A spot of housekeeping

G’day groovers. In case you hadn’t spotted it I’ve added an email subscription button –>
just on the right hand side there, and I’ve also added a permanent Deadlines page, with a little link up the top of the page here as well, so that you can find deadlines post quickly. Like when you’re in a hurry to finish up taking photos for that great competition that closes in ONE HOUR and you can’t find the damned link!

I know, I feel you.

I’ll keep including the monthly deadlines in the usual blog stream as well, so that if you’ve subscribed (*wink*) you’ll still have the deadlines post turn up regularly in your email inbox. And if you’re an RSS kinda person, then you can ignore all of this. Except in those ONE HOUR emergencies.

Does anyone else remember keeping a 1 hour photo outlet list in their sketchbook or car (or brain – I swear I had more storage space in that device back then…), for those times when you needed a photo for an assignment, and you needed it FAST? You know, in one hour? (excluding travel time…)

Metalsmith Reviews

Melissa is reviewed in Metalsmith. As is Once More With Love, another show from Australia in 2012.

The post title says it all. In the just-released issue of Metalsmith magazine, Sharon Massey has written a review of my portion of the Bridge 12 exhibition that took place at the Society of Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh from last November to this March. Needless to say, I’m well chuffed. Check it out here.

It also happens to be right next to the review of the Sydney incarnation of the Once More, With Love (OMWL) exhibition, also from last year, in which I had a piece. You might remember me showcasing more than one piece on this blog, but the second three works went to the Melbourne incarnation only, which was held earlier this year at Northcity4.

The review was written by Marjorie Simon, and in it she called Anna Davern’s work “a sort of psychedelic offspring of artist Harriete Estel Berman.” I’m not sure if she’s referring to Davern’s usual works from sublimated aluminium and recycled biscuit and other platters and tins or the piece in the exhibition, though based on Davern’s work for the OMWL show, I think it is safe to assume the former. In fact, it sounds as though this predominantly refers to Davern’s sublimated aluminium Rocks series of earrings, which while they may have also been on display in Studio 20/17 gallery at the time, are not particularly representative of the recycled material works that Davern creates.

I can understand that Simon is writing for a predominantly American audience and is therefore trying to give the briefest and widest of introductions, yet I think the comparison does a disservice to both artists. Davern is very specific in her choice of tins, making work from them that investigate issues of colonialism and Australian identity, producing works in very different form to those created by Berman. And yes, Davern’s prior form with the material was noted, but in such a way as to question both her originality and conceptual underpinnings, because of the association made with the widely-known (in America) Berman.

I guess as I am no longer in my home (wherein Davern is regularly used as a referent rather than the other way around), and thus am no longer a part of the dominant culture, I have a heightened awareness of the casual way in which the dominant culture can so easily (if unwittingly) re-define cultural content. The idea, for example, that that all artworks can be considered types easily compared to something originating from ___ (insert dominant culture here), and those outside of that context have no choice but to accept the comparison, accurate or not, is possibly why I am responding a little too fervently to what is just an inadequate comparison. Maybe it all comes down to me and my sensitivity given my current geographical location.

I understand that this article is a very short review, not enabled by space nor resources to go into depth about any of the artists. Despite this, I think that one of the few benefits of a globalised world might be a shared sense of empathy and understanding of cultural difference, coming from the fact that we all know from experience that in translation there is always the potential for nuance to be lost. Because we have semantic and political borders, we are aware that we can look at any object including an artwork, and investigate it more respectfully, and fully, if we consider it in its own cultural context. (This is, after all, why museum exhibition panels exist.)

And while the context of this exhibition is certainly influenced by the artists who brought a process of recycling jewellery objects regardless of precious metal value to the leaders of the Australian group, namely Americans Susie Ganch and Christina Miller of Ethical Metalsmiths and the mentioned Radical Jewelry Makeover (RJM), the pieces for this exhibition, produced by a myriad of artists from differing backgrounds in another country, has however had very little influence from this quarter. Especially because, as it was noted, the artists were able to make works in their own studio, an idea that has since been adopted by RJM in America. The exchange between the cultures lies in the format, and not in the works.

