Tag Archives: Bilk Gallery

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 www.designcanberrafestival.com.au

 

An Amazing Body of Work!

Bodywork: Australian Jewellery 1970 – 2012

It’s on and it’s worth a visit. A fascinating exhibition, Bodywork: Australian Jewellery 1970–2012, has opened its doors to the public here in the capital. This unique and must-see travelling exhibition showcases the work of 42 of the country’s most influential, contemporary jewellery designers. By Wendy Johnson.

 

Sunrise and shade, brooch 1981, by Elizabeth Olah. Using sterling silver, 18 carat gold, porcelain, and opal National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Crafts Board Collection donated by the Australia Council 1982

Sunrise and shade, brooch 1981, by Elizabeth Olah. Using sterling silver, 18 carat gold, porcelain, and opal
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Crafts Board Collection donated by the Australia Council 1982

Bodywork has worked its way through five states, inspiring and intriguing thousands of visitors, and has now come home for its last show. Even though the collection is owned by the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), the exhibition is at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre, as part of its outreach program. Each piece of jewellery in Bodywork was hand-selected by Dr Robert Bell AM, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, NGA, who wanted to ‘inspire, intrigue and inform’. The work is beautifully displayed in six specially designed cases.

And Canberra can hold its head high. Four jewellery designers from here were selected for Bodywork; Robert Foster, of Fink + Co, Simon Cottrell, Head of the Gold and Silversmithing Workshop at ANU, both Accredited Professional Members of Craft ACT, and Helen Aitken-Kuhnen and Johannes Kuhnen of Bilk Gallery in Manuka.The jewellery is grouped under six themes— Romanticism, Interpreting the Vernacular, Encapsulating Nature, Technics, Social Message, and Sculpture for the Body. All pieces come from the NGA’s jewellery collection, which is the largest collection in the country.

Sheep, pendant c.1979 sterling silver, carved quartz by Eléna Gee National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Crafts Board Collection donated by the Australia Council 1982

The diversity of design, materials and technique used to design and create each piece in this stunning collection is fascinating and so too is the short film featuring Dr Bell, which provides deeper insights. Pieces include brooches, arm bands, lockets, rings, bangles, and pendants created out of a wide range of materials such as gold, sterling silver, copper, coral, aluminium and polypropylene.

 

Image left: Sheep, pendant c.1979
sterling silver, carved quartz by Eléna Gee
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Crafts Board Collection donated by the Australia Council 1982

 

 

Some pieces will take you by surprise, like Brenda Ridgewell’s Space edifice armband (2002), made of silver and carat gold. Brenda’s jewellery is architectural in form and often articulated and adjustable, allowing it move with the body.

Brenda Ridgewell Space edifice, armband 2002 by Brenda Ridgewell, using 925 silver and 9 carat gold National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2003

Space edifice, armband 2002 by Brenda Ridgewell, using 925 silver and 9 carat gold
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2003

The superb Ocean blue necklace, by Canberra’s Helen Aitken-Kuhnen, is made with finely crushed glass mixed with other materials to form a paste. The glass paste is then put into a mould and heated to fuse it together.

Ocean blue, necklace 2009 in sterling silver, cast glass pâte-de-verre, and stainless steel by Helen Aitken-Kuhnen National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2009 with funds from the Meredith Hinchliffe Fund

Craft ACT was a natural fit for the last show of Bodywork. “The National Gallery and Craft ACT are both the same age, having opened in the 1970s,” says Dr Bell. “Craft ACT has been part of the national scene for a long time. It’s appropriate that Bodywork’s final showing is in its home town and with our friend CraftAC.”

 

Image right: Ocean blue, necklace 2009 in sterling silver, cast glass pâte-de-verre, and stainless steel by Helen Aitken-Kuhnen
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2009 with funds from the Meredith Hinchliffe Fund.

 

 

 

Bodywork: Australian jewellery 1970–2012 is on until Saturday 24 October 2015.

Also showing at the same time at Craft ACT Gallery is Table Tools, a solo exhibition by gold and silversmith Alison Jackson, who is also Craft ACT Accredited Professional Member.