Katherine Bowman

My visit to Katherine Bowman’s Melbourne studio last month was a pilgrimage of sorts. Emails organizing the where and when of our meeting had been exchanged weeks in advance but when the day finally arrived I have to say I felt excited and just a tad nervous about it at the same time. Such was the buildup to being face to face with one of my instagram idols and a real practicing gold and silversmith.

Bowman’s studio/home is well hidden on a quiet street in one of Melbourne’s inner city suburbs. My husband and I and our two friends had taken a train and a tram and then walked several blocks to find it using my phone’s GPS. When we arrived at the location there was no signage indicating that a thriving jewellery business operated beyond the unassuming shop front with its metal flywire door and sandblast film window.

Beyond that flywire screen door Katherine and her sweet little dog Kiki welcomed me into the all white consultation area with its dining-sized wooden table and a simple up-cycled metal cabinet displaying her unique ceramic sculptures. The space was filled with soft music and and the scent of incense and I felt more at ease thanks to Katherine’s gentle manner and an almost spiritual approach to her work. She’s interested in ‘how we imbue an object with meaning and the consequent relationship the object has with the body it adorns’. So where I simply make pieces, Katherine gives anything she crafts a name and a purpose.

Let’s just say that my heart started to beat faster when she placed 3 black velvet sample cases in front of me. Kind of like the proverbial kid in a candy store scenario. Oh my! I wanted ALL of her rings and ALL of the gorgeous Australian stones she uses but after some discussion I commissioned a ring which she was able to have ready 2 weeks later before our flight back to Canada…sterling silver with a 3mm Australian parti sapphire called a ‘Journey Keepsake Protection’ ring which I’m thrilled with…

Bead-set Australian Parti Sapphire with Feather Engraved Band

Now, abit about Katherine who obtained a Bachelor of Arts with a Double Major in Fine Art History from the University of Melbourne (1988 -1991) and a degree with Honours in Gold and Silversmithing at RMIT (2001). She was given an Australian Post Graduate Award and completed a Master of Arts through RMIT as well. She’s also been teaching goldsmithing and silversmithing there since 2011 and is a founding member of Northcity4 which supports the Australian contemporary jewellery community (which would be cool if I lived in Melbourne). 

You can find out more about Katherine Bowman on her website and also on Instagram here. And now, some of her gorgeous work…

Ballad Ring


Ring Set With Austalian Sapphires
Lucky Ring Stack
Nomad Ring

Hidden Details on a Peacock Ring 
Large Emerald Ring

 

 

Winter Vacation

It’s always a weird experience trundling down the jet bridge toward a plane, trying to catch a last glimpse before you leave a place, even if it’s just the trees in the distance that line the massive expanse of airport tarmac. It’s even more weird to sit in the dimmed lighting of that plane for 15 hours knowing that you’re hurtling across the planet over deep black oceans and that when it finally touches down you’ll arrive on the same day you left. Such was my experience of a recent trip to Australia.

So as I dust off my tools, refill my dusty quench bowl and consider my next projects in the workroom, let me share some of my many memories of that beautiful country…

p.s. coming soon, some amazing Australian makers

 

 



A family of kangaroos in the early morning, Yarra Glen
Garden plant at M & R’s, Yarra Glen
Sorrento back beach
Koala resting on the road between Corowa and Beechworth
Redwood plantation near Warburton in Victoria

The Ceramics of Tomoko Sakumoto

I’ve never seen ceramics like these before. Japanese-born Tomoko Sakumoto (BFA, Okayama University, 2000. MFA, Okayama Prefectural University, 2002) creates boldly coloured contemporary striped forms that seem to invite you to touch them, or is it just me? And I couldn’t put my finger on it until just now…the stripes, although so very precise, remind me of either a circus tent or a men’s necktie…so I’m sensing both a playfulness and seriousness from them at the same time. And I LOVE their bulbous forms!

Sakumoto’s artist statement doesn’t translate exactly as she might’ve meant but it gives you some idea of her process and intent with these very attractive pieces.

 ‘I create works for the beauty that a stripe pattern intersects the solid of ceramics. The form and the pattern are imaging in my mind passing through the processes or conversations of materials.

