How do we place value on objects? Is an object worth as much as it costs? Would objects have more value if one understood the process that went into them : the materials, the time, the skills, the experience? The value of objects is an abstract concept and I do not claim to understand the economics that go into placing a price tag on something. However, I understand the emotional value of objects. I am sensitive to it and it is never more authentic than when I can perceive the process that was undertaken, which eventually resulted in my holding a single finished object.
STUDIO MELT, a Newcastle based contemporary jewelery gallery and studio, is committed to bringing these stories to the forefront of their practice and relish the opportunity to share their experience and pass on their skills to the community. Rather than shrouding the process under a veil of secrecy, Angela Hailey and Suzy Manning, both trained jewelers, have set up their work stations in plain sight, within their beautifully appointed gallery/shop space on Hunter Street. They are joined by Sarah Harden of fashion label ‘THE LITTLE ROOM’ named after the studio she has created within her home.
“I think people appreciate the process being exposed rather than hidden behind walls,” says Hailey. “Seeing the tools and equipment serves to communicate the handmade and local nature of the products that are displayed. People also feel more comfortable asking questions about the manufacturing process.”
Taking it a step further, STUDIO MELT has been running successful jewelery making workshops, allowing novices to conceptualize, design and fabricate custom silver pieces under the watchful eye of Suzy Manning. “Our third series of workshops will begin soon, when we will push our display cabinets to the side and pull out tables for students to learn how to make a wax ring to be cast into silver, as well as sawing, filing, drilling, sanding and polishing their own designs,” explains Hailey. If that sounds like fun (it does to me), MELT is currently taking bookings for their July – September workshops.
Supported by Renew Newcastle, this fairly new project (MELT opened last March) was born from a desire to transform the solitary experience of working from home into a dynamic platform for collaboration and interaction, amongst peers and within the local creative community.
“I had personally spent much of my eight years as a jeweler working from a studio set up in my garage. While it was a fantastically flexible way of working, especially in the years when I was caring for young children, I missed the stimulation and company that I had experienced in group studio environments immediately after graduating in Sydney,” says Angela.
Renew Newcastle provided an ideal framework to create MELT as “a space where we can design, make and sell our work locally.” The only downside of having one of the most beautiful shops in the Mall? “People have been showing a lot of interest and we sometimes get to the end of the day and can hardly believe how little we have achieved!” (laughs) Sounds like a good problem to have.
Angela was not always a jeweler and in fact, walked away from a career in marketing to pursue a Fine Arts degree at the Sydney College of the Arts. “The training that Suzy and I both had was very concept oriented. There was little emphasis on technique, our role was to come up with a response to a question and use the medium, whether it was plastics or metals, to create a physical representation of a concept. The technical skills were a means to an end while the training focused on learning to develop an idea.”
Inspired by themes of “repetition in nature” or the “built environment”, Angela creates pieces that seem to combine the exactitude of geometry and the fluidity of organic forms.
“The ‘picket fence’ ring is a good example because it has repetition and is extracted from the built environment. When I was making these pieces, they felt very architectural and even structural. It felt like I was building something. But then, I also did a series based on the wings of a dragonfly. Currently I am working on incorporating some semi-precious stones into my pieces and experimenting with paper chain necklaces.”
STUDIO MELT is well on its way to making a name and a place for itself on the local creative circuit. The shop itself is known for the beauty of its light plywood display cabinets and a sun drenched gallery space. Word of the jewelery workshops is getting around fast, whether they are used as a stepping stone in a new direction or a memorable birthday present.
Once again, Novocastrians reap the benefits of housing a structure which truly supports leaps of faith like this one. “It’s very exciting to make all these creative connections in Newcastle and to play a part in making this city a more creative place, rather than being a spectator. There are a lot of homogenous shopping experiences and I think that people really appreciate more creative and alternative ways of shopping. Eventually, this area will be redeveloped and hopefully, the independent people will be able to afford to stay, but in the meantime, I think the next couple of years in town will be really exciting.” Fingers crossed x
Studio Melt are hosting an exhibition showcasing the work of students who have recently completed the beginners jewelery course. Opening night: Tuesday 26 June 2012 – 7 to 9 pm.
Visit: Shop 4a, 113-145 Hunter St Mall, Newcastle – Monday to Friday – 10 to 5 pm, except Tuesday – 10 to 2.15 pm.
Studio Melt on Facebook.
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