Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jam Packed talks to Julie Blyfield about her upcoming exhibition in GalleryOne, which celebrates 20 years of making by one of Australia's most renowned jewellers

Tell us about yourself, how did you become a jeweller?
I knew I wanted a career in the arts after my schooling, I trained as a secondary school art teacher in the late 1970's.

It was during this fabulous course at Teachers College that I learnt the basic skills in jewellery making (as well as many other things such as printmaking, painting, drawing, photography) and I was hooked on making small scale work! I am a keen gardener and I enjoy planting, 'snipping and sweeping' as a way of relaxing and changing my focus.

Which jeweller, craftspeople, writers, artists, musicians, anyone do you find particularly inspiring and how have they influenced your approach to making?
I find a lot of people, books and travelling to remote places inspiring, but in terms of metal workers, I would mention people such as David Huycke, a Belgium metalsmith who makes beautiful, classic work. International jewellers such as Peter Bahuis, Helen Britton and Lucy Sarneel have all inspired me at some time. Frank Bauer, a German silversmith and designer who lives here in Adelaide taught me new skills in raising metal from flat sheet into three dimensional forms. Frank was very generous in sharing his knowledge and skills with me when I worked alongside him in his studio in 2003 to learn these skills.

Are there any specific quotes, ideas, places that influence this current body of work?
Every Christmas we head down to Kangaroo Island to relax, swim and wind down at the end of the year. So I decided that I would base a new collection of work on the coastal plants collected from beach walks and plants of the sea. I didn't really want the work to be a literal translation of what I collected or photographed but rather reflect the 'feel ' of the coastal vegetation and the colours of the locations.

Are there any specific collections, museums that you have found inspiring and why?
Yes there are many Museums that have inspired me including the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, UK as I love the hand written labels and the density of the display with every case full on interesting artefacts. I also enjoy visiting the South Australian Museum for its wonderful collection of Indigenous artefacts and Pacific Island collections. While I was a resident in the UK on a jewellery exchange project in 2003 I visited the Natural History Museum in London and the Herbaria in Cambridge and Edinburgh where I studied plant collections.

Welcome us to your studio - where is it?
In Adelaide. I work from my own independent studio after working as a partner and access tenant at Gray Street Workshop for 23 years from 1987 - 2010 where I worked in an open plan studio alongside many other emerging and established jewellers in a shared studio environment.

The work for the exhibition: Can you describe the specific themes reflected in this body of work?
The exhibition reflects 20 years of my practice from 1990 - 2010 so it encompasses personal responses to my own family history and reflections on Adelaide's history when I worked as a volunteer on a local achaealogical dig in the old market area by East Terrace.

It also looks at the history of jewellery, specifically focusing on the work from the 1850's in the Victorian Era.

The exhibition shows my passion for gardening and interest in Museums and collections where I made work inspired from an old album of pressed plants collected in the desert around 1900. This album is now housed in the South Australian Museum Archives.

Describe your method of production in this current work?
I use the technique of 'chasing' which is a process where annealed silver metal is supported in 'pitch' (bituminous material) I hammer to texture my silver sheet with small steel tools before soldering. In commencing my work I often photograph, sketch and make paper maquettes to assist me in making decisions about the forms and designs I will make. In this way I can be free to cut, paste, staple paper together quite quickly and spontaneously to resolve the design process and avoid wasting expensive materials. I always recycle as much as possible in my making process.

Julie Blyfield: Contemporary Jewellery and Objects 1990 – 2010
5 February – 20 March
Opening: 4 February at 6:00pm