I make a lot of parts which I cast clay that add color to a plaster mold, and the form of the art object and a color of the stripe have been laid by piling up them. The plaster mold is the method that I arrived at to draw a straight line necessary to express the simple beauty.

The parallel lines which spread without determining it while snuggling up nearest, and crossing, the stripe is the meeting. I hope it becomes more attractive in what is expressed by the feel of a material of ceramics’.

As for a web presence, Sakumoto is represented by a number of galleries. Her work can also be viewed on the dreaded Pinterest. As well she’s referenced on Instagram by others but doesn’t have an account under her name as far as I can tell.

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Form 102 from 21. 2010
Form 102 From 21, 2010

Form 103 from 12
Form 103 From 12

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Form 113 From 20

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Form 182 From 20

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Rabbit, 2008

Philip Sajet – Let’s Make Something Beautiful

I once had a fellow design student ask me how to draw. We were gathered at a campus offsite from our own and were supposed to be sketching things around us. I described to her how I approached drawing; using the pencil as an extension of my eye, to move it over the paper as my eye moved over the object. It made perfect sense to me but I don’t think it helped her. Her drawing skills never improved over the 4 years. Don’t worry though, she graduated at the top of the class in the end. My point here is that we all have strengths and weaknesses. We can’t all be brain surgeons or jewellery makers or even interior designers ;-).

I’d say Dutch-born Philip Sajet’s (BA Jewellery, Edelsmeden, 1981) was probably born with the ability to combine and contrast colour, form and perceived value in his beautiful jewellery. And as a collector of rusty old washers on roadsides I have to say he’s an inspiration!

You can find him on Instagram here.

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Crescendo, 1998. Rust, Gold

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Collier Rouge 10, 2010. Glass, Gold

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Le Rock, 2009. Nare, Water buffalo Horn, Amethyst, Smoky Quartz Gold

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 Her Royal Roughness, 2017,  Red Glass, River Stones (partly sawed and polished), Flint Stone, Silver, Gold

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1990

 

 

 

 

 

From Mistake to Favourite Ring

Have you ever made something with your art that you later wished you hadn’t? I have. This is a story of spending time with your mistakes, persevering and reworking an idea if you can.

I made this ring last year but when I got it back from the caster I wasn’t happy with it. The casting itself was imperfect (bubbles and cavities that weren’t part of the wax model) and the texture boring (an experiment using a piece of cotton gauze dabbed into the molten wax). I thought I could jazz it up by oxidizing it but in the end it was relegated to a shelf in my workroom to gather dust.

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Booorrr…ring 

Months later I came across it and without much thought tossed it into my crucible for an upcoming sand casting attempt. It was a mistake I could simply melt away. I don’t know why but several days later when I got around to the sand casting project I noticed it in amongst all the other bits and pieces in the crucible and took it out. I might’ve stared at it for a few seconds before deciding to put the sand casting aside because I HAD to hit that boring texture with some heat to see what would happen. 

So much fun! The heat from the propane torch softened out the original texture and as parts of the surface of the ring began to flow I had a brilliant idea…why not solder on a tiny ball of 9k gold. Oooh la la! So I positioned the band in my 3rd hand tool and placed the gold ball carefully on a chip of solder and slowly added some heat again.

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Heat + Time + Gold = Fun?

Now, if you’ve ever heated silver with a torch you’ll understand something of metallurgy, that there’s a precise moment when a millisecond more heat is a millisecond too much. You can be thrilled one second and totally defeated the next. And I was defeated when I saw that .35 gms of gold disappear into the molten flow of solder and silver just as I pulled the torch away. Damn it!! I was left with a silver ring that had only the faintest hint of a pale gold tinge along its surface. Such a drag! I kept the ring like that for a couple of days before deciding to add some more heat, secretly hoping that the gold would somehow find it’s way back to the surface. As if.

