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Contemporary jewellers from Western Australia – a Cinderella story

Christel van der Laan, Holy Smoke, Brooch, 2011, painted silver, ceramic honeycomb block, old clay pipe, vintage beads

Contemporary jewellery from Western Australia (WA) holds a unique place in Australian contemporary craft and design practice. Since the 1970s, the influence of the land and sea: red earth, long white beaches, ancient rocks, diverse minerals, unique flora and emerald blue oceans – glinting in the brilliant light, has been reflected in contemporary design.

Since the 1880s when gold was discovered, WA was known as the 'Cinderella of the South'.  With its capital city, Perth, rated as the most isolated city in the world, WA artists and designers have long been stimulated to look across the globe for markets, training and influence.  Consequently, a vibrant school of contemporary jewellers has developed who are distinguished from other schools or movements in Australia.

The engagement of WA jewellers reflected skills and techniques learnt widely from key contemporary international jewellers.  This was part of 'New Jewellery', a global movement in contemporary jewellery and reflected the contemporary Australian art movement where artists contrasted 'slick new surfaces with rough-and-ready ones'.

At the same time, the jewellers' work was infused with a strong vision and pioneering of new materials as part of the craft and design practice in WA.  The resultant work was seen as globally significant and yet uniquely Western Australian.

Dorothy Erickson, Perth Water 1, 1979-81, neck ring, sterling silver gold chrysoprase.

In tune with what is happening internationally and based locally, where fewer constraints makes everything seem possible, … a surprisingly large cohort of locally based practitioners have established themselves as significant figures in the international arena of contemporary jewellery.
Ted Snell, 2006 in Cinderella Stories, Contemporary Jewellery from Western Australia, 2011 at Artsite.

The level of excitement in this new movement was seen in the attendance of some 700 people at the opening of Dorothy Erickson's first solo exhibition in 1976. Then in 1979 contemporary Western Australian jewellers toured their work across Australia in an exhibition From the West.

In the early 1980s, WA jewellers had their work selected for the international touring exhibition To Human Scale, including: students Gillian Cock (now Rainer) and Ingrid Kellenbach, together with Erickson, Jeanette Kettle, Katherine O'Sullivan (later Kalaf) and David Walker, an early lecturer at WAIT, the Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University). Soon after, Erickson and Walker were invited to exhibit in Schmuck '82 Tendenzen? in Prforzheim and in Japanese jewellery exhibitions.  In 1983, Erickson held a solo exhibition at the famous Galerie am Graben, in Vienna.

Gillian Rainer, The shadows cast their flowers, Pendant, Eremophila Maculata, 925 silver, emu egg shell.

These jewellers were staff and graduates of the new School of Art and Design, at WAIT (now Curtin University) which has fostered exchanges for WA and international jewellers as artists in Residence.

These first international explorations by this Western Australian school of contemporary jewellers set a precedent for an ongoing global outlook and exposure.  For over 30 years, both individually and collectively, jewellers have shown a considerable body of work overseas in countries which include the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Germany, Austria, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Norway, Poland and Indonesia.

In 2011 seven WA contemporary jewellers, all of whom have work held in the collections of the national and state galleries, were involved in an exhibition entitled Cinderella Stories. This showed at Lesley Craze Gallery as part of the London Design Festival, at Beaver Galleries in Canberra, and at Artsite Gallery in Sydney.  The exhibition was a survey that pushed the boundaries of jewellery design as part of contemporary craft and design. The seven were Dorothy Erickson, Gillian Rainer, Brenda Ridgewell, Carlier Makigawa, Christel van der Laan, Felicity Peters and David Walker.

In Cinderella Stories at Artsite Gallery in Camperdown in Sydney in 2011, the works were displayed in a large well-constructed space that enabled viewers to walk around most pieces.  The space meant that viewers could appreciate the multiple approaches, and the skilful techniques. The light emanating and flowing through the minerals and metals, captured the undulating and subliminal movements in quiet, joyful contemplation.