As I understand it, both the content and context of Davern’s recycled work is Australia, and if mentioned at all should be explained as such, in spite of intended audience (which must also include Australians owing to the location and source of the exhibition and works) and any missed opportunity for a potential shortcut to comprehension. In this instance it is my opinion that the understanding generated by the comparison is so far off the mark as to not constitute an understanding at all.

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Just to finish,
Marjorie Simon, thank you. Thank you for your assured writing, and your willingness to critique the exhibition and the works, something that happens all to infrequently, especially in Australia. (And thank you again for your recent kind words on this blog. They were, and still are, much appreciated.)

I trust that you will engage with what I have written here in the spirit of lively debate that it was intended, knowing that, after all, it’s a very small quibble that I have blown up into almost-inappropriate dimensions to make a larger, and perhaps (as you might rightly feel) unrelated, point. Thank you also for allowing me and all who read your piece in Metalsmith an insight to an exhibition that many of us did not get to see. And of course, your comments or counter-critique are warmly invited for publication here also.


October 25th (26th in Australia) 2013


Melissa breaks a ring. She’s about to go fix it. You’ll see…

So the Seattle Metals Guild held their Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium over the weekend. I was on the organising committee and had been put in charge of the ‘book room’. Charon Kransen – stop me if you’ve heard it – sent over a bunch of boxes of books from New York, and my job was to set them out neatly, mind the books, and make sales. And talk wise about the ones that I had work in… (OK, so I might have added that last part. That was not an official committee-sanctioned responsibility.)

Thus I was wandering through the board room and store room of the Broadway Performance Hall on Capitol Hill in the early morning of Saturday. In order to have a signing table for our two speakers with books and catalogues to sign, I stepped into the store room to grab an extra trestle table. At one point in a very delicate exercise of collapsing the thing to get it out the door (lets not ask why a trestle table of 1800mm x 800mm was doing standing assembled in a room of 2m x 3m that was filled with other disused furniture), my left hand lost purchase and whacked the wall pretty hard.

Lucky for me, my engagement rings took the brunt of the hit. Unlucky for them though. Well, one in particular…

Ring_Gillian Rainer_2005

So I’ve busted one of these before (no, not the same one – last time it was a white-gold one, promise!), though last time it was snagged on a vinyl mat in the gym, while I was rolling over doing some stretches. Yeah, hard-core. And of course, as I am fond of telling people when they ask about them (and almost 8 years into wearing them, I am still asked about them regularly) each of the top plates that the diamonds are set into did once all turn on their stems. But them being 18k gold, and me being a natural fidget-er who is always trying to hide it, I eventually wore them all down, until their little heads all plopped off and all I had was plain gold rings with stems on. Oh, and a separate small collection  of beautifully set diamonds on tiny plates that had holes in the back.

The wonderful Gillian Rainer, who made them, solidly affixed the little heads back on their stems a few years ago now, but the last stem-break, just like this one will soon be, was fixed by me. If I wasn’t a jeweller I would definitely send them back to the artist, but in this circumstance, I figure the ‘you broke it, you own it’ rule applies.

Deadlines October 2013

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Will they never cease?

Deadline Season continues – please feel free to drop me a line if you’ve seen any that aren’t listed. As usual, it’s my ad-hoc list of upcoming opportunities to exhibit, learn, earn or perhaps even teach, from wherever I see ’em.

** New additions ** ***SuperNewFreshoffthePress additions***

Opportunities with deadlines

Talente. If you’re under 35, why not try Talente here? Deadline for applications, October 15 2013.

Light of the Moon – Exhibition with a lunar theme being held at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts’ Sandra J. Blain Galleries, juried by Namita Gupta Wiggers, Director and Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Craft|PNCA. Deadline 15th of October 2013, Midnight!

** Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum 36th ANNUAL CONTEMPORARY CRAFTS exhibition. Juror: Julie M. Muñiz – Associate Curator of Design and Decorative Arts at the Oakland Museum of California. Deadline: Friday 18th October 2013.

Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium. Hosted annually by the Seattle Metals Guild, this one will take place on Saturday the 19th of October. Check it out!

** Choose Your Own Adventure: An Exhibition Without Borders. “Create a work of art that conjures a specific memory of travel and adventure.” Entries due 26th October 2013.

