Mr Daniels – part one of a long story…

Part 1 of an occasional series, to find out where Melissa thinks she came from.

On doing some thinking on the chief question posed by Helen Britton in her recent “where do I come from?”  workshop, I had cause to ponder how I got here.  And while pondering, I got to writing the story down. It’s a long yarn, so this is just part one.

As I mentioned a while back,  my high school taught jewellery, well, at least when I was there. Classes were held in a special purpose demountable classroom, that was hinged off the back of the other ‘manual arts’ buildings.  The classes were mostly populated by girls who liked the idea of jewellery as a title for a course, and boys who wanted to add another period of bumming around in the manual arts areas – close enough to woodwork and metalwork to still be ‘not a real subject’.

I had decided at about age 11 or 12 that I wanted to be an architect, so I naturally decided that my compulsory manual arts course in first year of high school would be woodwork. (You had to choose out of woodwork or metalwork since plastics, mechanics and jewellery were optional extras.) I liked and enjoyed art (which was also compulsory in year 8 ) and I added in Technical Drawing owing to my future as an architect, but I threw in jewellery in second semester because I liked jewellery, and I liked working with my hands.

I enjoyed it a lot, so I kept it up. Not many people did. But you couldn’t do the subject every semester; in each of the junior  grades they only ran it once a year, and they only offered it til year 10.

When I reached year 10 I was told that I could no longer participate, as I had done the two units they offered; if I continued I would be repeating the class from the year before. I told my family, and my Dad and I scheduled a meeting with the deputy principal, Mr Daniels. We asked a simple question, why not let me continue? We were told that he couldn’t add a class just for me. The scheduling was fine, (in later years I had to quit TEE classes when they shifted timetables on me) but repeating the course wasn’t allowed. My Dad went one further, and asked “well, what if she wants to become a jeweller?” We were effectively told that the Deputy’s hands were tied. The meeting ended

And now, a brief interlude in the story to contextualise. It’s pretty safe to say that in high school (and arguably, to this day) I was a nerd. In high school that meant that I achieved very good grades. I was never picked on for this, or anything else (aside from some brief notoriety when I was gifted with a baby brother at age 13.75.) As a general rule I was a fairly invisible student.

Later that day there was a general assembly in the gym, with the whole school. Towards the end Mr Daniels spoke, and concluded with “…and can Melissa Cameron please come and see me after this assembly.” This request filled the space that he usually reserved for summoning those he wanted to see to be disciplined for their behaviour during the assembly. My nearby friends looked toward me with question marks on their faces. I shrugged; I didn’t know either.

I met Mr Daniels outside the gym, on the verandah. He informed me that had changed the rule, and was allowing me to have my own jewellery class. In it I pretty much got to set my own agenda, but being the dutiful student that I was, I set about a semester long project, making something that I thought would be both challenging and special. I scoff at the set now, but I remember being very proud of it when I finished it.

There’s more to this story, but this ‘where did I come from?’ is in three parts, so I’ll tell part two another time.

not quite a teaspoon…

Melissa meets Chloe. Melissa’s works meets Chloe’s work. Beauty ensues 😉

This work is called ‘measuring the space between’. It’s a collaboration between myself and Chloe Vallance. Chloe is a good friend and fellow artist, who describes her practice as fine artist/painter/drawer. She’s a regular at the Craft Hatch markets, so her work may be familiar if you have been to one of them. Like the other spoons, this piece is going into the upcoming Hand Held show, and in fact Chloe had her own show at Hand Held in January.

We’ve been seeking an excuse to work together for a while. Chloe began separating out the figure from its context in her works last year, and I remember at the time thinking that the idea was ripe for interpretation as jewellery. Especially since our material aesthetic seems to overlap; in her case small works on timber offcuts and recycled board stand edge to edge with larger new panels and tessellated images on squares of watercolour paper. My piercing practice is summed up by  “I’ll attempt to drag a blade through any material”, so the plan to work on small wooden objects was born.

Look out for some more shared works in the future.


Melissa makes omission in plans, corrects at the bench, carries on.

So, who noticed the deliberate* mistake in the plans? Well if you did, write to me to claim your prize!

After adhering print-outs of the plans to the spoons, I cut out spoon one (as laid out pre-assembly above, with spoon two similarly arranged below it) and then drilled and began to cut into spoon two. And in the second round of saw-peircing, I noticed that the circuit that I was seperating from the main body of the spoon had no holes marked on the drawing, and therefore no holes drilled through the piece. By then it should have had both. So I got out the old texta, marked eight appropriate spots, and went back to the drill press.

*deliberate = complete, absent-minded omission

1 tsp

Melissa shows off a work in progress – a spoon she’s about to make useless, by turning it into art…

Exhibit A –  a teaspoon.

Hand Held Gallery is having a show in April called ‘one cup’. It takes 48 teaspoons to make up a cup, says Megan at the gallery (I’m sure it’s true, Megan doesn’t seem the type to make up such a fact, or any fact, in fact). I am currently working on a pair of them, and they both started out looking like this.


Melissa today is talking about talking about jewellery. Got it?

Been doing some jewellery-exercise. A few sedate the rounds of the intertubes (there’s a public holiday in many parts of Australia today) looking at competitions that have wended their way to my inbox. Through one I found out that Damian Skinner is now writing the Art Jewelry Forum blog, for the US based AJF. And via a post by him, I landed on a documentary called Jewellery Talk made in 2006 by two Swedes, Daniela Hedman and Kajsa Lindberg. The premise is simple, and would have made for one amazing road trip. Get a bunch of formidable artist-jewellery heads on film responding to some probing questions about jewellery. At a little under 50 minutes, it does take a little time to get through, but it’s well worth wading right on in.

The whole premise reminds me a little of doing a winery tour, to the point that I’m conjuring images of James May’s latest tv series as well as the film, Sideways, from a few years back. These images are just popping into my head, as my brain rifles around the ‘ole filing system thrusting catalogue cards into the air, seeking a way to frame what I just saw.

It’s like going to see the makers and sellers of wine, on their soil, to ask them about the importance of their product. Obviously the answers vary. Makers respond on their own brand, though some seek to explain their chosen variety too. There’s talk of past vintages, cellaring and sales, and the time-line carries right on up to the current crop and how it handles, and how it might mature. Some go so far as to elucidate on what the future of their region, or even the business/craft/artform in general, may hold. It’s a very thoughtful piece, well edited, and most importantly, is underpinned by a great idea.

In the end what struck me most is how unfamiliar many interviewees seemed to be at being asked, and answering, these questions. But at the conclusion of the film I am more hopeful that these questions will continue to be asked, and answered.


Melissa make a piece of jewellery! A brooch, in fact. She is very impressed with her efforts.

Finally some output from the new studio. Following the Helen Britton guide to brooch-backs, I’ve given this baby a double pin. For my work it’s a pretty heavy piece, so it needed it. It’s 86mm in diameter at the points.

The colouring was fun; I didn’t expect my gas-only torch to be up for the job, but I guess that’s the difference between a dedicated source of compressed gas and a multi-torch setup. I hadn’t planned a colour scheme before-hand and found that getting consistent colours was really easy, so I went up the steel-heating-spectrum and then had a play when I reached the end.

As for the texture, I tried sandblasting with the glass beads first. While they gave a lovely finish, they didn’t get rid of all the soldering muck and discolouration, so I had to go back to a heavier grit to clean up the joins. I stuck with the aluminium oxide it for the whole piece in the end, but I might try a two step process next time, since the more shiny finish did look appealing to me.