Early History

Metal smith teachers and workshops

Herbert Kitchener Currie, Sterling silver amazonite bangle, circa 1950.

Western Australia has had a long tradition in the teaching of metalwork at art school, commencing with painter and silversmith James W R Linton who trained in art, architecture and metal work in London and then taught in Perth from 1902.  On his retirement from the technical school in 1931, he continued to teach at the Linton Institute of Art until 1938.

Following the Second World War, art metal courses were on offer at the Fremantle, Claremont and Perth Technical Colleges. When Linton's trainee, Herbert Kitchener Currie, known as Kitch, began teaching metal smithing at Fremantle Technical College in 1964, there were 19 students.  By the time he resigned in 1972, there were 160.

This contributed to Fremantle becoming the new artists' colony – replacing 'the Hills' around Perth which were previously favoured as artists' haunts.  Kitch Currie was replaced by Terry Walsh and then Geoff Woodland before Netherlands-trained Joké van der Flier began teaching in 1980.  Van der Flier was influential in improving the TAFE course at the college.  Moving from Fremantle to Perth in 1989, she set about seeking funds, resources, equipment and a technician to establish the Perth campus in Aberdeen Street.

The TAFE metal workshops morphed into the multi-campus WA School of Art and Design in 1994. In parallel, in 1969 a dedicated conceptual and design oriented jewellery course was established under Francis Gill at WAIT. This period in the 1960s was part of a wider experience in modernism and the interactions between design, architecture and art – all of which had a profound affect on body image, social life and ideals about design.

Katherine Kalaf, Bracelet fabricated from reticulated sterling silver set in sterling surrounds with a jade bead, 1978, Collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia

Exhibitions and collections

In the 1960s with the arts and craft revival in Australia, self-taught jewellers Eric Car and Geoffrey Allen started to exhibit. Car, whose initial training had been in sculpture, was a craftsperson, exhibiting and opening a gallery as well as undertaking training in the Netherlands. Allen was a prize winning painter who studied at East Sydney Technical School and went on to create a large body of work.

Galleries of the time included the Skinner Galleries, the Old Fire Station, the Undercroft Gallery at the University of Western Australia and the Collectors Gallery, owned by psychiatrist Dr Rose Toussaint, who was then Australia's largest art and jewellery collector. Toussaint gifted over 150 contemporary jewellery pieces, mostly by WA jewellers, to the Art Gallery of WA in 1991. (Art Gallery of Western Australia, Foundation 20th Annniversary)

Conceptual art and design, WAIT 1970s – 1990s

David Walker, Reflection (Brooch Pendant), 925 silver, stainless steel

English born and trained designer silversmith David Walker was appointed to WAIT in 1975 as senior lecturer in 3-D Design, Jewellery, and Silversmithing. Walker was assisted by Dorothy Erickson from 1975–1980 and other visiting lecturers including Kate O'Sullivan Kalaf and Trevor Mehrtens. Consequently, there was a major shift in emphasis from the organic work of the 1960s and early 70s to the designed work of the new graduates. 

Significantly, there were many visiting artists in residence, such as renowned British contemporary jewellers Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins who were resident at WAIT for six months in 1978. Other master jewellers funded to visit the west were inspirational jewellers: Claus Bury, Hermann Junger, Rex Keogh and Marian Hosking, one of Australia's pre-eminent silversmiths.

Claus Bury, led the Noojee workshops. Hermann Junger exerted a strong influence on the development of contemporary jewelry. Keogh was an art teacher, jeweller and sculptor, who was at the Melbourne State College, making refined jewellery about Australian place in an iconic fashion.
Dorothy Erickson, Kinetic jewellery - interacting with light and land, interview, Craft Australia, April 2011.

