Master Class Workshop

Melissa anticipates getting schooled by (the famous) Helen Britton!

This week sees me getting schooled. By Helen Britton no less. Last year I did the Bettina Speckner workshop (again at RMIT), which was a really great experience, and during which I made many new friends. This year will be different as I’m more knowledgeable about the artist and her works (yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m a fan), I know some of the people going, and because I’m now familiar with the studios and format. Last year was great in part because it was all so unexpected – I had no clue what I was getting in for, so I just drank it all in as it bubbled along.

This year it’s hard not to have some expectations.

The first formal schooling that I did that had anything to do with research jewellery (or artist jewellery, if you prefer that term)  involved Helen, back in 2004. (Well, outside of high school that is, which was arguably not in the ‘research jewellery’ arena  – and thanks LSHS for the jewellery workshop and for employing Sarah Elson to teach art when I was in year 12.)

In April of that year I attended a mini-symposium, organised by FORM, to present the four jewellery artists who were in Perth topping up their local inspiration for the exhibition to follow –  Home Ground. Helen and Carlier Makigawa on the one bill (and lets not forget the aforementioned Sarah and Bronwyn Goss) speaking about jewellery was very inspirational. And for me, an interior designer at the time, taking in all this amazing-ness was intertwined with the knowledge that they all started off in Perth… Incredible!

During my studies that followed I even read the MA thesis that Helen completed at Curtin Uni.

I’m going to try not to get all night-before-Christmas, but, in the words of the long-since-departed Big Kev, I’m excited!


Melissa’s art practice is no longer homeless. Hooray!

(Don’t blame me if you’re now singing the melody to the above; you’re equally culpable.)

Call off the hounds, I have secured a studio!

No pics, yet, but it’s in St Kilda in an old house which has been converted into artist studios. It’s not the Oak St premises that I had been waiting on, but it’s closer, bigger and has the added bonus that I don’t have to cart a bunch of heavy equipment up stairs. Speaking of which, I finally got my drill press this week too. I know, isn’t that a load off everyone’s mind?


Last year I had three pieces exhibited in the BUDA Contemporary Australian Silver + Metalwork exhibition at Buda, Castlemaine. The little pieces have been touring ever since (they were chosen by the judges to travel in the smaller touring exhibition that followed) and have been to Shepparton, The Arts Centre Melbourne, Geelong and just last week saw the opening of the show in the Mornington Peninsula. The show continues until the 8th of March.

where’s my trumpet?

‘you don’t know how far you’ve travelled, until you return’

… ahh, here it is!

Earlier this week I made a new website. It seems to be becoming a common occurrence for me, which must say something about my online activities, but I’m not entirely sure what that is.

This one is for an exhibition that I’m curating to coincide with this years JMGA conference in Perth (as I have mentioned before.) Return is being held to showcase the works of several ex-West Australian jewellers, while they’re in town for the conference in April. I wanted a place to show some examples of the artists’ older works, so those in the audience unfamiliar with these artists could see what has shifted in their works whilst away; hence the website.

The show is based on the idea that ‘you don’t know how far you’ve travelled, until you return’.


Melissa and the sandblaster = riveting conversation about cfm’s and amps…

I’ve been racking up some miles in the last week, having an in-person look at some sandblasting equipment, and carting tools and equipment around the city. As promised I went out to Dandenong last Friday to check out what Hare and Forbes had to say (not much on the cabinet, but a little more forthcoming on air compressors) and earlier today it was off to Pan Abrasives to check out a blast cabinet that’s on special.

It seems that owning a compressed air unit that’s big enough for the type of cabinet that I want to run might be a challenge, as many of the larger units need to run off a 15 amp power supply, and not your regular 10 amp wiring. Still, that may not be a problem, given that I’m still not sure on the best choice of blast cabinet.

Bob at Pan this morning showed us around, giving myself and my friend a quick lesson on how to adjust and take care of your sandblaster. Plus he threw in a quick pitch about sandblast grit which will definitely be of use in the future. He even gave advice on what to do to get the most out of a cheaper model should I happen to go with the one which I had been comparing his product to. In all I left quite impressed. And keen to take one of his machines home! (If only I didn’t have to think about cost, oh and how to get it up the stairs in the studio…)

I also managed to score a few pieces of second hand equipment late last week, some of which I delivered to the (still incomplete) studio. I had to hire a ute in Elwood to do the carting, while the muscle was provided by TurboNerd.


