. So while I’m all for the idea of getting more writers, I’m also a realist. One who recognises that the writing needs criticism, just as much as the work being written about.

(And before y’all come after me with your burning soldering picks – I know I’ve written some bland dross on here on occasion, but I set up this blog as a practice forum. One of the two main reasons I’m here is to try to get my writing in tune for the kind of scrutiny I should reasonably expect as a working artist. [The other being to share my experiences with my colleagues, so that we all might learn from what I do right and what I do wrong.])

I’m keen for a renaissance of critical writing for art jewellery, as much for the development of individual works of jewellery as the raised standard of critical thought it will encourage, and also for the improvements in writing that it will undoubtedly foster.


What I’m reading:

Deutsche Kunst – Catalogue on artist Moritz Götze (also works in large scale enamel)
Gender and Jewelry: A Feminist Analysis  – Rebecca Ross Russell
Mies – Detlef Mertins
On Jewellery: A Compendium of international contemporary art jewellery – Liesbeth den Besten (Yes, still – I’m just about done, but when you underline, write down and research something on just about every page, it’s slow going!)
Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World Mark Miodownik

On Order:

A History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia & New Zealand – Damian Skinner and Kevin Murray


The AJF Blog and a feed of their Articles

Unmaking Things –

Unmaking Things is an online creative platform, edited and run by History of Design students at the Victoria and Albert Museum / Royal College of Art. It is a space in which questions can be raised, work can be published, and reflected on critically. Whilst the site is operated in connection with the MA course, we encourage connections between all those engaged in the field of design history, and so we welcome a diverse range of submissions – whether from students, practitioners, or professionals.

Continuing the blog tour…

Hello and welcome fellow blog aficionados.

Last week I was tagged into (that appears to be the mutually agreed correct term) a blog tour of artists and artisans, by the wonderful, and recently relocated, Sonya Scott. I have to admit to being pretty chuffed, despite the fact that I’ve not taken such a tour since the early ‘blog rings’ of the 90’s. Well, until now and kinda in retrospect – but I’d encourage anyone to do the same. Sonya’s blog post and it’s predecessors are some good reading – and I say that without bias, as prior to these recent shenanigans I was already following Sonya’s blog.

Anyway, seeing as though I am definitely into blogs and blogging, (above all social media – if you don’t mind agreeing to call it that for the moment at least) I think it’s a grand idea, and I have duly whittled down my reader list to share with y’all a few of my faves. Three to be exact, which was really punishing as my shortlist consisted of three times that amount.

Now, dispensing with the ado:

1| Claire McArdle

Yup, not technically a blog. What a controversial way to start my blog tour! But it is a feed, and that’s how I judge blog content (while it serves the purposes of this experiment at least…) Claire’s news feed includes enough snippets and tidbits for me to be completely intrigued by what is going on in her mind and her hands.

For the full experience, click on the ‘contact’ tab and put yourself onto her mailing list. To be blunt, I think she is one of the most innovative jewellery makers and thinkers at the present moment. She stands behind her work with an impressive record of eye popping solo ‘exhibitions’ – some might call some of these performances and/or experiences, as well as that of others with her record of curating well researched and worthy group shows.

2| Whatnot & Such

Caitie Sellers makes jewelry that I will explain for the sake of expedience, as framed lined drawings of elements of architecture, urban design and cityscapes. She makes small sculptures of the same that are even more impressive. I love the work because it speaks to my aesthetic sensibility, because it is beautifully made and perhaps more truthfully, because of her blog.

I “met” Caitie long before I moved to the US, and I felt a surprisingly direct contact with her, because of the shy/sly wit that is cumulatively exhibited through her writings and postings. In a country where people are encouraged to have their life story ready in easily regurgitatable chunks – aka an ‘elevator pitch’ – the slow burn of her writings is not only remarkably appealing, but compellingly against trend. It’s also helpful that the thinking, writings and works are symbiotic, making her posts always ring clear and true.

3| Daniel Davis

Serious architecture scholar, originally from New Zealand. Works in architectural computation/research and with the best in the business. Good sense of humour. Thinker. Is intermittently working under Mark Burry on Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família. Nuff said?

I don’t really want to admit this, but: I have on occasion been at a loss following him. I’d like to think that the equation is that he’s super-smart and not that I’m not the sharpest graver on the bench, but I can accept the latter because… His writing keeps me engaged so I want to understand. Many a time I have happily jumped from his blog to doing supplementary research – and that includes scores of times when I did follow along. I have always found that the topics he covers are a great jumping off point for thinking about buildings and their design.  I liken it to a good stretch for the architectural bit of my brain. And I did mention engaging, yes?

I’ve been following him since my thesis days, and while I’ve parted company with plenty of bloggers who helped me grow for a time before I was ready to move on, Daniel’s blog has stayed in my reader list. Now he’s at CASE the posts are more commercially directed (or should I say trade-publication-ready – as he has mentioned himself), but I’m still with him. Thanks Daniel, again, and if you’re ever in Seattle I’ll take you out for an almost-Melbourne-quality coffee. Oh, and I still think that ‘hanging chain model’  is a good name for a band.