David Walker – geometric forms and open frameworks

David Walker, Market 2 (double pendant), 1996, stainless steel, niobium, 22 ct gold

David Walker was a major influence on contemporary jewellery in WA in the late 1970s and 1980s and taught until 1997.  Walker had a busy international career creating 'intriguing works of great lightness and delicacy' from his first solo show held in 1979 at Fremantle Arts Centre. He went on to exhibit in Amsterdam, Japan, Korea, Munich, the Americas, Australia and Europe. A solo exhibition Anatomy of the object was held at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 2009.

In 1987 Walker created some very free works expressing fragility and delicate balance.  Inspired by a visit to a Shinto shrine in Japan, his work Shrine was constructed of

lattice-like grids of shiny steel set at irregular angles and loosely tied together.

Walker continued to create these almost weightless sculptural works.  They were pieces that could be viewed from any angle to reveal other possibilities, potential and actual structures. Following a residency in Thailand in the 1990s, he created a multi-functional piece, Fish Basket, 1996 – to be worn singularly with all component parts, or to be worn variously as two pendants and a choker. Steel frames replicated delicate fish baskets and miniature cages and traps filled with fish. Colin Martin wrote;

Although his works in silver and stainless steel wire appear light and delicate, their formal strength ensures that they have great presence, without overwhelming wearers' personalities. In 2011, his work Memento Mori 1 (bushfires) 2007, Walker's pendant of carved and painted wood encircled in a brazier, was seen as among the strongest works.
Colin Martin, Cinderella jewellery – from Western Australia to the world, review, Craft Australia, 28 September 2011.

In recent years Walker has moved to Denmark in the forests of south Western Australia and continues to orchestrate an international career. His recent jewellery reflects environmental concerns and the minutiae of life in the forest.

Dorothy Erickson – kinetic sculptures

Dorothy Erickson, Peacock, multi positional body piece, 1990, gold and silver

Another jeweller with a solid international career is Dorothy Erickson. She enrolled at WAIT in 1969 under Francis Gill, worked with various trade jewellers for four years, and then undertook post-graduate work with David Walker.

Erickson also lectured, undertaking a Resident Graduate Scholarship, and in 1980 ran the course whilst Walker was overseas. The WAIT students of this time included internationally exhibiting jewellers: Gillian Cock Rainer, Ingrid Kellenbach, Brenda Ridgewell, Jacquie Sprogoe, Carlier Makigawa, Diana Anderson, and Felicity Peters.

Erickson showed 142 pieces at her first solo exhibition in 1977 at the Fine Art Gallery in Perth.  Following further solo exhibitions in Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth and Sydney from 1979–83, Erickson had another 35 solo exhibitions in places as far afield as Vienna and Valetta.

Dorothy Erickson, Sunset Bracelet, 1981-2, silver, gold mookaite

Erickson was the first Australian jeweller invited to have an exhibition at Galerie am Graben in Vienna in 1983.  Graben is one of the most famous streets in Vienna's first district, the city centre, tracing its origins back to Roman times, where metal workers built their workshops in the 1300s, becoming a commercial and cultural centre in the 1900s. The Galerie was host to the world's leading contemporary jewellers in this period such as Fritz Maierhofer (1974-82), Erika Leitner (1977), Jacek Byczewski (1978, 1982), Hermann Junger (1981), Peter de Wit (1982) and Peter Skubic (1985).

Erickson's early pieces were based on colour and form, landscape and geometry, reflecting her life by the Swan River and view of the Darling Escarpment. These were made technically possible because of a micro-weld brought out from England by Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins in 1978.

In the Pilbara Collection and Sunset Collection exhibited in Vienna in 1983 she relied on colour in the form of torn and polished rock. Pieces from these collections are now in the Schmuckmuseum in Pforzheim, Germany and the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) in London, described as the world's greatest museum of art and design. She then turned to stainless steel cable combined with gold and silver to form a series of body piece works that were viewed as classic undated pieces by many critics. Fred Stewart commented on this work:

Dorothy Erickson, Calythrix, neck ring, 2010, Silver, amethysts, gold-plated silver, steel cable

Employing this linear material with immense creativity and finesse, Dorothy exploited its essential characteristic of flexibility with imagination [creating] ... sensuous curving jewellery-forms with stunning and dramatic kinetic energy.
Fred Stewart, 'Dorothy Erickson – the many faceted Western Australian jeweller' in Craft West 1999/2.

