Construct—with Phoebe Porter

By Wendy Johnson

Phoebe Porter doesn’t have much time to sit still these days. This contemporary designer, who works out of her studio at ANCA, has recently just finished a major exhibition at e.g.etal contemporary jewellery and objects in Melbourne. She’s made a selection of new pieces for Bilk Gallery’s annual Christmas showcase (on until 24 December). She is getting ready to be involved in a project for the National Gallery of Australia to celebrate the work of renowned Australian sculptor Inge King. And she will be hosting an open studio as part of DESIGN Canberra, under the festival’s Living Artists program.

Phoebe Porter_Phoebe Porter_Line earrings

Phoebe Porter_Phoebe Porter_Line earrings

During DESIGN Canberra (21 to 29 November), head to Dickson and meet Phoebe in her studio where you’ll get to connect with the artist and see her work, including pieces from Construct, the name of the exhibition she held in Melbourne.

You’ll marvel at how Phoebe, beginning with her training at art school here in Canberra, has developed a unique working process combining traditional gold and silversmithing techniques with Computer Aided Design and industrial processes. So it’s no surprise her latest collection is called Construct. “I use a combination of traditional techniques such as sawing, hammering, filing and soldiering as well as more industrial techniques such as machining, pressing and anodising,” says Phoebe.

Phoebe Porter_Folded earrings

Phoebe Porter_Folded earrings

The jewellery in Construct plays with contrasts—of colour, material and scale. Bright colours contrast with soft grey tones of stainless steel. Natural materials contrast with machined, manmade alloys. Large elements contrast with small.

“The DESIGN Canberra open studio is an opportunity for me to connect directly with my audience who are often a step away from me when I sell through a gallery or a shop,” says Phoebe. “My studio is not usually open to the public, so this is a rare chance for people to see how I develop my work from start to finish—from design development, through sketches, models and templates, and through  to fabrication of the final pieces.

“Many people have a deep fascination with the tools and processes I use in my studio, perhaps partly due to nostalgia for a time where we made more things by hand. I have a vast collection of tools, including jewellery making tools, vintage workshop equipment and some custom tools I’ve developed specifically for particular designs.”

Phoebe Porter_Cantilever and Cubist rings

Phoebe Porter_Cantilever and Cubist rings

Phoebe believes contemporary jewellery inherently embodies all of the themes of DESIGN Canberra—Connect, Create, Collaborate. “Jewellery is about connections … whether it’s connections between people or connections between different ideas embodied in the work,” says the artist. “Jewellery has another life after it leaves the studio or the gallery when it becomes part of the wearer’s life and narrative. In that way there is a special sort of collaboration between the maker and wearer of a piece of jewellery.”

If jewellery is your passion, you’ll be delighted that Phoebe will be holding a sample sale on the day of her open studio, giving visitors a rare opportunity to buy unusual pieces from her archive—pieces not available elsewhere.

Phoebe Porter_5 Grams and 7 Grams necklaces

Phoebe Porter_5 Grams and 7 Grams necklaces

Besides Phoebe, ANCA (Australian National Capital Artists) will feature several other Living Artists’ open studios in both its locations (Mitchell and Dickson), covering various genres. Oliver Ayrton, Peter Giles, Sui Jackson, Dan Lorrimer, Keith Marshall, Ruth Oliphant and Alice Sutton will host open studios. They’re all free and drop-ins are welcome.

Bettina Hill, ANCA Arts administrator, says the Australian National Capital Artists was built in the 1990s mainly because Canberra didn’t have too many spaces for artists to have their studios. “ANCA was built as affordable, professional spaces where artists can be in a community, so they can work together and get support from each other. That’s what we strive for still today,” says Bettina.

Today, ANCA is home to around 40 artists and it also operates a gallery. DESIGN Canberra’s Living Artists program is about getting you involved and providing you with an opportunity to watch artists create work, discuss pieces and more.

ANCA Living Artists open studios is on Sunday 22 November from 2 – 6pm at 1 Rosevear Place, Dickson (where Phoebe is), and 96 Hoskins Street, Mitchell. For more info and to view the Festival program visit


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