The more I heated the band though the more interesting it became. It was morphing into a moonscape with parts of the surface that held the original casting flaws deepening and pitting as others bubbled and moved. I kind of lost interest in the gold at that point because I was so excited about this new texture. I wore this new version for several more days before deciding it needed oxidizing…

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When in doubt…add more heat

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Left ring  – oxidized and posing with other rings

I would’ve left it at that but the more I looked at it the more I wanted to try setting a stone into it, somewhere inside the pitted area that would become a focal point. I chose the spot for the stone and drilled out a seat for a 2mm garnet I had kicking around in my jewel box. I’d planned to do a bead setting but soon realized another fact regarding metallurgy – continual heating of .925% silver brings the .075% alloys to the surface causing the remaining silver to become brittle. Damn it again. Out with the beading tool and plan B was to solder on 4 silver beads around the seat that would act as prongs. Out came the 3rd hand tool again with the solder chips placed ever so carefully underneath the 4 silver beads.

Now, if you’re like me, soldering is both exciting and terrifying because again, heat + time needs to be precise – especially when you’re trying to solder on a thinner area of the band. Everything was going great, the solder was beginning to set down where it should and the silver beads were all in place. I was queen of jewellery making in that moment. That was until one of the beads suddenly jumped off the ring and 2 others decided to coalesce. DAMMNN IT! After some fiddling I was able to set the stone securely and added some texture to the surface. Voila!

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The final version

In the end I decided this was where I wanted to leave the ring and I have to say from start to finish I learned a lot about re-working a piece, transforming it from a mistake for melting in a crucible to my favourite ring of all time. Amen,

Jenny Anderson

Anderson studied fashion design prior to obtaining a bachelors degree in metalsmithing/silversmithing and is currently attending technical college to obtain a certificate in engineering. Wow! I think it’s so cool that she sets precious metals and stones against blackened steel, paint and gorgeous found objects, always with a keen eye on form, volume and craft.
Now, this is a tiny sampling of her work below, so please do yourself a favour and check out her Instagram feed here which is more current than her website, because, you know, who has time to keep a website up to date when you can just post to Instagram. I’m with you on that point Jenny 🙂

 

U Shape ring. Steel

Interactive box ring. Sterling silver

Chain earrings. Sterling silver

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Black steel bangles

 

 

Olivier Van Herpt – 3D Printing Ceramics

Have you ever wandered the aisles of a big box store searching for a particular something, a simple utilitarian household object that shouldn’t be hard to find (soap dispensers come to my mind for some reason)? And have you ever been amazed at the lack of variety on those shelves and secretly wished you could design and produce your own household object? Well then, meet Olivier Van Herpt (Design Academy Eindhoven, 2015), the Dutch industrial designer whose work examines the typical top down relationship between manufacturer and consumer using 3D printing.

3D printing has been used to produce widgets and gadgets for all sorts of applications for a number of years, everything from plastic auto parts to surgically implanted replacement parts in the human body. The evolution of this ‘additive manufacturing’ technology can be traced to the early 1980’s and even further (the 1900’s!) and involves a material, guided by a computer added onto itself to create a component. Van Herpt wanted to test the limits of a typical desktop 3D printer to produce his own functional, large scale piece of ceramics and began to experiment.olivier-vanherpt-3d-printing-ceramics-1-800x533

Initially he wasn’t content with the results. The printer could only produce small objects and these weren’t heat resistant or food safe. So he adapted the machine by designing and making his own clay extruder and experimented with different types of clay mixed with water. Adding water would’ve made sense to me because the process itself is about the extrusion of a material from a nozzle onto a horizontal plane. I’d have assumed that a diluted material would flow better than a dense one. But it didn’t work (I’d have given up right there). Continuing to work on the problem his eureka moment occurred 2 years later when he redesigned the extruder and used hard clay that dripped from the nozzle instead of being expelled in the conventional cord-like fashion and this allowed him to make larger pieces with more surface definition as well as random human-like imperfections. So amazing!

If that’s not enough amazingness for you, then consider that his adaptations to 3D printer technology are open source on the ol’ internet which means we can all print ourselves some gorgeous ceramics and I may one day make my own soap dispenser.

Now feast your eyes on these and tell me whether or not Van Herpt has redesigned mass production for the better. You can also find more about him and his ongoing collaborative explorations into the manufacturing process here. Or check out his Instagram page here.