*** Gift-ed. Christmas show for MANO Contemporary Jewellery & Object, Taiwan. Entries due October 28th, 2013.

** 2014 Artist Trust Benefit Art Auction. Washington State residents – donate a jewellery piece for the Buy it Now section of the auction and get free Artist Trust membership for one year and $75 commission (work to be valued at $200). Deadline October 28 2013.

Gemological Institute of America 2014 Scholarships. “Scholarships are available for distance education eLearning courses and for classes at the Institute’s campuses in Bangkok, Carlsbad, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, New York and Taiwan; and at the GIA branch in Dubai.” (thanks to Crafthaus) Deadline October 31st 2013.

Transforming Viewpoints: A National Juried Exhibition (USA). Calling for “work [that] explores issues of multicultural diversity, in any medium”. Deadline: October 31, 2013.

** “Molten” A National Juried Exhibition of Glass and Metal Work. Application Dates: Sep 12, 2013 – Nov 1, 2013 (A second later deadline attracts a larger submission fee. See call for details)

Eco Arts Awards. Annual online thematic arts competition. Application Dates:
Apr 25, 2013 – Nov 4, 2013.

** Lilliputians March: National Small Works Competition. USA residents only, open exhibition of small stuff. Deadline for jurying November 8th 2013.

** 5th Annual Drawing Discourse, at University of North Carolina Asheville. Yup, a drawing show, ripe for you enamellists to step in with some beautiful drawings on metal. Entries due 17th of November 2013.

** Sup Brooch. Already boasting the best title for an exhibition this year, this is an online/catalogue exhibition of brooches for bros, co-curated by my buddy from the Pittsburgh massive, Sharon Massey. Entries due 22 November 2013.

** Ritual. A single sheet book show. No, not jewels as such, but I’m throwing a challenge out to y’all – I wanna see jewellers take over the show with some beautiful images, drawings and such. I’m gonna, whydoncha join me? Deadline November 30th 2013.

REFINED VIII: Maker’s Choice. REFINED is a biennial exhibition of jewelry and metalwork hosted by the Art Metals program in the School of Art at Stephen F. Austin State University. I’ve been in this one, it’s a good show! Deadline 9th December 2013.

** RAGS wearable art show – Get your work into a juried art show whose proceeds go to help those in need. Donated work is for sale and donors receive a healthy commission and the side bonus, a multitude of good karma! From their site:

“The artists who display and sell their work at RAGS agree to give 33 percent of their sales in the marketplace and 40 percent of their sales in the gallery to RAGS. All of those proceeds go directly to the YWCA Pierce County. The RAGS donation – $97,000 in 2011 – is earmarked to fund YWCA programs that specifically address domestic violence in our community.”

Deadline 13th December 2013.

*** Matchbox Microcosms. Make curios? Ever wanted to be shown in a van that’s going to travel around the UK, showing off your work against its other, curiouser, displays. Wanna be shown to school groups, amongst others? Now’s your chance! Open to all nationalities, not just you of the British persuasion (Yup, I checked). Deadline Dec 31, 2013.

** ONoff: An exhibition of makers that work ON and OFF the body. Juried by Susie Ganch. Deadline for submissions: January 19th, 2014.

TOP Jewels – National Jewelry Design Exhibition, “A showcase featuring the very best artists working in the medium of jewelry design to educate the public about their craft.” USA only exhibition opportunity, entries through CaFE. Deadline April 11th 2014.

New Traditional Jewellery 2014. As a part of the SIERAAD arts fair in Amsterdam, this competition has taken ‘ CONFRONTATIONS’ as the 2014 theme. Registration due 1st June 2014.

Undated Opportunities

** Contemporary Metal in Perth have updated their class timetable and there is some great stuff on offer. Check it!

** Dallas County Community College District – Visiting Artist for our Art Metals Summer Workshop in Summer 2014.

Studio 20/17 seeks guest curators. How often does a well established gallery invite people to play inside their walls? Get amongst it!

Patina Gallery seeks Master International Artists. Make ‘Soul-Stirring’ works? Wanna be one of 3 artists added to their stable? No deadline, but post went up Jan 23rd, so perhaps sooner rather than later?

