Sunday, 30 September 2012

Brazilian Edelweiss

Another funny ball plant... I picked up this Brazilian Edelweiss recently after reading on the label that the "corm" (partially above-ground bulb) grows to 30cm in diameter! This only happens after a period of 15 years, but along with its strange fuzzy leaves, I was intrigued enough to take it home with me. When it shed its two flowers recently, the remaining base of each flower sprouted two very eerily eyeball-like spheres of clear, liquid sap. Now when I look at my Brazilian Edelweiss, it looks back at me! Every day the eyeballs seem to be getting bigger... Surely this is just a normal springtime process for this funny, alien-looking plant, and it will stop looking so much like tiny faces soon!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Looks like it could rain

A tiny ceramic note, outside Northcote Pottery Supplies in Brunswick...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Kokedama: The Japanese Moss Ball

When I lived in Japan, I had this little plant that I absolutely loved. It was planted not in a pot, but in a ball of soil covered in moss. When I left the country I was set on learning to make one of these Japanese ball plants, since of course customs restrictions prevented me from taking the plant home with me. Years later I've finally gotten around to looking into this, and here is my little experiment in kokedama, the Japanese moss-ball plant.


I (more or less) followed these instructions on the Design Sponge blog, using a baby fern and moss collected from the laneways of Brunswick. Judging from the variety of beautiful kokedama on Sala Sala's blog from the UK, kokedama can be made with a wide range of shade-loving plants.

I want the plant to sit on a plate like the one I had in Japan, not be suspended in a "string garden", so I've wrapped the moss ball in cotton thread instead of twine, with the idea that once the moss adheres itself more permanently to the soil, it can be removed. If it takes a long time for the moss to connect fully to the ball, the natural fibre can also be left to disintegrate over time.

So far so good! It seems happy with its indoor home so far.

At first I wasn't sure what these moss-ball plants were called, although kokedama translates literally as moss-ball (苔 koke: moss,  玉 dama: ball). While trying to find out more about this technique, I came across another interesting moss ball called marimo (毬藻). Marimo are completely different from kokedama, but fascinating: they are naturally occurring underwater algae colonies that form into perfect spheres in certain conditions in a few specific lakes in northern Japan, Iceland, Scotland and Estonia. While you can apparently buy small hand-rolled "marimo" algae balls from souvenir stands in these locations, the natural marimo form as rotating, free-floating algae colonies without any sort of kernel of foreign material at the centre of the ball. They grow about 5cm per year up to 20-30cm in diameter. Marimo comes from the Japanese word for a (toy) ball (毬 mari) and the word for underwater plants such as algae and seaweed (藻 mo).

They look a little bit familiar to me...

Marimo in Lake Akan, Japan (image from Japan Guide website)

I would love to see these in real life! But for now, I'll keep going with my kokedama experiments... I've got a few more in the works!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sneak Peek: New work at Arbor

I've been working on some new work for Arbor's upcoming online collection, launching soon in time for Christmas shopping. The new Arbor website is now up and running, with online sales coming soon. Here's a sneak peek at some of the brand new work I dropped off at Arbor this weekend! The gemstones are...(did you guess?) hand carved bouncy balls, set in sterling silver.

Photo by Jeremy Dillon

Friday, 21 September 2012

New Program, New Uses for Metals

 The National Jewelry and Metals Invitational celebrating the opening of the new Paducah School of Art's jewellery department made the front page of The Current (published by the Paducah Sun). Click on the images to see the text at a larger, more legible size.

The exhibition opens tonight!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Work in Progress: Building Streetscapes

Some new work in progress in the studio... A new landscape brooch about the ten-story apartment building that's blocking my view of Fleming Park. I've been looking at this building for a while - it's very hard not to! This building makes a small appearance as the tall walls in Fleming Park (spring, sunset), which is shown on the back of the Local Colour catalogue. I also mentioned the story of this work in progress toward the end of my Local Colour artist talk at Studio 20/17 in July. Only once has this drab concrete monstrosity appeared beautiful, and that one time it caught the light of the sunset and was stunning. This is it!

