Had an absolutely bangin’ session of Kokedama making at the Richmond library last week!!
Had an absolutely bangin’ session of Kokedama making at the Richmond library last week!!
Every piece I made for this exhibition was finished in the weeks after the world lost David Bowie. His words and music have seeped into each earring and every necklace. They are to be worn with love and a sense of gay abandon. My jewellery practice is based around the use of recycled and sustainable materials. This vital personal ethos informs all of the creative choices I make. I glean materials from all sorts of places – and these days, they seem to find me as much as I find them. Aside from the obvious environmental and ethical benefits of using recycled materials, I am also drawn to the variety of colours and textures it affords.
The Urban Gleaner and the Plastique was a group exhibition of contemporary jewellery that features plastic which has already lived a life and would otherwise have been destined for landfill.
The reclaimed and found plastics are used alongside traditional jewellery materials to create wearable pieces that are beautiful, colourful and inspire dialogue on sustainable design. The maker’s concepts are diverse and continue the practice of transforming the discards of our lives into pieces.
Artists include Laila Marie Costa, Emma Grace, Marcos Guzman, Penny Jagiello and Alice Potter. The exhibition is curated by Laila Marie Costa.
February 6 – 20, 2016
This week I taught a workshop at Heritage Hill in Dandenong to a lovely group of women from around the area. We started the class with and intro to tool and techniques then when on to make a charm bracelet out of jewellery sourced from the op-shop. After everyone was comfortable with the basics, we took the next step and made earring out of ‘found objects’ – casino chips (from a game I found at the op-shop) and industrial waste from Reverse Art Truck. This was a great morning and everyone left feeling very pleased with themselves for having learnt a new skill and spent time exploring their creativity.
In a few weeks I’ll be teaching my first jewellery workshop at Grub Food Van in Fitzroy. If you haven’t been to Grub before I recommend you check it out – it’s a gorgeous space full of light, plants and kitsch bits and pieces.
Here’s some more info…
Learn the basics of jewellery making while up-cycling vintage pieces and found objects into new items of bespoke jewellery!
This hands-on workshop covers the techniques, terms and tools of fashion-jewellery making. You will be guided through the creation of your very own bespoke jewellery and finish the workshop with two or more pieces of jewellery to take home.
In this workshop you will also have the opportunity to bring your old jewellery back to life or turn them into something fresh and exciting under the expert guidance of sustainable jeweller and repair enthusiast Emma Grace.
Tools and materials supplied but please also bring your old jewellery & op-shop treasures to work with.
Suitable for beginners to intermediate levels.
Date: 25 April 2015
Location: Grub Food Van
87-89 Moor St, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065 Australia
* Glass of Sparkling included in workshop fee.
Food and drinks available A la Carte for purchase on the day.
Last on the agenda to talk about is the lovely article the Leader newspaper wrote about my recent workshop. Here ’tis…
Last year, a successful crowd-funding campaign (with Pozible) enabled me to research and develop my first sustainable jewellery collection. Below is a list of all the sustainability factors that I put into practice with this new jewellery collection.
100% Recycled Metal
By using 100% recycled sterling silver and 18ct gold I have eliminated ‘the mining factor’ from this collection of jewellery. The metal has been recycled from various sources including scrap-jewellery, photographic waste, and industrial waste such as e-waste (electric power is dependant on silver contacts in switches and circuit breakers).
No soldering (i.e. the joining of metal with heat and chemicals) cuts out the need for chemicals during the making process. It also means the metal is left pure so it can be easily re-worked or re-used at ‘end of life’ without having to go through a refining process.
No emery means reduced reliance on ‘consumables’ (i.e. things that can’t be re-used). Instead I use a super-fine file which can be used over and over again. Cutting out emery from my making process also means that my Lemel (metal dust and shavings) is more pure, and therefore requires less refining when being recycled.
Instead of a chemical ‘pickle’ (cleaning bath), I use a mixture of citric acid and salt to clean my metal after it has been heated.
I use materials from old jewellery, domestic and industrial waste as embellishments on my jewellery pieces.
Zero waste philosophy
The entire area of material is taken into consideration when I’m designing pieces. For example, when I cut a circle shape out of a square, I use the remaining material for embellishments and subsequent designs, rather than recycling it (as melting or refining it requires more energy).
I have designed this collection to lend itself to being developed as the wearer’s tastes and needs evolve over time; additions such as recycled stones can be attached, embellishments can be added, holes can be drilled to add more ornamentation, paint colour can be changed and designs can be modified.
Made to last
This jewellery is meticulously hand-made using durable materials and robust designs.
Extended Producer Responsibility
Nothing lasts forever. I believe producers should take responsibility for the things they produce. That’s why I commit to buy back the metal from my jewellery once it has finished its journey with its wearer.
Working with community
I am working with The Ownership Project (a NFP working with indigenous people and new migrants to up-skill them with printing expertise), using their waste aluminium printing plates to make jewellery. Part profits of these sales go back to The Ownership Project.
Profits to charity
I donate 20% of my profits to environmental campaigns run buy GetUp! from every piece of jewellery sold featuring the ‘New Seed’ symbol.