Tributaries: Call for entries. The Metal Museum, in Memphis, has an ongoing call for exhibitions from emerging and mid-career artists. First deadline Feb 2013, for upcoming shows, and they keep applications on file for 2 years.

The Imperial Centre for the Arts + Sciences in North Carolina have a permanent exhibition call out, with shows booked 2-3 years in advance.

Lord Coconut in Melbourne has outdone himself by publishing this listing of opportunities for artists in his gallery. As ever, this is to exhibit jewellery for men. Thanks to Karen at Melbourne Jeweller for the heads up.

Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium – NEXT WEEKEND!

Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium – NEXT WEEKEND in Seattle. See you there!

***Get in quick, registrations that include lunch close on the 13th of October***

The Seattle Metals Guild 18th Annual Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium
Paradigm Shift: Reinvention, Redefinition, and Fundamental Change
Saturday, October 19, 2013, 9am-4:30pm at the Broadway Performance Hall, Capitol Hill
Registration is open, with student discounts available!

I really encourage you to get along to this event. We’ve carefully planned an enriching day in which we plan to get into the fine detail of how, when and why creative people throw out the rule book to forge ahead on their own path.

To whet your appetite local legend Andy Cooperman, writer and master metal-smith, has diligently prepared an in-depth spiel on each of our game-changing speakers, which I have included below. And of course there will be the book sale, featuring Charon Kransen’s collection of books, a silent auction, and for the first time this year we’ve introduced a jewellery auction! I have contributed a piece with a starting price of $5 for the “Bijoux Big Board” – a collection of little jewels available for sale that can be taken home on the day.

See you there!

Melissa Cameron Quatrefoil Bar Pendant - 2009 - 2013. Mild steel, vitreous enamel, nylon cord
Melissa Cameron Quatrefoil Bar Pendant – 2009 – 2013. Mild steel, vitreous enamel, nylon cord

Elizabeth Brim: Forming/Reforming Tradition

Remember when June Cleaver—Beaver’s mother—wore high heels and a string of pearls as she stood washing dishes at the kitchen sink? Nostalgia for early television sitcoms aside, change that image up a bit: the sink is a forge and Mrs. Cleaver is now Elizabeth Brim, pearl wearing, hammer wielding, nail polished blacksmith. She is not your typical steel worker.

“I grew up in a strong female dominated society. The things I make are all about being female and the expectations of women of my generation. I’m just playing dress-up, making a little fun of myself and having a really good time.”

From subject matter to execution, there is improbability and audacity in the work of this exceptional blacksmith, from the delicately woven southern bonnet forged and fabricated in steel to the sheets of iron welded into flaccid hollow forms, heated red and then inflated with compressed air into pillows. Brim has an MFA from the University of Georgia and has studied metals, sculpture, and blacksmithing at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. She was an instructor in the Columbus State University Art Department in Columbus Georgia before deciding to become a full-time studio artist and moving to Penland. Since then she has demonstrated extensively in the United States and in Germany and Canada and has been a visiting artist at a roster of universities that include Cranbrook Academy of Art. Brim will speak about her life and work

Danielle Maveal: Changing the Game: One player’s story and tips for building a new kind of creative business online

Once upon a time there was no simple, straight path for artists and makers to get their work out there, get it seen and maybe sold. Etsy changed all that, providing almost instant access to worldwide markets, free from the constraints of applications, juries, galleries and booth fees. Focused on the hand-made, this e-commerce site is now for many the way that they first begin and then continue to sell their work. As much as Etsy has helped to redefine the marketplace, it is now also changing things by teaching makers how to be better entrepreneurs.

After working as a bench jeweler and shop manager, and then running her own business, Danielle Maveal found Etsy. Working through this online craft community, she soon was in 30 boutiques worldwide, with thousands of sales and a supportive team of mentors, collaborators and peers. In 2006, Etsy hired Maveal to help grow the company and work with the community. During her five years as Etsy’s Seller Education Lead, Maveal was responsible for writing the newsletter and blog posts and organizing both online and offline workshops for an audience of nearly one million. Since then Maveal has led small business classes at Seattle’s General Assembly, The Creative Conference of Entrepreneurs, Martha Stewart’s Dreamers Into Doers Conference and other entrepreneurial events. She recently launched Creative Little Beasts, the podcast, consultancy and community for rebel entrepreneurs where she is Rebel Leader.

