MasterMakers celebrates skills and originality in contemporary jewellery

A bold, unexpected and daring exhibition of contemporary jewellery that charts four decades of Gold and Silversmithing masterclasses run by RMIT’s School of Art will dazzle at RMIT Gallery from 6 September.

The 84 artists in MasterMakers have either taught a masterclass or have attended one of the workshops. The 200 extraordinary works on display reveal the influence of three generations of boundary pushing which test our understanding of contemporary gold and silversmithing in new and unexpected ways.

From taxidermy to textiles, 3-D printing to recycled materials, as well as unusual combinations of precious metals, MasterMakers celebrates the intricacies of the handmade, the importance of ideas and the mastery of skills and technique.

Starting in an era before digital communication, social media and the ubiquitous Instagram feed, the persistent regularity of RMIT’s masterclass workshop series since the 1980s and the international standing of the Gold and Silversmithing Studio at RMIT has brought jewellers, students and practitioners in contact with leading makers from around the world.

Lead by practitioners from a remarkably diverse range of backgrounds, genders and identities, the intense, in-depth, and often immersive experience of working with experts has been transformative for generations of students.

The workshops offered participants a steady succession of makers from the UK, USA, Japan, the Netherlands and Germany, such as influential jeweller Lucy Sarneel from The Netherlands whose distinctive use of fabricated zinc is inspired by her local architecture.

According to curator and lecturer Mark Edgoose the workshops had a profound impact on the training of the craft in Australia, fostering international contact and communication, and leading to the sharing of skills, methods and philosophies of making. He recalls Melbourne jeweller Bin Dixon-Ward first learning 3-D printing in a workshop run by American artist Nicole Jacquard in 2010.

“The masterclasses enabled new ways of working and thinking about the possibilities of contemporary jewellery, especially at a time when ideas were primarily disseminated via books and magazines and international travel wasn’t commonplace,” Edgoose said.

“They also helped build a community of makers as the workshops were not part of the teaching program and were open to both practicing jewellers and students, so the influence and impact was widespread.”

MasterMakers showcases both recent work of the ‘master’ makers who taught the workshops over the decades, as well as work they produced at the masterclasses, alongside recent work by those who participated in the workshops.

A complementary exhibition Insistent. Gestures curated by Taiwan-born jewellery artist Yu Fang Chi, an RMIT PhD graduate, will also be exhibited at RMIT Gallery alongside MasterMakers. The result of an early career curator mentorship program offered by the Melbourne Contemporary Jewellery and Object Biennial Radiant Pavilion, the exhibition brings together the exquisitely detailed work of five artists who live, work or were born in Asia.

What: MasterMakers and Insistent. Gestures

When: 6 September – 9 November 2019

Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Opening Night: Thursday 5 September 6-8 pm

Opening Speaker: Virginia Trioli, journalist, author, radio and television presenter

Story by Evelyn Tsitas


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