In contrast, the Seashore Collection created in the 1990s through to 2000 forsook the pared back elegance of the former work and used 18 carat gold paired with brightly coloured semi-precious and precious stones, albeit attached to tensile stainless steel cable. This was part of the Australian Littoral exhibitions in Australia, Austria and Malta and was described by Margaret Moore as:

having an articulation and expressiveness that made them 'enticing, ebullient … imaginatively evoking breaking waves, ripples'.
Margaret Moore, 'A Lightness of Touch', Craft Arts International no 45, (1999) pp. 42–46.

Erickson's recent work has focused on Western Australian wildflowers.

Gillian Rainer

Gillian Rainer, The shadows cast their flowers, pendant, Fringed Lilly, 925 silver, 9 ct yellow gold, red ceramit enamel, sterling silver

Before she graduated in 1980, former WAIT student and Central TAFE lecturer Gillian Rainer had already been selected to exhibit internationally, and she continues to do so.  Rainer uses techniques of casting and carving to tell stories through her rings, brooches and pendants and she has travelled extensively overseas to investigate new technical instruments for her art practice.  The Shadows Cast Their Flowers is a series of botanically inspired works.

Granatum (undated) is a sterling silver pendant suspended on a thread of superb garnet beads, whose dark red provides a counterfoil to the reflective surface of the silver …

impressive is a sterling silver and emu eggshell pendant, Eremophilia maculata (undated), which is the Linnaean binomial for a flowering shrub known colloquially as Spotted Emu Bush.

Fringed Lily (undated) is a curious bifurcated sterling silver, 9 carat gold and red ceramic enamel pendant.
Colin Martin, Cinderella jewellery – from Western Australia to the world, review, Craft Australia, 28 September 2011.

Jacquie Sprogoe – painterly possibilities of enamel

Jacquie Sprogoe, one of two enamelled brooches exhibited in Tokyo, 1996

Jacquie Sprogoe was a 1979 WAIT graduate who went on to exhibit internationally. Sprogoe's delicate enamel jewellery has been shown in national and international exhibitions; in 1996 she showed at Kunstleverein in Coburg, Germany, in the International Juried Exhibition of Enamels.

Two of Sprogoe's enameled brooches from this exhibition are mesmerising; layers of golden light and incandescent blues float evocatively within a very delicate minimalist scrolled silver wire structure around and outside the brooches.

The Woldendorp Series and the Drum Series, drawn from old stained drums, were the basis of her 1988 solo exhibition, some of which were later exhibited in Germany and Japan. The painterly possibilities of adding colour to metal has seen Sprogoe pursuing enamelling as her main area of practice.  She continues to exhibit internationally.

Carlier Makigawa – cohesive, irregular and amorphous

Soon after Carlier Makigawa's graduation from WAIT in 1980, her work was chosen for Australian Jewellery a show that toured Europe.  Influenced by her father Desmond Sands, a modernist architect, and her Japanese husband Akio Makigawa, a sculptor, Makigawa created sculptural forms that appear to float yet are grounded with a meditative presence.

Carlier Makigawa, Cluster brooch red, graphite, stainless steel, coral

A spiritual and private space. Ritual object, jewellery. Linear structures appear fragile and monumental to cradle the internal spirit. They appear to float in space, hovering, penetrating, a temporary existence. Nature is the reference, and the geometry of nature and architecture inform this world.
Carlier Makigawa, Artist's statement, Gallery Funaki.

Makigawa's works are seen as precise and geometric, yet at the same time they convey a sense of natural objects.  Makigawa's 1980 work was a series of graphite covered brooches which created a grid as installations in a steel frame.  These were derived from images of bamboo scaffolding.