Ursula Ilse-Neuman: The Transcendent Jewelry of Margaret de Patta: Vision in Motion

The 1940’s was a pivotal time in the history of American contemporary metalsmithing. Back east was Art Smith, Ed Weiner and Sam Kramer. Here on the west coast one of the iconic figures was Margaret De Patta. A child of the Northwest—she was born in Tacoma—De Patta studied in Chicago and eventually moved to San Francisco, where she built signature compositions that dynamically balanced light and line and helped define Modernist jewelry.

Curator of Jewelry at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, Ursula Ilse-Neuman has organized and curated exhibitions including Elegant Armor: Jewelry from the MAD Collection; GlassWear: Glass in Contemporary Jewelry and, in 2012, Space, Light, Structure: Margaret de Patta Retrospective. Ilse-Neuman holds an MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (Parsons The New School for Design) and has completed doctoral studies at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture. She has lectured widely in the United States, Europe and Asia and has established an international reputation as an expert on contemporary jewelry, writing books and contributing feature articles and reviews to publications that include Metalsmith Magazine. Ilse-Neuman will speak about the life and work of Margaret De Patta, and the retrospective exhibition and its accompanying catalog.

Kiff Slemons: More Than One to Make One: The Jewelry of Kiff Slemmons

Thought. Idea. Metaphor. Slemmons: Words that just seem to go together. Over forty years of work, Kiff Slemmons has explored ideas through serial investigations and museum and gallery exhibitions. Ideas about scale and classification through images of insects, ideas about imperfection in the “repair” and remaking of other artists’ work and ideas about the value of materials in the restructuring of found photographs. Slemmons is a self-taught metalsmith with degrees in Art and French from the University of Iowa. She has studied Literature at the Sorbonne in Paris and Metal through Parsons School of Design (in Japan). She is a Fellow of the American Craft Council and has been interviewed for the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. The public collections that hold Slemmons work are too numerous to detail here but include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Houston Museum of Fine Arts, TX.

Though now living in Chicago, Kiff Slemmons will always be a favorite daughter of Seattle and the Northwest. She is an artist known for her thoughtful and honest approach to both conception and process. The respect that Slemmons accords even the simplest materials can change the way that we see and appreciate the world and our ideas about it. Slemmons will discuss how she came to work with a cooperative in Oaxaca, Mexico founded by the artist and cultural activist Francisco Toledo, designing jewelry using handmade paper. And how this project led her to question the importance of the handmade in current contemporary culture.

Greg Wilbur: East and West: The Hammered Metal Object: How to make a show(s) from scratch

There is a point of plasticity where metal can be said to act like clay, but this man raises metal vessel forms whose insanely choked-in necks and integrally forged tendrils seem metalurgically impossible. How does he push a sheet of metal this far? Greg Wilbur is a studio metalsmith and artist living in Portland, Oregon. He has earned degrees in Metalsmithing and Art Education from the University of Oregon, where he played a lot of baseball (“hammering is just like baseball” he writes). Wilbur was cofounder of ‘Art in the Pearl’, the highly rated street fair in Portland (“artists should make money”) and since 1996 has participated in the collaborative artists event Emma Lake Collaborations born in Saskatchewan, Canada and also staged in Oregon, New Zealand and France.

Greg Wilbur will be speaking to us mostly about his experiences organizing and crowd-funding the exhibition “East and West: The Hammered Metal Object”. This cross-cultural, bi-continental exhibition of Japanese and American metalsmiths will travel to multiple venues including Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Crafts and the Velvet Da Vinci gallery in San Francisco. Crowd-funding– raising money online through a multiplicity of small contributions on sites like “Kickstarter”—is how many creative projects are now being made. See his Kickstarter here. Wilbur’s work can be found at Velvet daVinci and the Waterstone Gallery in Portland OR among other venues.

And when you’re there be sure to come and introduce yourself to me, I’m running the book sale for the day!

Enamel Workshop

Melissa teaches an enamelling course in Seattle. Here’s what went down!

