Jewellery reflects Canberra’s Infrastructure

Canberra’s roundabouts inspire beautiful jewellery!

By Wendy Johnson

What do you think of when someone mentions Canberra’s infrastructure? Well, apart from the never ending road works, it’s got to be the roundabouts—right? And did you know there are 15 roundabouts between Belconnen and the airport? Talk about going round in circles! But those roundabouts, and maps of Canberra, do so much more than help us get around. They inspire!


Tanja von Behrens, a contemporary jeweller living in Tasmania, is designing a new collection of pieces based on our streets and the aesthetic of the city so carefully planned by Walter Burley Griffin many moons ago. Tanja will launch her new jewellery collection at FASHFEST 2015, on the Friday of the four-day event (13 to 16 May). Her place in the four-day event is a great fit since the theme of that night’s show is ‘Cartographer’—the mapper inspired by location and place. For Tanja, this involves creating a piece inspired by Captain Cook Crescent, and a wrist cuff inspired by Anzac Parade.

“Canberra streets have a beautiful symmetry and graphic to them, and you can really feel the difference in traffic flow in the capital once you’ve lived elsewhere,” says Tanja. “It’s such a well laid-out city and I’m hoping to pull some of that lovely aesthetic into pieces of jewellery.”TanjaVonBehrens_Ear-rings

Tanja is a character, bursting with enthusiasm and energy. You can hear it in her voice as she describes the place in which she was born and spent 17 years of her life. “I laugh when non-Canberrans carry on about ‘all the bloody roundabouts’. I love those roundabouts!” says Tanja. “Having lived in Sydney, Hobart and elsewhere, I breathe a sigh of relief every time I go home to Canberra. I feel a real difference in the traffic flow.”

Tanja will be incorporating more than maps and road systems into her new jewellery line. She’ll be designing graphic pieces around some of the capital’s icons, like an Australian War Memorial pendant on a short chain, and a National Film and Sound Archive necklace or side-facing earrings.


“I’ve never designed a collection for a specific event like FASHFEST,” says Tanja, “and I love that I’m collaborating with Melanie Child and Braddon Tailors, two fashion designers who have radically different aesthetics. I originally thought I might have to make two separate collections, but then decided on graphic shapes in sterling silver that will easily adapt to both labels.”

Melanie Child is a high-end, upcycled clothing label based in Dunedin, New Zealand. For Melanie, ‘upcycle’ means to reuse one item to create another of higher quality or value than the original. The label’s aesthetic is thought provoking and sculptural, with a dark edge. Melanie focuses on using post-consumer waste, or pre-loved garments as raw materials for her collections, including the one to be launched at her debut appearance at FASHFEST.


Braddon Tailors produces men’s and women’s made-to-measure and ready-to-wear garments using artisan techniques and luxury fabrics. Owned by Pip Morgan, the label’s line of clothing includes special occasion, formal, business and casual wear. Braddon Tailors was recently on the catwalk at Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. This is the label’s second year at FASHFEST.

But back to Tanja von Behrens. Tanja uses 100 per cent recycled sterling silver, copper and brass to create her works, and occasionally stones and found or re-interpreted materials. She manufactures by hand as much as possible, although at times creates original designs from scratch and then moulds them for reproduction.

Tanja von Behrens at work in her studio at the Salamanca Arts Centre

Tanja von Behrens at work in her studio at the Salamanca Arts Centre

Tanja grew up in an incredibly creative household, where the arts have always been celebrated and treasured. This talented jeweller began making jewellery as a hobby while studying at the University of Sydney. When she left university in 2005, Tanja worked for two years as a guide for Tourism in Central Australia. She returned to study jewellery making in Tasmania, finishing her diploma in 2011. A major theme of her work has always been ‘place’ and ‘home’.

Tanja is staying for an extra day after FASHFEST to participate in Day 5, to be held Sunday 17 May, 2 to 7pm. Entry is free to this ‘trade show’ where visitors can check out designs up close and personal and chat to designers from FASHFEST direct, trying on garments, getting measured up to place orders and, overall, continue experiencing the wonderful world of fashion.

If you’re ever in Hobart, visit the Salamanca Arts Centre, where Tanja has her studio.

Jewellery (in isolation) by Paul Redding Photographer

Other photos by Matt Green, Viridian Photos

And, don’t forget to get your tickets for FASHFEST—they’re selling FAST!

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