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Judy Nygren

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a vegetarian or not but I love still life paintings of fruit and or vegetables. And I love the paintings of Judy Nygren who, among other subjects, paints the most beautiful cabbages I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t have a website though so all I can tell you is that she has a studio in Fort Langley, BC., that she went to the University of Victoria, BC and that over the years she took numerous painting classes with the Federation of Canadian Artists in Vancouver. She says she loves to ‘capture the light as it falls on a subject to create a focal point and high contrast.  I cannot resist a subject that is “back lit”  where the intense light shines through a leaf or flower’. She does it so well!

You can find Judy in her studio in the Flatiron Building on Billy Brown Road, Fort Langley.

96850langleyFullCircleTwocabbage patch 4J. Nygren flower

Anna Vlahos

Call it personal bias but I’ve always loved jewellery with a rough hand-hewn look rather than machine-made exactness. There’s something intrinsically human about meandering lines, imperfect forms and surface flaws that I relate to. Where machine jewellery is about uniformity and industrial scale production I hear the maker’s story in a handmade piece. That brings me to the work of Anna Vlahos whose distinctive aesthetic tells the story of place; Australia where she grew up and Greece where she now lives.

MIRACULASS 2015
MIRACULASS, 2015

Before moving to Greece, Vlahos obtained her Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) at the School of Visual Arts, Cowan University in Perth, Australia majoring in printmaking (1999-2001) with Honours there (2002). In 2004 she obtained a Certificate IV in Jewellery Design and Production from Central TAFE in Fremantle (2004).

Regarding her work and it’s unique style she says…

Ancient artisans broke down the natural world around them into patterns and motifs. The jewellery and art objects they created come out of the ground as though they grow down there.  Living in Athens, these become my replacement for the natural world I left behind in Australia. I take these simple pattern elements, borrowing from vase and amphora and rhyton .and replicate them infinitely. Using these pattern puzzle pieces, I can build a nature of my own, drawing on the flora of my memories and my home, but built using the visual language of those artisans’. (via klimt02.net)

I might’ve been daydreaming during social studies class and missed the lecture on amphoras and rhytons so I had to look them up… antiquity people made vessels, usually out of clay, to transport things like olive oil and wine.These were often painted and that strange pointy base meant they could be stood upright in soft soil or sand or held in wooden racks on ships for transporting. A rhyton was also a container. It was a horn shaped cup that held wine and it often had animal forms and motifs on it. It would’ve been used everyday and in special ceremonies

 

 

Growing up in Australia Vlahos would’ve been familiar with trees like this…

 

 

Now, tell me if you see those influences in this maker’s beautiful work…

 

 

Ophir, 2012. Sterling silver, copper, paint 6x2cm
Ophir, 2012. Sterling silver, copper, paint

Amphor black, 2016. Sterling silver 10 x 7 x 5.5 cm
Vessel: Amphor Black, 2016. Sterling silver, 10x7x5.5cm

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From exhibition : Mutation

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Basic rings, dark

Brooch: Miracualss, 2015. Sterling silver, 24kt gold 12x5x3.5cm
Brooch: Miraculass, 2015. Sterling silver, 24kt gold 12x5x3.5cm

You can find out more about this Anna Vlahos here or on Instagram here.

Evan Eisman – Brooklyn Blast Studio

If you’ve ever toiled at removing decades-old paint or varnish from a piece of furniture or annoying bubbles and scratches from a ring shank (me! me!) you understand how sandpaper abrades a surface. Imagine then what a high velocity stream of sand directed onto a surface can do. And imagine that stream directed by an artist.

Evan Eisman opened Brooklyn Blast Studio in 1998 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard 7 years after obtaining a degree in painting from Pratt Institute. He and his team use ‘blast technology’ to create everything from amazing subtle textures to precise engravings on glass, stone, wood, metal and even wool felt and paper. Prittay cool if you ask me.

Check out their website here or find them on instagram here.

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Elm

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Grain enhancement

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Engraving granite

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Maple

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Marble

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Paper