Makigawa moved to Workshop 3000 in Victoria with Marian Hosking and Susan Cohn, as the WA jewellers maintained a strong relationship with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) following Dorothy Erickson's period as artist-in-resident in 1979.

Makigawa completed her Master's Degree there in 1987 – the first undertaken in practical jewellery in Australia.  She went on to have a very successful international career before going on to head the course at RMIT. Her works are held in the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan, the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - Decorative Arts and Design, Canada.

Brenda Ridgewell – inherently spatial with abstract linearity

Brenda Ridgewell, Space 3 Edifice, sterling silver

Another former WAIT student Brenda Ridgewell, who graduated in 1982, went on to become head of jewellery at Curtin University until 2013. Born in Manjimup, her early work was inspired by the physical landforms of Western Australia.

Ridgewell's designs explore the play of light on textured surfaces, evolved from drawing and photography, and are made primarily from silver.  Whilst studying for her Master's degree at RMIT, under Carlier Mikagawa and Ray Stebbings, Ridgewell explored stainless steel dental wire with its tensile strength. This became the primary material in the fabrication of the work.  A considerable body of her work has been shown in the United States, Japan, Korea, Turkey, and Indonesia.

Ridgewell's Resilient Light of steel, sterling silver and gold was the winner of the Upfront national jewellery collection in 1995, now held at the Art Gallery of WA.  Gillian Rainer wrote:

With the exquisite engineering, geometry and repetitive accuracy of modern bridge construction ...These are not merely decorative ornaments. They are extrovert pieces of jewellery. With the movements of the wearer the pieces transform as the elements glide in relationship with one another
Gillian Rainer, Space Defined, Exhibition review Jewellery by Brenda Ridgewell, Artlink, vol 17, No 1, 1997.

After participating in an exhibition there in 2004, Ridgewell returned to the Lesley Craze Gallery in 2011 showing Space edifice as part of the Cinderella show.

Bronwyn Goss – spatial possibilities of spirals

Bronwyn Goss, Belt pouch, brass, gilding metal, 24 carat fire-gilding with patina, 1988

A former WAIT student Bronwyn Goss took up the position of Senior Lecturer of jewellery when David Walker resigned in 1997, having lectured there since 1985.  Whilst living briefly overseas, Goss trained as a metal smith at Michigan State University. She studied under Steve Brunst and Arline Fisch, learning repoussé and chain-mail techniques, before returning to a bush environment in WA.

In her final year as a WAIT student, Goss committed herself to interpreting a curling leaf in metal – heating, forging and hammering. She explored the stretching possibilities of squares, circles, triangles and linear forms, which developed into the series of spiral forms for which she is well known.

A chain mail belt pouch made in 1988 was made of brass and gilded metal.  The pouch is conical, suspended from a thick gilded ring and attached to a belt hook. The front of the pouch profusely decorated with short lengths of wire with 'knobbed' ends, which have been twisted and woven into the links. The uppermost wires show traces of gilding and the whole object patinated.
Powerhouse Museum, 88/1048

In the 1990s Goss's work was exhibited internationally in the Art of Adornment – Australian Contemporary Jewellery in Asia and in Vienna as part of Australian Jewellery and Objects Today.  In the 2000s, her work was selected for touring to Hanau in Germany and Taiwan.  Goss won the Argyle Diamond Sales Design Award in 1986 with pieces of this nature, 'making strong but sensuous forged brooches discreetly set or scattered with diamonds'. (Dorothy Erickson Gold and Silversmithing in Western Australia: A History, UWA Publishing, Crawley, 2010, p. 390).

After 1997, her work began to incorporate other materials including bone and horsehair and was showcased in an exhibition curated by FORM in 2004, Home Ground. This presented Goss alongside other WA jewellers such as Carlier Makigawa, Munich based Helen Britton, and Sarah Elson, who had been studying in Britain and was a recent recipient of a Samstag Scholarship.