The weekend before last I taught an enamel on steel workshop at Danaca Design, located  in the nearby University District (nearby if you’re in the Queen Anne neighbourhood of Seattle.) Dana Cassara’s studio is well suited to teaching enamel – she has a sandblast unit with garnet grit, two kilns (that fact became very important on day two) and a raft of materials from brushes to klyr fire mixes to masks and green glasses and an assortment of jewellers/sifting enamels. And now quite a large supply of liquid enamels.

After ordering via Dana a bunch of extra enamels from Thompson, some low-carbon-steel test squares then having found some mild steel at the local legendary super-hardware store, Hardwicks, and having checked out the kilns and the sandblast cabinet in the leadup to the class, come 10:30am Saturday we were ready to rock. To add to the collection of tools and enamels at Danaca, on the day I took in a bunch of my enamels (my trusty low-fire clear turning out to be the most important) as well as some sgraffito tools, a pre-blasted tin (steel) can, my favourite marker for making linework on a pre-fired surface to stick more enamel powder/sand to (Pentel seems to be the brand, y’all), as well as my trusty Rotring tech pencil (from my hand drafting days) and a graphite ‘crayon’.

My students were the local enamel aficionado Nancy Bonnema as well as two jewellers who had made the trek down from Canada to get involved, Patsy Kay Kolesar and Simone Richmond.01 Class

As it turns out, the GC-16 Cobalt Blue, which I had been relieved to find was the Thompson ground coat earlier in the month was not with the other enamels that we had ordered, so I got to teach enamelling my way – using the exact method of how I treat my steel surfaces. To start we laid down some Thompson Low Firing clear on to a well blasted pieces of a recycled whiskey can (yup, it’s 100% steel, under the paint) and got down to business. We then all had a go at mixing the powdered enamels with water, after which the colour tests began in earnest.

Removing a galvanized surface - the zinc is the lighter coloured material. This needs to be totally removed before the piece is ready to be enamelled.
Removing a galvanized surface – the zinc is the lighter coloured material, the steel coming through underneath is darker. This needs to be totally removed before the piece is ready to be enamelled, as zinc is hazardous at high temperature.

Owing to a small glitch in the sandblast system I ended up taking most of the blasting work home with me at the end of day one to get it into shape in my own sandblast unit. Following this I then searched the basement and office for my supply of enamel decals, to fulfill a request – my Canadian students have a large supply of decals but were yet to have any luck at having them fire correctly. To remind myself of how it’s done I went straight to the source, Elizabeth Turrell’s instructions of course! In my research I found a bunch of links on the internet that also provided some other reliable firing instructions that supported or provided an alternative to Elizabeth’s.

03 Samples

Day two saw the application and successful firing of the decals.  We went the two-kiln method, firing off the plastic slowly using a kiln which had just been turned on from cold, and then pulling them out and straight into the second kiln which was at full temperature, to fuse them properly. It worked a treat. (Nancy, a seasoned decal-er, watched on with interest and shared her method – similar to the second set of instructions linked directly above.) Look out for the decals on the samples above, and my little sample below. They were mostly words taken from a larger decal I had made in Bristol for the Two Mugs exhibition in 2011.

My sample - a fired 'Sydney' decal, over a drawing in graphite by Chloe Vallance
My sample – a fired ‘Sydney’ decal, over a drawing in graphite on enamel by Chloe Vallance

After our adventures in decal-ing, there was many more pieces of steel to work on, so the class got down to the tough business of more experimentation with sgraffito, working with graphite over stoned and porcelain slip surfaces, layering and adding jewellery enamels over the top. Expert enameller Nancy kindly brought in her work to show us, which was suitably ah-maze-ing both conceptually and in execution. She also brought in her supply of P-3 Underglaze (as I learned, they come in the form of little pellets of pigment that can be ground and suspended in oil – this we were told works better than the pre-mix you can buy) and then used it with a dip pen (calligraphy stylez, y’all) to draw onto a pre-enamelled surface. Then she got all inspired and worked with a dash of watered-down Thompson Flame Red to try using the same technique with the liquid enamels,  which seemed to work well.

04 Enamel table

By the end of day two we had a great team of confident steel enamellers in the house, who had all enjoyed the chance to ‘play around’, a change from going into the studio with ideas and outcomes in mind.