Another landscape brooch in the making: this one is where Westgarth Street meets Merri Parade, on the first day that of evening light as the days are getting longer in midwinter. This one has a ways to go before it's finished, but what a sight the light was bouncing off the grass next to the railroad that day!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

National Jewelry and Metals Invitational Exhibition opens Friday

The Jewelry and Metals Invitational Exhibition, celebrating the opening of the new gold and silversmithing program at the Paducah School of Art, opens this Friday, 21 September from 5-7pm. Two of my landscape brooches are featured in the exhibition. The exhibition features "a selection of works by leading artists employing a contemporary approach to the art of metalsmithing."  It will be held at the Clemens Gallery at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, 4810 Alben Barkley Drive in Paducah, Kentucky, and runs until 12 October.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Vito Bila at Monash University

Today through Thursday only: Vito Bila's MFA graduate exhibition Narrative at Monash University, 
Room D209, Fine Art Building (D), 900 Dandenong Road, Caulfield East. Closing drinks Thursday 20 September from 5-7pm. A collection of hand raised vessels.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Bad News for NSW TAFEs: Fine Arts Courses Defunded

The NSW government announced last Thursday that it will no longer fund fine arts courses at TAFE, effective 1 Januray 2013, citing low job prospects for graduates as their rationale. This is sad news affecting over 4000 arts students at NSW TAFEs. As NAVA (The National Association for Visual Arts) points out, graduates of fine arts programs apply their skills in a variety of creative industries, ranging from self-employment as independent practicing artists to working in media, industry and management roles.

NAVA's summary of the under-recognised value of creative arts is well put:

"Fine Arts are a part of the creative industries, which are not only cultural industries. They also drive innovation and add value to commercialization, distribution, marketing and design in all sectors of the economy. Creative skills are applied in the workplace with a strong degree of commercial focus, optimizing commercial output and growing creative input. They are part of the emerging services economy and therefore part of Australia’s future.

"Australia’s challenge is to integrate cultural production into the economic landscape. The creative industries are enablers of creative networks and spaces and of new business models. They contribute 2.8% of gross GDP (more than agriculture; communications; and electricity, gas and water supply). The visual arts, design and architecture makes up over 11% of the creative industries and have been growing in terms of employment opportunity. (See the Centre for International Economics, Creative Industries Economic Analysis June 2009)."

What does this mean for the Jewellery and Object Design course at Sydney Institute of TAFE's Design Centre Enmore? With Victorian TAFEs facing course and campus closures as a result of funding cuts of $300 million, and NSW and Queensland TAFEs looking at funding cuts of around $80 million each, what TAFE courses in jewellery are not currently under threat? I know of one Advanced Diploma of Jewellery offered in Perth. Of course we have NMIT and Box Hill TAFEs in Melbourne, and we're fighting to save TAFE in Victoria. I'd be interested to know if there are any other TAFE jewellery programs (other than apprenticeships) out there that aren't facing an uncertain future right now.

Best of luck to NSW: We'll be thinking of your TAFEs too when we rally to save Victorian TAFEs on Thursday. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

See you there! Rally to Save TAFE this Thursday 20 September

There will be another Rally to Save TAFE this Thursday 20 September at 12pm at the Treasury Gardens outside the Premier's office. Following reports of documents leaked in The Age last Thursday, TAFE 4 All states, "We are now fighting for the very survival of TAFE in Victoria."

The problem has been compounded by today's announcement that the national government is threatening to withhold over $400 million in funding to Victorian TAFEs over the next 5 years, arguing that the Baillieu government's cuts are in breach of the state's COAG (Council of Australian Governments) obligations. In April this year the Victorian government signed onto the Commonwealth's National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development, agreeing to provide certain levels of funding for TAFEs. Less than 3 weeks later, Victoria announced its plan to cut $300 million from TAFE funding. Today federal Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans says Victoria's TAFE cuts are "'destroying' the vocational sector and undermining the state's COAG obligations."

