This is a pre Christmas exhibition with a difference. All of the works exhibited have been made from materials retreived from donated jewellery as a part of the Radical Jewellery Makeover.
The Radical Jewellery Makeover is an educational initiative of Ethical Metalsmiths and involves a call to the public to donate their unwanted jewellery. The donations are sorted and categorised to be deconstructed and become the raw materials to be reworked by a team of jewellers. The resulting works are heavily influenced by the donated materials, though the donors may no longer be able to recognise any elements of what they contributed. The jewellers get to work with materials they don't usually use and this proves an inspiration and challenge to develop new works that add value to the materials.
My contact with the Ethical Metalsmiths started in late 2006 when I emailed Christina Miller. I was in the process of making changes to the Jewellery Program at QCA and I was keen to talk to academics and researchers with shared interests. Christina was the first I found and we began conversing by email and mail. The conversations led to Christina and her collaborator Susie Ganch visiting QCA to host a Radical Jewellery Makeover in 2010. This was to be the first international RJM and the 4th in the ongoing series of the travelling community mining and recycling project that draws public attention to the creativity and skills of local jewellery designers, reveals the stories behind our personal collections and encourages re-consideration of our habits of consumption. I joined Susie and Christina to deliver an RJM in New Mexico in 2011. The 2016 Brisbane RJM is the second to be hosted in Australia and I have led it with the assistance of Clare Poppi a QCA Masters candidate.
The jewellers who are exhibiting RJM works in the current exhibition are: Alicia Lane, Alison Bruce, Catherine Large, Chloe Healy. Elizabeth Shaw, Juliana Platt, Katie Stormonth, Kierra-Jay Power, Lynda Shale, Melissa Stannard, Mia Wells, Nellie Peoples, Robyn Pell, Vivien Bedwell and Xiaohui Yang. Many more have been involved in the project. A big thank you to Lisa Brown from Faun Photography for documenting a lot of the jewellery made.
My long term friend and colleague Catherine Large and I have recently sent works to the USA to contribute to The Alchemy of Sustainability at Terra Firma Gallery, Berkeley.
The Alchemy of Sustainability is a fundraiser for Ethical Metalsmiths whose mission is to Lead jewelers and consumers in becoming informed activists for responsible mining, sustainable economic development and verified, ethical sources of materials used in making jewelry. I am on the international advisory council for Ethical Metalsmiths.
My contact with the Ethical Metalsmiths started in late 2006 when I emailed Christina Miller. I was in the process of making changes to the Jewellery Program at QCA and I was keen to talk to academics and researchers with shared interests. Christina was the first I found and we began conversing by email and mail. The conversations led to Christina and her collaborator Susie Ganch visiting QCA to host a Radical Jewellery Makeover in 2011. This was to be the first international RJM and the 4th in the ongoing series of the travelling community mining and recycling project that draws public attention to the creativity and skills of local jewellery designers, reveals the stories behind our personal collections and encourages re-consideration of our habits of consumption.
You can read about the RJM in Brisbane here and here
Catherine and I drew on some of the left over materials from the Brisbane RJM to create pieces for the The Alchemy of Sustainability. We also drew on some materials from our own studios. My bracelets are made completely from my own old works in my studio.
Christina Miller cofounded Ethical Metalsmiths, and when I first contacted her she was Executive Director of the organisation. She is now a consultant inspiring and mentoring bold social and environmental leadership in jewelry, education and the arts.
I am conscious of the mixed use of spelling of jewellery and jewelry in this post, jewelry is used for any text that is American.
I was fortunate to be able to both attend and participate in the one day conference Flux - Fair Luxury held at the Goldsmiths' Centre London on 19 April 2016. I was so impressed that the conference sold out in 2 weeks and had a waiting list of 30 people! The keen interest hopefully allayed any fears the organisers may have had about the importance of the event.
This was the inaugural conference organised by the Flux team and it was very well received. The enthusiasm and sense of optimism at the event was palpable. The hard work and ambitions of the Flux team saw their idea for the conference become a reality. I suspect it all moved too fast for each of them to fully appreciate their achievements. The day covered lots of different approaches and ideas towards improving the environmental and ethical standards of the jewellery industry.
Orsola de Castro, Co Founder of the Fashion Revolution Day talked about her evolution into a Fair Fashion activist with enthusiasm and drive. Her approach was accessible and based on the discussion that ensued, quite possibly (hopefully) infectious.
Lina Villa, Executive Director of Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) talked about the origins of ARM and how she and the alliance had been developing and changing.
Interestingly the idea of a journey was used by several speakers and I think that allowed for the room for all to understand that there wasn't an absolute we are all aiming for at this moment. It is very much a journey.
When I started my practice in the early 1990s producing jewellery and tableware in small scale production my aim was to be environmentally friendly. I used a lot of metal retrieved from waste. I used cardboard unbleached packaging that could be recycled or would biodegrade. This was in part because I had a strong dislike for flocked plastic jewellery boxes and bags. My clients at the time were never as excited about my unbleached packaging as I thought they should/would be.
It was around 2000 when I was rethinking my practice undertaking masters research that I started to think about other aspects of my studio practice, the chemicals I used for example and the stones I was using. I started to think that stones being natural was not enough, I needed to know where they had come from and how they were sourced. It has definitely been a journey for me in terms of understanding my priorities and reconsidering all aspects of my studio practices. This is an ongoing process.
The conference had two sessions of same timed workshops. In the first session I went to one focussed on Green Jewellery Workshop Practices and Sourcing led by Greg Valerio MBE and Ute Decker.
Greg is a very passionate presenter, I'd last seen him speak at a conference organised by Ethical Metalsmiths in association with their Radical Jewelry Makeover at Alburquerque in 2011. He talked about work he had been undertaking with gold miners in Uganda to make their mining practices safer and more efficient. It was inspiring to hear how a small amount of money from our perspective could purchase simple, yet significant equipment that increases the amount of gold retrieved and significantly reduces the time time involved in processing: 1 day of manual work reduced to 2 hours of mechanised work!
Ute talked about ways to green studio practices, from choices of materials through to chemicals and printing. Her talk was a well placed to follow Greg's. It was great to hear how Ute has been approaching this in her own studio and to meet her face to face for the first time. She too was a lively and enthusiastic presenter.
In the second session of workshops I was involved with leading one with Peter Crump from Vipa Designs and Samantha Rose from September Rose.
What are the challenges of responsible sourcing from the perspective of:
· education, (working with new students)
· manufacturing, (working with designers looking to upscale their business to sustainable level)
· designer-maker, (working through the practical issues of responsible sourcing)
Peter, Samantha and had been in contact with me by email, it was great to meet them face to face on the day. I think we were well selected to present together. Our approaches were complementary and we received some great questions.
I hope this will be just the start of our conversation.
these are occasional posts about the things that are inspiring me, or that are happening around.