Sandblast Cabinets retailed in Australia? Melissa is suddenly an expert on where to find them (or at least their web pages).

Week two: still no studio! This is going slower than even I expected (not because I’m a pessimist mind, mostly because I’m a slow… well, lets say deliberate, decision maker). The space is getting closer to being fully signed off – but it’s currently still under construction.

I would have had a drill press by now, but after waiting a week for it to come in stock, the one that had been delivered to the store was faulty. Next week it will be mine…

The workbench store (mentioned last week) turned out not to do the sort of custom work I’m after, so despite drawing plans over the weekend I haven’t been able to send them off to get a quote just yet. Luckily, a hint from another maker (thanks Candice, wherever you are) has netted another economical workbench manufacturer.

The biggest time burner in the last day or so has been the sand blaster or ‘abrasive blast cabinet’. Once again, the internet was my friend, but to get beyond the superficial some serious investigation was necessary. The reviews I’ve seen of the cheaper models, which are seemingly available everywhere at the moment, say that they leak media and the internal fluoro light and dust extraction are both a bit iffy. Finding a better product sees the price jump from a range of $200-$900 to over $3k. (Burwell, Pan Abrasives, ABSS, Blastmaster all have models in a similar price range) That’s not in my budget, suffice to say. Tomorrow I’ll take the long drive to Dandenong to check out a couple in the flesh.

still learning

Melissa is setting up a studio. She is learning how to do this, as she goes.

There are no pictures this week, as I’ve been gathering information, making drawings and planning. This gives me very little to show for a days work, but like when reading a book, sometimes all you have is what you learned. I find this infuriating, because I like to track my progress, and this means judging how successful a day has been by the volume of my output, be it drawn, made or written.

I have organised a fair amount this week. I have a space (almost) and a plan of the gallery for an upcoming show, which I drew to scale (I’m not in favour of not working to scale, nor plans made in Word) in order to work on the exhibition design. I’ve found a place to have a work bench made, in Mentone. I’ve spent time on forums looking for ideas and recommendations (it’s been all online since Monday, when going out into the world netted several outlets closed for holidays) and spent an age looking at my options for flexi drives, which left me completely confused. (Luckily, I remembered a friend who could help steer me through the mire.)

Along this convoluted journey, (that’s another thing that bugs me, getting side-tracked from my main goal for the day, despite the diversions being ultimately useful! Maybe…) I learned about the benefits of  citric acid pickle, from looking at other people’s studios. Actually, that brings me to another point.

I learn best by example; by seeing other people in action. Ben’s descriptions of his studio, coupled with the photos, I found to be really instructive. With luck, following other sidetracks will turn out to be equally informative.


Before feasting season ’09 completely fades from the collective memory (if it hasn’t already been blotted out by New Years ’09-’10), I thought I’d share images of a couple of works that went into the recently concluded Feast show. Curated by Zoe Brand, it took place at The Depot Gallery, under the auspices of  Studio 2017 in Sydney just before Christmas. Karen – aka Melbourne Jeweller – has a list of others who participated on her site, and if you’re interested they’re well worth checking out.

These works are feasting related – a Fowlers Vacola lid (the top of a preserving jar – for fruit and such) and a bamboo plate, of the same variety of the bowl that my Grandma would put the chips in when we visited for our customary Christmas morning drinks (the meal you never knew you had to have). This was the demi-meal consumed after a breakfast of Christmas stocking chocolate/candy canes and church fruitcake, and that generally came an hour or so before a massive Christmas lunch, back at home.

The Vacola lid is an object I remember from my spending time with family friends on their orchard, and the home-preserved peaches that would occasionally form part of the dessert line-up. My family (which was our five skinny but nimble girls back then – we’re still skinny, and some of us nimble, but we have a brother now too)  all thought that the peaches were a real treat, while the boys of the property (the five sons of the owners) would shun them in favour of more ice-cream!