Felicity Peters – 'attached' metals

Felicity Peters, Use it or Lose it, 2011, sterling silver, 24ct gold, keum-boo 16.3 cwt, Lapis Lazuli, 3.1 cwt rough emeralds, patina acrylic

Felicity Peters' work has been greatly influenced by a combination of surface techniques, including the Korean technique for applying surface decoration using attached gold, as well as her peripatetic life in the Kimberley, Goldfields and the Pilbara.  Peters work has toured widely in Asia as part of The Art of Adornment show in 1993–94.  Peters spent time in Seoul, Korea and this has greatly influenced her approach to jewellery making.

While still a student at WAIT in the 1970s, Peters began making organic, hand-forged tapered shapes called spiculums.  The processes for many of her surface finishes were learnt at workshops overseas, such as one on anticlastic-forming in 1989 in Maine with Michael Good and in 1990 with Susan Kingsley on die-forming and blanking at the Haystack School.

Felicity Peters, Wave, bangles, 24ct gold, textured silver, semiprecious stones

Combined with the keum-boo, the Korean technique that Peters has mastered, Peters is able to create a softly burnished finish, with the gold contrasting with the textured, formed or patinated silver and base metal. This brings a particularly attractive and distinctive quality to her work. At the 2011 London exhibition, reviewer Colin Martin wrote of Use it or Lose it (undated) and the form of Wave (undated):

a sterling silver brooch set with a disc of softly burnished 24 carat gold keum-boo, a disc of vibrant lime green enamel and a shallow square box filled with deep blue lapis lazuli crystals, is particularly covetable ...
a sterling silver and 24 carat gold keum-boo bangle, evokes the corrugations of Australia's ubiquitous and iconic iron roofing and building material.
Colin Martin, Cinderella jewellery – from Western Australia to the world, review, Craft Australia, 28 September 2011.

David Watkins commenting on the Journey Boat Series wrote that Peters' work:

illuminates the fact that for some artists the fine and sensitive working of metal provides a direct conduit to other realms of feeling and understanding – to connections with nature, the past, to dreams and memories.
David Watkins, Design Sourcebook of Jewellery, New Holland, 2000.

Christel van der Laan – from minimalism to a collaged riot of form

Christel van der Laan, Reflex, Earrings, 2010, 18 carat gold, Cinderella's Stories exhibition

Another jeweller from WA to burst on the international scene is Christel van der Laan.  Within a few years of her first solo exhibition in 2006, van der Laan is represented in about 11 books and has exhibited in the USA, UK, Netherlands, Norway, and Japan.

Van der Laan was born in the Netherlands and raised in South Africa, the Netherlands and WA where she studied at the well regarded Carine TAFE under Rosemary Kollman from 1992–1998.  In 2008, van der Laan discovered ceramic honeycomb block, sitting in front of her on the soldering bench.

Ceramic honeycomb block is better known for its ability to distribute heat during soldering to the thousands who use it, rather than a prized element in a piece of jewellery. Pure, white and hol(e)y I never cease to be captivated by the extraordinary beauty of this material and the endless possibilities it presents.

Christel van der Laan, Holier than thou brooch, 2011, ceramic honeycomb block, painted silver, microgeodes, Collection National Gallery of Australia

At the 2011 Cinderella Stories exhibition, Colin Martin wrote:

Christel van der Laan exhibits a spectrum of works ranging from quirky brooches to minimalist earrings. Holy Smoke(2011) is a collaged riot of form and colour, incorporating painted silver, ceramic honeycomb, clay pipe (which gives the brooch its name), vintage plastic beads and gold.

In contrast, Reflex (2010) is a pair of earrings in pale pierced 18 carat gold of pared-down design, with a concave tear-drop shape suspended from a concave semi-circle. They are so classical that one could be substituted for the pearl depicted in Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Colin Martin, Cinderella jewellery – from Western Australia to the world, review, Craft Australia, 28 September 2011.

