Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Journey From the Easel to the Bench

I never planned on being a jeweller. I always wanted to be a painter. An 'artist'. At high school I was interested in Art and English. I was fascinated by art movements, galleries and those large glossy art books at the library that cost a quiet fortune. If I didn't have a book in my hand I was drawing or writing. I filled diary after diary and kept visual journals. I ran out of space on my bookshelf and had crates of books next to my bed in lieu of a bedside table. My walls weren't plastered with posters of musicians or movie stars, but with paintings by Dali and Gieger, and portraits of Picasso. I remember I had a cactus called Hieronymus Bosch, after the painter of course. And while I fell in love with Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, like many girls my age, I also fell in love with Brett Whiteley and Modigliani. 

I knew I wanted to go to University and study art. I wanted to be a painter and learn all I could while being surrounded by like minded people. Upon completing high school I was accepted in to Griffith Universities Bachelor of Fine Art / Visual Art program. I moved out of home with my twin sister, in to a two bedroom flat across the road from a cemetery, seventeen years old. My first year of uni was made up of blocks of each study area. I did my time in Illustration first, with little interest for the subject beyond completing my assignments and moving on to the next area. Next up, sculpture, where I made my first real and shameful attempts with clay and glaze. Next painting. My heart sung. This had been my dream. And yet. How awful it felt. How I lacked any connection with my teacher. How little I felt I was learning. I was so discouraged and disappointed. I'd worked so hard and waited so long to be there. It was a steep learning curve in to adulthood. I almost dropped out of University. 

Next block was Intermedia - a chance to learn photography, develop black and white photos in a darkroom, create installations, hand bound books, learn photoshop. I loved it. I chose to major in it after completing my block. I made my way through a printmaking block and a silver smithing block. But the charm of Intermedia drew me back and I started to explore what art meant to me and what I wanted to create as an artist. It wasn't until my last year of University, when I was picking up a couple of subjects in order to complete my course, that I made my way in to the silver smiting department once more. 

All the skills that I had learnt, from drawing to carving, installation to photography, etching metal in printmaking to using found objects in sculpture, I begun to use in my jewellery practice. I made a sheathed letter opener with a double headed bust - symbolic of my twin sister and I - which I carved from wax and cast. The blade was shaped from a reclaimed antique bread knife and polished under running water until I wore off my fingertips and the water ran red with my blood. I made kinetic rings and necklaces featuring bezel set garnets. I layered metals, hammered them with punches, filed them back, rolled them and punched them again, delighted at the flexibility and possibility of what I had unsuspectingly assumed was an unyielding metal.

I graduated with the desire to add to the jewellery making skills I had acquired. I started to gather tools to work with at home. I landed the first job I applied for at an independant jewellery store in th City where I worked for many years learning the trade while studying at the Goldsmiths School, before starting work on the bench and as a pearl threader.

Like I said, I never planned on being a jeweller. I found it by accident really. Found that my medium was metal and that I could incorporate all my skills in to this field to create miniature sculptures. There are still parallels to my teenage self. I still spend my time drawing and writing. I still love books and galleries. Instead of posters of art and artists, I now collect original art and handmade Australian ceramics. I've travelled around the world and seen many of the art works I admired in books at school. And I now own several of those large glossy art books I once poured over.

Just as well we don't always get what we wish for, or else I may be an unhappy painter, instead of a happy jeweller.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

(Another sneak peek of the upcoming range, in the shop soon...)
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