So, them’s my peeps. Thank you all for indulging me, and to the extra visitors, thank you for taking a chance on these here ramblings! And to my worthy predecessor – thank you for your post, and indeed, your blog. They were lovely words, and beautifully written. Oh, and I wouldn’t have had a heart attack – there are nuts and there are NUTS!

xx m

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’?

I went to: Kent State!

So on the 12th of February I spent the day flying to Cleveland, Ohio, where I met up with Kathleen Browne, the Jewelry/Metals professor at Kent State University’s School of Art who took me out to Kent, about an hour out from Cleveland.

Owing to the recent weather patterns on the east coast and inland I was wary of cutting it too fine, so my arrival was the day before the opening of The Digital Hand on the 13th. The exhibition, as the name implies, was of jewellery works by artists who use digital technologies in their practices. The opening went really well, as did the opening of the student show upstairs. While at our show I got to have a great chat with some local artists who were involved, including Matthew Hollern and partner Pam Argentieri. (Check out the catalogue below to see their work.)

The following day I gave a lecture on my practice for the department of art, which went pretty well. It’s a tough thing to practice, talking in public, since rehearsing in front of an audience is not really workable. It’s like stand-up comedy in a way, the only way to get good at it is to do it. Hopefully, with all the practice I’m getting, I’ll someday get really good at it!

While I was there I also spent some time with some students, mostly graduates (what we in Aus would call postgraduate students – students undertaking their MFA’s), talking with them about their work. And I got a tour of the enamelling studio, which included the great big new enamelling kiln.

On the Saturday we trekked back into Cleveland where Kathleen and I met up with Gretchen Goss, another enamel artist, whose work I was familiar with after installing it for first Heat Exchange exhibition in 2012. Together we toured the recently fully-reopened and pretty ah-maz-ing Cleveland Museum of Art for the afternoon. The collections and the architecture are incredible, I really recommend a visit.

While in town I stayed with Kathleen and partner Stephen, also an impressive artist. They were fantastic hosts, and the time with them allowed me to tour both of their studios which is always a fascinating peek behind the curtains of an artist’s process.

The Digital Hand – Catalogue

The Digital Hand exhibition
The Digital Hand exhibition

My work
My work

3D printer on site
3D printer on site

The grad studio - Kathleen
The grad studio – Kathleen

Ravenna - dusk
Ravenna – dusk

Ravenna - morning
Ravenna – morning

Also in Pittsburgh

I spent my third day with ceramicist Yoko Sekino Bové, and we were joined for the second part by her partner Jim Bové, lecturer in jewelry/metals at California University of Pennsylvania. Yoko took me out to breakfast before letting me tour around the Mellon Hall of Science at the downtown Duquesne University, which is a building by my home-boy Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. I was rapt to spend some time in and around the space, only the second Mies building I’ve managed to see so far. There’s a few more in the states, so with any luck I’ll be getting around some more of them.

Mellon Building Stairwell Mellon Building

Mellon Building Corner Mellon Building Date

Fan-girl time over, I was then whisked to Cal U by Yoko to present a talk on my work to Jim’s metal/3D design students.

In full flight post lecture, discussing some of the works I brought along to show.
In full flight post lecture, discussing some of the works I brought along to show the students.

Jim and Melissa pose with the students in the jewellery rooms at Cal U

After that and a quick tour of the university we were back into Pittsburgh for some other commitments, which somehow resulted in an informal night tour of Carnegie Mellon University’s public art collection. Being a wealthy institution with a large campus they of course boast some interesting pieces of public art, and architecture. But no Mies buildings… Here we also caught up with Sharon Massey and Adrienne Grafton, and with them leading the charge we headed in to Lawrenceville for drinks and finally some dinner.

Bilk On Tour

Opening this Saturday the 15th of September at The Incinerator Gallery, in the City of Moonee Valley in Melbourne is an exhibition entitled Bilk on Tour. Curated by Richard Ennis of Incinerator and Helen Aitken – Kuhnen of Bilk in Canberra, the show will be held in a Walter Burley Griffin designed building that, as its current title suggests, used to house the Essendon Incinerator.

From the Incinerator Gallery website:

Bilk on Tour is an exhibition curated by designer and teacher Helen Aitken-Kuhnen of Bilk Gallery in Canberra, surveying the field of Australian jewellery design and metal-smithing, featuring over 30 artists.  It will travel to the Incinerator Art Space  in Willoughby, Sydney, after the exhibition at the Incinerator Gallery.

I am lucky enough to have some works in the show, which is due to run from:

15th September – 21st October at
180 Holmes Road, Moonee Ponds
Incinerator on Facebook

after which the Incinerator Art Space at the City of Willoughby in Sydney with play host from the 31st of October to the 25th of November.

Please head along and let me know what it looks like!

And finally…  Throw the streamers and set off the flash-pots, this is my 500th post!

The New MCA

The extension to the MCA in Sydney has finally been finished and the architect has been out spruiking the green credentials of the building. The architects have put into place many new green products and strategies, but the biggest saver is in the water bill, primarily because of their heat exchange system, which uses Sydney Harbour water to cool the museum building.

Given our current Heat Exchange exhibition in Arizona, I thought it an opportune time to share the importance of efficient thermal transfer 😉

Thanks to Butterpaper for the heads up.