A little about me and how I came to jewellery making.

Silver box made by my grandmother Eileen Barker. It includes the techniques of fabrication, niello inlay, cloisonné enamel, stone setting and ivory carving. 

I grew up surrounded by the jewellery and silversmithing work made by my English grandparents Biff and Eileen Barker in my home in George Town, Tasmania. They were both consummate artists and I think I was definitely influenced by the beautiful pieces of theirs (and those of other artists') that filled our house. My other grandfather was a watchmaker and had died long before I was born, but I spent many hours delving into his watchmaker's cabinet that we had inherited, fascinated by the drawers full of tiny mechanisms, parts, and tools. I was always encouraged at home by my art teacher mother Jean to do "arty" things like drawing, ceramics, weaving, macrame etc and I was often dragged off (willingly!) to weekend long craft workshops . My father Lionel was an engineer who let me muck around with tools in his workshop. It was definitely a stimulating and creative environment, and our house was right on the waterfront, enabling me to pursue one of my favourite pastimes of beach combing and rock pool exploration.

 

Brooches, pendants and rings made by my grandfather Biff Barker (some unfinished)

My grandparents Biff and Eileen Barker in their studio in the 1960s in Petersfield, Hants, UK

Despite this arty upbringing....I had plans to be a marine biologist and was on track to study that at university when I "accidentally" took a jewellery making class while I was on exchange in the US for my senior year (year 12). That was it - I was totally hooked and marine biology went out the window! On my return to Australia, I attended what was then known as the Tasmanian State Institute of Technology (later became UTAS) and did a Visual Arts degree, majoring in Jewellery and Silversmithing, graduating in 1987. I consider myself very lucky to have been taught by two brilliant tutors, Eugenie Keefer Bell, and Ray Norman each of whom had very different approaches. Eugenie was a stickler for good technique and attention to detail, so I got a very solid grounding in that side of things. When Eugenie left, Ray took over from her in my 4th and 5th years and he had an amazingly refreshing approach to technique, ideas and execution. For Ray, rules were made to be broken, everything was to be questioned.  Ray's definition of technique was "something you do more than once - on purpose". Having two teachers with such radically different ways of doing things really benefited my development as a maker.

In my studio in Tasmania

In my studio in Tasmania

Although I didn't follow the path of a scientist, the art form I've chosen has allowed me to express that aspect of my personality.  I really enjoy the technical side of jewellery making and the problem solving involved in making pieces. Metal is an incredible medium, it appears hard and yet is so yielding.  Many of the tools and techniques haven't changed all that much over the millennia, so there's an incredibly rich history and tradition.  Not only do I feel part of that long history, but I have my grandparents' work still around me to continually inspire me.  

To be continued....