Everything in this collection is made by hand. Eliminating the use of machinery during the making process means that the use of fossil fuels is drastically reduced.
Each piece of jewellery has been stamped with an ‘R’ for ‘recycled’ and comes with an information card directing people to read more about the jewellery’s sustainability credentials. In creating this jewellery collection and listing all the points above, it is my hope that I make it easier for other jewellers to adopt some of these practices, and for consumers to learn more about what is involved in the making of a piece of jewellery.
But I also need to add…
While being able to offer sustainable products is really important to me, I don’t see consumerism as the solution to a sustainable lifestyle. If you’re concerned about Climate change, action is the key to making a difference. Your actions don’t have to be huge (chat to a neighbour about solar power, fix an item of clothing instead of replacing it, attend a local council meeting), but ‘walking the talk’ is (as Salt-n-Pepa would say) very necessary!
Here’s a daunting fact; nearly every piece of plastic EVER MADE still exists today!
I’m just emerging from a black-hole of information on the manufacture, make-up, and end-of-life possibilities of nylon vs hemp. I’m exploring their properties as two possible options to use for the pendants of my new collection.
On the one hand you have nylon which is really strong and durable, looks fantastic and comes in truly magnificent colours. But, it is made using crude oil, requires lots of energy to make it, and produces CO2 emissions and a whole lot of other nasties which you can read about on this terrific blog here.
A fact in its favour is that it can be recycled, but, let’s be honest, the likelihood of people making the effort to recycle their small bit of nylon thread is very low.
Hemp, on the other hand, seems to be the goody-two-shoes of thread! One of its most impressive credentials is that it is “among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years…” (thanks HIA) Does that blow your mind? It does mine. 10,000 years? That’s what I call sustainable! (by contrast the first bit of nylon was made on the 28th of February, 1935 – and, since it is of the plastic family, we know that every single piece of nylon that has been produced since that day most likely still exists on the planet somewhere. Ick.).
Anyway, I haven’t been able to find out much about the processing of hemp (dying, factory conditions, energy required to convert it from a plant into thread etc), but the fibre itself seems almost infallible. With only 8 natural enemies (out of 100 common pests) it is usually grown without pesticides (less pollution of our water ways and poisoning of the land), has very long fibres (longer and tougher than cotton), and is even good to eat (totally irrelevant to this blog but true none the less). It’s grown in Oz but sent OS for processing as we don’t have the set-up here yet (looks like they’re planning one for Qld some time soon).
The hemp I’m considering purchasing comes from Romania (Romania has a great and long association with hemp – unfortunately 50% of the general population are unhappy with their working conditions so this may mean that it’s made in a factory where conditions aren’t so great, I don’t know this for sure yet). Another brand comes from the USA but as growing hemp there is banned, I’m not sure where the fibre comes from or where or how it is processed.
From a design point of view, hemp’s available in many great colours (which coincidently go very well with the colour scheme in my new collection), and comes in a lovely polished finish. Almost perfect. But it’s so un-cool! (Yes, I am aware of how un-cool using a term like un-cool makes me sound. What evs.) Mention hemp and most will picture a hippy in dust-coloured Hessian-like trousers. Well, people, its time we changed that. The argument for natural fibres is clearly a strong one. From start to finish, their impact on the Earth is much lower.
So caught up in the nylon v hemp battle I almost forgot to address the topic of this blog; I have signed myself up for Plastic-free July. Read more about the awesome folks in WA running this here (you could even sign yourself up!). I’ve no doubt this will be challenging, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of it. I like to participate in a bit of extreme behaviour every now and then. The last time I did something similar was the ‘two-dollar a day’ challenge set by the kids at Oaktree. I had to eat on a budget of $2 a day for a week. Think about that for a moment. No coffee (had to go cold turkey) and only the tiniest amount of milk, sugar and salt to prop up my diet of beans, oats, rice and, well, that was pretty much it. But out of that experience I learned how to fit breakfast into my morning routine, broke my dairy addiction and gained an enormous appreciation of how ridiculously hard it must be to have to survive on that amount day-in day-out (important to note that a large percentage of the world’s population have to include medical and general living expenses in their $2 a day budget). So, as I say, bring it on!
In a little beach town called Torquay lives a gorgeous little workshop named Zeally and Cliff. I recently delivered a full-day workshop here and had a delightful day with the ladies who came to learn how to fix and re-create their old jewellery.
Here’s what some of the students had to say about the workshop:
“I learnt some great skills and Emma is a very lovely, relaxed and patient tutor and was generous in sharing her skills. A warm and cosy room” Sarah, Jan Juc.
“Thought [it was] fantastic from start to finish, great, thoroughly enjoyed the day. Emma explained things really well…. it was great to be shown and then do it myself. I was also inspired by what everybody else was making.” Deb, Parkdale.
Zeally and Cliff was a beautiful place to teach; the workshop room was sunny and open, and our host Kathryn is one of the loveliest people you’ll meet. If you’re in the area, I recommend checking them out!