OK, before you get on the ‘but Adelaide’s not regional!’ train – it sort of is. And who could turn down the chance to get into the studio of one of Australia’s finest and most respected jewellers? Not me, that’s for sure. So I found myself heading into the city on a fine autumn afternoon after a country road trip, only to find myself surrounded by greenery and beautiful gardens. It felt like the country is my point, including the cuppa and bickies awaiting me there.
Julie Blyfield has been working since the early 90’s with traditional silversmithing techniques, deriving inspiration from botanical drawings and the natural world. “I love walking and exploring my surrounding environment. Morialta Falls in the Adelaide foothills is a favourite location for walking and Chris (Blyfield’s partner) and I enjoying some fresh air and exercise. It’s a dramatic landscape, with folded rocks and dense vegetation. Amazing for bird life and spider orchids in spring with koalas sitting high in the forks of the gum trees”.
Blyfield’s work is held in numerous collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Museé des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. I visited Blyfield in the final stages of preparing work for her new exhibition Panorama, on preview at the JamFactory, Adelaide, from tomorrow until the 25th of July. In this exhibition of 53 works, Blyfield says she imagined creating a ‘landscape in silver’. Panorama then travels to to the Ruthin Crafts Centre in North Wales in September and The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in February 2016. The exhibition was funded by the Australia Council as a Creative Australia grant. If you’re in South Australia, the official opening is on July 16th at the JamFactory in Adelaide.
I asked Blyfield about her research and the processes she used to create the works in Panorama….
The work was made over a period of 15 months to create the collection of 53 new jewellery/object pieces. It consists of neckpieces, brooches, earrings, small lidded containers and ‘hand raised’ hammered up cups.
My research involved travelling to remote locations in South Australia such as the Olary region, Yunta and also viewing collections at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney where I looked at original botanical watercolour paintings by Ellis Rowan. Whilst there I also looked at designs for decorative architectural floral motifs by Lucien Henry.
In the middle of 2014 I undertook a workshop at the JamFactory with a Korean engraving Master – Master Sung Joon Cho and he was incredibly generous in sharing traditional engraving techniques (called joi-jil) In the workshop he made us each a small tool which is used to cut the metal surface leaving a’ feather linear’ pattern which is cut into the surface. It was fantastic to watch and learn from him.
When I begin a new group of work I enjoy working with actual physical resources as this ‘real’ experience inspires and motivates me to keep my work fresh and hopefully, new . I enjoy finding solutions to creating new work. I usually begin with taking photos, then rough sketching, model making, refining and making samples if necessary. Once I am happy with an idea I can then refine it and make more accurate models which form the templates for saw piercing the metal. The silver sheet metal is ‘chased’ or textured to finish and sometimes I colour the work to create contrast and boldness.