Since we finished I have heard from my students over the border; they have made an order from Thompson to get the ingredients to continue working with steel. As we cleaned up on Sunday, Nancy and I also discussed her pleasure at knowing how to enamel with steel without the ‘pinging’ that had turned her away from it previously, as she has some larger steel works on the drawing board. I sense we will see some enamel atop their surfaces… Call it a hunch 😉

Day 1: a perfectly productive mess!
Day 1: a perfectly productive mess!

So, back to Melbourne in July…

Melissa finally finishes up what she was talking about in August… In October! Yes, it’s the last of her 2013 Brisbane/Melbourne work trip… Almost…

Whoa, was it back in August that I put out my last In Melbourne post? I promised back then to fill you in on what happened at the Seams Seems symposium, which I will now attempt to finish up.

On Friday the 19th of July, a blustery and rainy day in Melbourne, a committed group of art-jewellery fanciers headed out to the Monash MADA department at the university’s Caulfield campus to ogle some new works and listen to a raft of intelligent thoughts on the state of jewellery exhibition, making and education options in Australia and the USA.

The speakers for the Seams Seems symposium, timed to coincide with the opening of the Seams Seems exhibition at MADA, were;

Dr Robert Bell, AM: Senior Curator Decorative Arts and Design, National Gallery of Australia
Katie Scott: Director of Gallery Funaki, Melbourne
Lisa Fehily: Director of Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne
Professor Robin Quigley: Head of Jewelry and Metalsmithing, Rhode Island School of Design. Artist exhibiting in Seams Seems
Lousje Skala: Current MFA jewellery and metalsmithing candidate at MADA. Artist exhibiting in Seams Seems
Associate Professor Tracy Steepy: Graduate Program Director – Jewelry and Metalsmithing, Rhode Island School of Design. Artist exhibiting in Seams Seems
Wendy Parker: Coordinator Postgraduate Research and Jewellery and Object Design. School of Design Studies, COFA, Sydney. MADA jewellery and metalsmithing graduate.
Roseanne Bartley: Current lecturer in the MADA jewellery stream
Melissa Cameron: MADA jewellery and metalsmithing graduate. Artist exhibiting in Seams Seems
Biatta Kelly: Current PhD jewellery and metalsmithing candidate at MADA. Artist exhibiting in Seams Seems
Anna Varendorff: Current MADA jewellery and metalsmithing candidate. Artist exhibiting in Seams Seems

The day opened with a short introduction from Dr Marian Hosking, former head of the jewellery and metalsmithing stream at MADA (I believe she has retired, but is still finishing up with her postgrad students?) and the organiser of the symposium.

The keynote speaker Dr Robert Bell followed – with some insights about working with the jewellery collection at the National Gallery of Australia. I found his presentation really engaging, as he spoke about the contemporary jewellery collection, the acquisitions process (and the “poignant moment” of this process as a work transfers from private to public ‘hands’ is the last time that someone actually gets to hold the acquired works with hands un-gloved) and the then upcoming Bodywork exhibition, closing with his own personal story of how, at the tender age of seven, the Art Gallery of Western Australia forever changed his world.

The jewellery gallery within the National Gallery opened in 2009 and occupies a prime location, such that 75% of the people who go to exhibitions elsewhere in the gallery stop to see it on their way through. There are approximately 100 jewellery works on display there, making it an equal amount of pieces as are paintings on display on the International Floor. At this stage there are not a lot of labels detailing contextual material (the benefit that small works take up less space also means that there is less space for explanation panels) but they are in the process of installing QR codes to link to 200 word statements to each of the works.

The other news he shared with the jewellery community, which will be of no surprise to many by now since it has already started, is the Bodywork exhibition. This exhibition of Australian jewellery owned by the NGA will be travelling to ten regional galleries from 2013 to 2015. The exhibition began at the Moree Plains Gallery on the 7th of September, 2013, and will stay there until the 3rd of November, so if you’re in the area I urge you to go check it out!

