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!


A studio to rent.

Location: Melbourne city, Richmond or St Kilda area preferred.

Requirements: Lockable, heated and appropriate for use by a jeweller who uses propane and oxygen tanks and a (small) sand blaster. If you have any leads, please leave a comment or email me (


Pulling things off the wall remind you why you put them there.


As I stared at the leftover saw-pierced sheet (on the right in this image), I realised that I liked the shape of what was left after the ‘piece’ had been removed, as much as what I had cut out. This led me to creating patterns inside (or outside) patterns, making each layer matter, and slicing them all from the same sheet (the offcuts in the centre of this image are from this idea). It’s a bit like architectural model-making, where you represent contours of a landscape using layers of flat card, cut to the lines of a topographic map. In my world I get to draw the hills and valleys, and later when assembling them, choose their height or depth.

clearing out

monash studio

I’ve been in this studio for nigh on 3 years now, at this bench. Slowly but steadily I took up the adjacent one too (it was allowed, even suggested). But on Monday it’s over, and I’ll go in and clear out. Mind you, before I go I plan to take it right to the wire and use the microtorch for 3 pieces that I’ll finish assembling at home this weekend (and yes, admitting that I do feel like the child who has just left the nest, but who comes home to do the laundry and then makes a cup of tea and a snack while waiting for the dryer to finish the sheets). Still, I will miss the place, and the people. And the industrial quality sand-blaster! While I don’t yet have a new home to go to, I’m excited (and nervous) to be moving on. It’s time.


Melissa adds a new colour swatch to her list of hues produced by her failures – ‘overheated grey’.

Small Ribbon Star
Small Ribbon Star

It’s been an overly warm day. The kind of day that one does not bound out of bed with unbridled enthusiasm for working in an under-air conditioned studio. A day in which it would be imprudent to start up the kiln in said studio, set it to 840°c, wait for it to get to temperature, then stand next to it for a couple of hours feeding its fire-breathing, gaping maw with shards of sheet steel, one by one.

In attempting to heat-colour these sand-blasted pieces of stainless to a lovely light-blue hue, a blue that I have managed to acquire by torch heating on previous occasions, I overheated one piece. It didn’t melt (like you were expecting me to say at this point), it just went a dark grey. As it was the last piece to be heated for the day, that’s the way it stayed. Overheated grey.


Melissa announces…

vertical AC logo smlToday is the re-launch of my website. It’s also the day that I can announce that I have been recently awarded an ArtStart Grant by the Australia Council for the Arts,  “To maintain an independent studio practice focused on the creation of research based jewellery.”

The acquisition of this funding means that from now on, for the next year, you will see this notice attached to my work; ‘This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.’

A bit long for a mantra I’ll grant you, but I’m sure we can all get used to it!

well travelled

Meliss’s work is going on a holiday. Melissa is not. Yet.

Staggered 8 point star
Staggered 8 point star

This work, entitled Staggered Eight Point Star, has just been invited to participate in an exhibition. But it’s not just the work getting all of the fun; I have been invited to the opening myself, but it is considerably cheaper to send the piece on its own. So the ‘Star will have to brave the Texan wilderness without me.

The piece is destined for the US in the new year, to join in the REFINED VI: Back to Basics exhibition, as curated by Lisa Gralnick and hosted by the School of Art at Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas. The exhibition will open on the 30th of January at The Art Centre @ The Old Opera House, and closes on the 20th of March.

If you are out an about in downtown Nacogdoches at this time, please feel free to drop me a line and let me know how the opening goes.

Conference Call

Melissa and her mates to invade Perth for the JMGA conference in April 2010!

In other news (no restrictions here, it’s already been published 😉 ), I got the nod late yesterday from the JMGA in Perth. I’ll be delivering a paper at the upcoming biennial Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia Conference, and I’m in good company. A whole lot of good company as a matter of fact; the list is bursting at the seems with local and international talent. I do have to mention my friends though – Maureen Faye-Chauhan is also delivering a paper (ignore the misspelling of her name on the website), while Jin-Ah Jo is the subject of another.  I’m organising a show to coincide with the conference too, loosely based on the idea of “Return”, but more details as it gets closer. I found the last conference in Adelaide in ’08 really motivating and inspiring, so for me the standard has been set (and there is no home-town pride on the line here at all… no way!)

It’s going to be a beauty!


Melissa gets served fresh embargo for the first time in her life. Surprisingly, it doesn’t taste that bad…

I was reading the Christmas edition of The Big Issue over lunch yesterday, and in doing so polished off an article about embargoes (and a lamb cutlet with salad). Specifically, the article went on to explain how now-a-days, in an age where anyone and everyone can tweet to their own beat, the old-fashioned embargo is in most instances null and void. [She said “most instances”, didn’t she? oh boy, here it comes…]

Last night on arriving home I downloaded some apparently media-sensitive news. Just before my partner – TurboNerd – managed in his excitement to broadcast the whole shebang to the Twitterverse, I read the fine print, and found out that I have been gagged. So I have news, but it’s a secret. I’m not teeeell-ing,  nyah na na na nyaaaah nyah ;P

Who starts a blog with news they can’t tell? Me! I do! And you wanna know why?

Well, it sets a nice easy standard, doesn’t it?

Not to mention that it is imbued with the mystery and intrigue of an old TV series (the only one coming to mind is Batman, and you know he’ll get out of it with some tricky gismo that Alfred installed in his suit that day or by a single `kapow` – or similar – to each of the baddies). Back in the days where you could in no way find out the resolution of such cliff-hanger episodes “until you tune in next time!”

Til Monday, y’all!