Minister Evans says, ''The COAG agreements set targets for both the number of people being trained and the quality of people being trained, and both these things are fundamentally undermined by the fire sale of TAFE.''

This news comes just days after TAFE transition plans were leaked to the public. The 86 page document leaked to The Age "reveals deeper cuts than first thought," including "plans for further campus and course closures, steep fee increases, job losses and tens of millions of dollars of asset sales." Whole TAFE campuses under threat of closure include Swinburne's Lilydale and Prahran campuses, Bendigo TAFE's Castlemaine campus, Central Gippsland's Yallourn campus, Kangan's Moreland campus, with still others deemed "at risk". The entire document can be read here.

Job losses for 2012-2013 specified in the report number in excess of 1400, although several TAFEs (including Swinburne, which has already reported 240 redundancies) did not report specific numbers. Several TAFEs report tuition fee increases averaging 80% to 100% across the organisation, with Box Hill TAFE indicating an average increase of 100%, with specific course fee hikes ranging from 0% to 593%!

The summary of NMIT's proposed transition plan is interesting, naming as part of its overall strategy to "grow enrolments and scale in programs that are dropped by other TAFEs and private providers, where it is economic to do so." NMIT aims to grow delivery in five areas of specialty, one of which is creative arts. Although job losses and course closures are in progress at NMIT also, I'm happy to take this as potentially a good sign for jewellery and visual arts at NMIT!

With the federal government's threat of further cuts, though, there's no escaping the fact that we really are fighting for the very survival of TAFE in Victoria. I'll certainly be at Thursday's rally to let Ted "Fail You" Ballieu know we value our TAFE system and expect our government to do the same.

See you there!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Karl Fritsch at Gallery Funaki extended until Saturday

 Karl Fritsch, Ring 187, from exhibition media Gallery Funaki

Yesterday I had the chance to visit the latest Karl Fritsch exhibition at Gallery Funaki: Die Allgauer Ringmaschine. The show was designed as a one-week-only event as part of Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (last week), but has been extended another week due to popular demand. It's easy to see why, looking at Fritsch's chunky new aluminium block rings carved and filed to a rough finish and set with abandon with precious gems. Other works have diamonds nailed to ring shanks, or precious gems grain set into carved and altered traditional ring forms, and the work is nailed and stapled industrially, almost brutally, into timber two-by-fours in the front corner of the gallery. Installation photos can be seen on Gallery Funaki's Facebook page. Altogether, the show is stunning, challenging, and incredibly beautiful in a decidedly non-gallery (but very Karl Fritsch) way. And the new artist monograph, available at the gallery, is another stunner. Go and see it before it ends on Saturday!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Arbor Jewels is launching a new website!

Brunswick's Arbor Jewels is launching a new website! The basic site is now up and running - visit the website to see a selection of work by gallery artists in a slideshow on the home page.

Each artist also has an artist page with a sample of their work for Arbor and details about the work. And coming soon to the new Arbor website... online sales! I'm working on some new pieces which will be available online at Arbor with the launch of their online sales in time for the Christmas season. I'll post a sneak peek soon...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

New Rings: 500+ Designs from Around the World

I finally picked up a copy of New Rings: 500+ Designs from Around the World, published last year by Thames & Hudson. Lots of gorgeous work in here!

The publishers asked me for an image of just the ring in my object-and-ring Remember When... The full piece includes a place for the ring to sit when it's not being worn.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, NMIT!

Happy Birthday to NMIT, which is 100 years old this year! Born as Collingwood Technical College in 1912, NMIT has come a long way in the past century. Check out this old advertisement from the 1920s, printed in the NMIT newsletter this year.

Here's to another century of TAFE education! 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

RMIT Ceramic Auction 2012

This year's RMIT Ceramic Auction will be held Thursday 6 September at RMIT Building 4, Level 1 (corner of Swanston and Latrobe Streets) from 6-9pm. I'm disappointed I won't be able to make it this year - it's always a fun night with great work by the Ceramics students and local ceramic artists!