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  • Ruth

Tracing geography in jewellery

Updated: Mar 20, 2022

Looking back at my work, I can see that its evolution has a lot to do with where I live and how I interact with that space.

When I was living in Wagga Wagga, which is very inland, I can see that my jewellery was very much of the place. Despite being a small city, the suburbs spread themselves languidly. The sky seemed to go on forever. It felt big, and my jewellery was, too.

Wagga felt extreme. If it was hot, it was melting-hot, and the cold nights were fiercer than I’ve ever felt before. If the earth wasn’t bone-dry, it had probably flooded.

To me, these opposites and extremes gave the place a sharp and angular quality. I found myself drawn to the uniform spade-tops of picket fences, the spiky-leaves of banksia in many front gardens, and the stoic gums. Everything had an edge to it.

I was intrigued by the way nature had not just adapted to this environment but thrived in it. I responded by creating jewellery from steel, using industrial processes like laser cutting and powder coating. My pieces felt self-assured, strong, defiant.

When I moved back to Tasmania after being away for four years, I couldn’t get enough of the temperate climate, the salt in the air, the way the ocean slowly smooths the rough edges. All I wanted to do was play with organic and coastal shapes.

The coastal Tasmanian landscape influenced my following collection. I added two shades of green to my powder coating, and I started working more in silver. Instead of the precision laser-ed shapes from previous designs, I began saw-piercing silver by hand. Working in this way helped me to connect with my materials and embrace the tiny changes that come with hand-making pieces from start to finish.

Somehow in the past two years, I’ve managed to bring myself even closer to the sea. My studio is right next to the water, and I currently live on a tiny boat. The sea rocks me to sleep, and I wake to the smell of salty air. I find myself looking at the tides, the wind forecast and the moon just as much as the temperature. I have little choice but consciously connect to the sea and nature.

Like me, my jewellery has migrated from the shore to the sea, and I’ve used sterling silver and foraged sea glass in its creation. The shapes I designed are even more fluid and organic. I’ve tried to create pieces that move with the body, play with reflection—like light on the water—and call the wearer back to the sea. The Ocean Collection feels more dreamlike and delicate, with a magical quality.

After playing in the water for a while, I feel myself being pulled back to the shore. I can’t predict the future, but I hope to sell my boat in 2022 and begin another chapter on land. Once COVID is (hopefully) under a bit more control and international borders open, I want to travel more and experience faraway places. Perhaps my jewellery will follow me?


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