I will have more on that show as it travels about the place – and I’ll talk more about about what Dr Bell explained to us about the collection and he did spend a lot of time outlining the curatorial position of this travelling show, as well as the difficulties faced by the curatorial team in choosing works to travel, specifically owing to the fragility of some of the constituent materials of the jewellery objects in the collection. He explained that the exhibition is taking in almost exclusively regional centres as it has been designed for galleries that traditionally would not be able to get access to such well executed exhibitions, and no doubt access to anything from the National Gallery owing to the prohibitive insurance and other costs associated with transporting and installing larger works.

And my big news, which was revealed to the audience by Marian Hosking and reiterated in this presentation, is that my work Infinity Affinity III was collected by Dr Bell for the National Gallery earlier this year, and is now currently on tour in the Bodywork exhibition.

Melissa Cameron, Infinity Affinity III 2011. Vintage pie tin, steel. Collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Image © Melissa Cameron 2011
Melissa Cameron, Infinity Affinity III 2011. Vintage pie tin, steel. Collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Image © Melissa Cameron 2011

Finally, his story about the WA Museum (I’m pretty sure that none of you will remember reading about my ‘aha’ moment at the WA Art Gallery) which was then physically linked to the WA Art Gallery in its architecture, was that he came from the dinosaurs and other treats that an old-fashioned museum had to offer, right into a magnificent carved wood sculpture, that had been made by a human! A work by Gerald Lewers (father of Darani Lewers) in fact greeted the seven year old Bell and changed his view of art forever, no doubt influencing his choice of profession. He reminded the audience that getting our jewellery, via exhibitions such as Bodyworks, into the view and minds of other children and adults was really important, as “Today could be the day,” that one such piece of art could change someone’s world view forever.

I won’t go into the same detail for the speakers that followed, in part because they presented for less time, and because they generally spoke about what you would expect them to. Katie Scott began speaking about taking on the directorship of Gallery Funaki in Melbourne after the passing of the beloved Mari Funaki, and her slowly and deliberately evolving vision for the future. She also spoke with great passion about her artists and the place her space takes in the world of galleries, and also detailed her reasons for the new fitout, the slides of which were wonderful to see how the space can be configured by and for the exhibiting artists.

Lisa Fehily spoke about what drew her and her family to collecting, and thus ultimately what impelled her to start her own gallery space,  Fehily Contemporary in Melbourne. She has represented jewellery in solo shows in the short time her space has been running and sees it in the light of any other artwork, remarking that “Contemporary jewellery is inherently conceptual.”

Lousje Skala and Robin Quigley got switched with a computer glitch, so rather than the running order as published above, Lousje Skala came next. Skala, who was represented at Schmuck earlier this year by her pristine printed nylon and chromed works, spoke about coming back to jewellery making after a hiatus, and how her ‘gift of deafness’ (Skala is profoundly deaf) enriches her works. She was at pains to point out that her perceived heightened “visual acuity” resulting from this deficit does not make her different or better than any other visual artist, but that it has, and continues to, inform her own experience. In explaining her process she revealed that she “Thinks like a scientist, behaves like a designer and produces the work of an artist.” I can wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, as I often feel that my position in the art jewellery world is not one of the solo maker – this often times being the easiest/most appropriate way to describe my output – despite the fact that in the creation of my works I alternate between researcher, designer, commissioner and producer.

Professor Robin Quigley spoke about the school and faculty that she is in charge of at Rhode Island School of Design, as well as the undergrad student outcomes. They are justifiably proud of their strong program. Associate Professor Tracy Steepy spoke about the graduate program as well as gave us an overview of many of the artists from RISD that were exhibiting in the Seams Seems exhibition.

Wendy Parker spoke about her programs, as well as the fact that the department is in flux, pending changes at the end of the school calendar this year. She also spoke about her own work, including the making of a ritual object for installation into fashion designer Issey Miyake’s house.

Roseanne Bartley very smartly gave the same presentation that she had given at the JMGA conference the week before and then the last three, myself, Biatta Kelly and Anna Varendorff spoke about our own practices. I was asked by Marian Hosking to speak about ‘staying connected’, so I did.

And following this I, and a few other current and ex students, took a tour of the new jewellery facility with Vito Bila (pics coming soon!) and then attended the opening of the Seams Seems exhibition.

Phew, you thought I’d never finish, eh?
I gotta be honest, so did I at one point…