Cinderella Stories and beyond – a plurality of designs and a unified sense of movement

This approach of pushing design and exploring expression, part of a unique school of WA jewellery practice, was promoted from 2004-2008 through the newly built Katherine Kalaf Gallery in Cottesloe.  Kalaf exhibited not only the jewellers discussed but also other WA jewellers: Sam Farmer, Geoff Palfreyman, Louise Tasker, Claire Townsend, and Isobel Wise.

Today a new generation of jewellers is making a splash with works that turn heads.  The works reflect directly the diversity of practice amongst emerging artists and the standards of their learning institutions and teachers.

Helen Britton

Helen Britton, Shell Garden with Loops, 2012, brooch, silver, diamonds, paint

A student of Sam Farmer's at Kalgoorlie College, Helen Britton now lives in Germany and exhibits widely.  Helen wrote of her exhibition Heterogene

I come from a land where the natural often looks artificial...

Britton's own exploration of multiple layers and colours in complex erudite works reflects upon this perception of landscape.

Melissa Cameron

Another who is building an international career is Melissa Cameron, currently resident in Seattle, USA.  In referring to her 2012 Recycled Object series, Cameron describes her patterns and regular repeated organisations of elements as omnipresent – whether from the natural or human-engineered world.

Melissa Cameron, Acanthus Oval, 2010. Antique gold plated powder case, 925 silver, stainless steel

From vintage metal tins, an iron frying pan, a metal ashtray and a bamboo plate, Cameron explores objects, and the ornaments she creates as jewellery, through cutting patterns, revaluing the object and then reassembling parts.  At the same time the patterns are reiterated in the negative space to create an interdependence between the two resulting pieces.

The resulting forms have the feel of an exploded diagram, with dimensionality created by layering intricate parts connected by tiny threads of stainless steel cable….
Sharon Massey, Bridge 12: Melissa Cameron, in Metalsmith, October 2013.

The objects created rely upon symmetry and Cameron does this with precision and fine geometry, as well as radial patterns. This is particularly impressive as many of the found objects are unusual and sometimes already delicate and ornate, such as the recycled material in Acanthus Oval (Pendant and Void Brooch).

Pieces such as this are also notable for their dual function – the pierced and layered form is a pendant, while the original object with the resulting negative space becomes a brooch.  Each work is equally wearable, and no part of the found object goes to waste.  In Acanthus Oval, the original rolled hinge of the found mechanism forms the mechanism for the brooch pin stem, eliminating any superfluous additions.
Sharon Massey, Bridge 12: Melissa Cameron, in Metalsmith, October 2013.

The WA jewellers' shared commitment to pushing jewellery design to its limits can be seen in global exhibitions, the continued high standards of the jewellery teaching lineage and their play with the question of existence that is clearly expressed in their jewellery.  Cinderella has definitely arrived at the ball but this time under her own means.

While there is a healthy plurality of designs there is also a unified sense of the exploration of movement and organic form in the jewellery, something to reflect upon in the glint of the light, land and forms of Western Australia.

Useful Links

WA contemporary jewellers

Leanne Ryan, Pendant, Sterling Silver, Heishi 'Vulcanite' Trade Beads, Raw silk cocoons – cut & edges dyed, silk cord. Photograph by Matt Reed

Cinderella Stories, galleries and other exhibitions

Gillian Rainer, Ring, 2011, 18ct yellow gold, diamond.

International jewellers working as artists-in-residence with WA jewellers

International jewellers with solo exhibitions at the Galerie em Graben, Vienna, 1974-1985

Select Australian galleries holding works by WA Jewellers

David Walker, Fish basket, two pendants, choker (multifunctional piece), 1996, sterling silver, stainless steel

Select overseas galleries holding works by WA contemporary jewellers



UWA Publishing is acknowledged in providing a review copy of Dorothy Erickson, Gold and Silversmithing in Western Australia: A History, Crawley, 2010
Dorothy Erickson is acknowledged in providing the images with permission of the artists.

Updated: 19 January 2014
Creator: Kathryn Wells