JMGA-NSW is calling for papers for the next conference taking place in Sydney July 2015. Deadline for abstractions has been extended to November 3rd.

check out the conference page for details –

A kind, anonymous person has nominated us for Kochie’s Business Builders’ $100K Rescue My Site competition in the ‘Local Legend’ category and we need your help to give Studio 20/17 and contemporary jewellery a boost on the digital stage!

Please vote for us at

and please share on Facebook and through your network, we could REALLY do with a boost!


Bridget and Melanie

A selection of the amazing works created by our Melissa Cameron One Design workshop participants.  We loved everyone’s imagination and enthusiasm in tackling the project – what great results!


Studio 20/17 intern Victoria Cleland, interviewed gallery artist Mark Vaarwerk and discussed his ongoing fascination with transforming the plastic detritus of our everyday lives into his beautiful signature jewellery pieces.

orange brooch small

The Plastic Alchemist: An Interview with Mark Vaarwerk

 Mark Vaarwerk combines cast silver with crayons and polystyrene with pink gold. His process transmutes everyday waste products into individual jewels. Vaarwerk’s choice of materials are the undesirable and the overlooked; plastic bags, polystyrene food boxes, acrylic car and bicycle indicators, computer keys and cigarette filters, all of which Vaarwerk ‘expands’, ‘liquefies’, ‘dissolves’ and ‘extrudes’ to become brooches, bracelets, earrings and necklaces.

 However mystical Mark’s method seems, transforming plastics is something he has studied and experimented with consistently in his jewellery making practice, aided by grants from the Australian Council for the Arts. He now runs a workshop titled Transforming Throwaway Plastics, which incorporates some of his techniques and encourages a shift in the perception of ‘waste’, its value and its uses.

 Mark was kind enough to take some time out to answer some questions for Studio 20/17, focusing on the development of his unique material practice.

What appeals to you about throwaway plastics as a material source?

There are a few reasons why I enjoy working with throwaway plastics. I like the fact that it is free, and that I can put something to use that is considered rubbish, worthless. So it is a win win. I also enjoy working with materials that may be familiar to people – that even though it has been remade into jewellery I want there to still be a hint or suggestion of its original incarnation. This subtle connection with its earlier life can sometimes suggest a story – set in this everyday world – one that is continuing because of this re-use.

 What has been your most interesting ‘material discovery’ since you have been working in this area? Any unexpected outcomes?

Many of my techniques are based on my own experiments with easily available materials. So in a sense my practice depends on these material discoveries and unexpected outcomes. Early work of mine focused on making necklaces from plastic bag string. This began with my learning to spin natural conventional fibers into string, and then I began to experiment with a wider range of easily available materials – and of these the best results came from plastic shopping bags. Similarly the work I am doing currently began with experimenting with different easily available plastics, I was not looking for a specific result – I was simply looking for ways to manipulate a small assortment of materials. From the samples that were the outcome of these experiments I chose the ones that showed the most potential for making new and interesting jewellery.


How do you collect your materials? Do you have industrial contacts or suppliers or is it more haphazard (for example, through friends or neighborhood collections)?

I’m more interested in materials that might be found in a domestic situation than an industrial one. At the moment the materials I am working with come from a bit of scavenging – I often find expanded polystyrene boxes sticking out of wheelie bins or in back laneways behind restaurants and cafés. I might pick scraps of plastic off residential streets – e.g. bits of broken car blinker, headlight and brake light covers. And yes, quite a bit of my materials also come from friends and family who collect it for me rather than throwing it away – wasted pens and printer ink cartridges, broken appliances, and still the occasional plastic shopping bag donated for making string.

You use unusual processes to create your works – expanding, liquefying, dissolving and so on. Can you talk us through one as an example?

Shrinking expanded polystyrene is the process I depend on most at the moment.  I would collect a box or two of expanded polystyrene in advance, cut it down into flat pieces, clean it with water and soap and rinse it and let it dry. Say I was making a brooch I would choose the shape – usually a quite simple geometric shape like a circle, and trace it onto the sheet of polystyrene and then cut the shape out. This I usually do with a hot wire cutter. Then I might shrink the shape straight away by placing it in an airtight container with a small open container inside with a small amount of acetone in it. The acetone slowly evaporates and the vapor inside the container reacts with the piece of plastic and it gradually shrinks to maybe half or one third the original size. So the shape needs to be quite big at the start. Generally I colour the plastic in some way – this can be done before or after the shrinking stage for different effects. One coating I commonly apply is acrylic (e.g. broken brake light covers) dissolved in acetone, and once it becomes a syrupy liquid it can be painted onto the polystyrene like paint. Once the shrinking is complete and the container opened and the acetone removed, the shape will be slightly soft and gooey and then will harden into a plastic much denser and harder than the original expanded polystyrene. Then the metal findings can be fixed- e.g. the brooch pin and catch.

What is the biggest piece of polystyrene you have ‘expanded’?  

I have occasionally shrunken expanded polystyrene boxes whole – which are sometimes around meter long at the beginning.

How significant has the support from the Australian Arts Council been in your practice?

Funding from Australia council has been quite significant to me and my practice – I have had three Australia council grants since I began my jewellery career. I find that grants are a godsend when you need to make a change of some kind, when you need to do something new to bring back your enthusiasm for making. The luxury of being free to be creative – to have the space or the time or the finances – is not always there but a grant can mean you are suddenly able to address these imbalances. When first starting out grants can be especially valuable as well.

What sort of response do you get from people participating in your Transforming Throwaway Plastics workshop? I imagine that might be very surprised and intrigued?

Yes quite surprised and intrigued. Fortunately I have had lots of positive feedback, but the responses are surprisingly varied. I am always surprised by how different people like to approach the same materials and processes in such different ways. Which is excellent because after a workshop there are always such a diversity of outcomes. But the one response that I always get from a lot of different participants (and which I find very encouraging) is that after the workshop the way they see these things they usually just throwaway is changed forever.

Before I realised your recent solo show was titled Alchemy, I thought of you as a ‘plastic alchemist’. Why do you think alchemy is a word often associated with your jewellery?

I think because I push myself to find ways to transform in unexpected ways materials that are often taken totally for granted.

How did it feel for your work to be included in Unexpected Pleasures, the huge contemporary jewellery exhibition curated by Dr. Susan Cohn, alongside works made of conventional, ‘precious’ materials? 


By creating something wearable (and beautiful) out of everyday ‘rubbish’ it extends our understanding of ‘waste’. Has your practice changed your perception of waste? Do you think your work helps to develop an environmental or societal awareness? Is this important to you?

Yes to all of these! To put it simply, I guess I try to make work that I enjoy making and am proud to see being worn. I try to make in a way that is meaningful and rewarding to me. I am happy to see a variety of responses to my work, and expect the meanings read into my work will be different for different people. If people are curious about my work I will focus on talking to them about the materials I have used, where I might have found them and how I made them into what they see in front of them rather than the meanings behind the piece.

Do you think you will continue to work with these materials in the future? Is there more experimenting to be done or new materials to play with?

At the moment I feel like I will be sticking with expanded polystyrene for a little longer. There are so many ways I could experiment with even just this one main material and technique, so I am not planning any big changes for now. In the long run there will be need for change and variety, and there will always be new materials that I will be able to adopt, and with them new techniques. But in all cases there will definitely be lots more experimentation!

Finally, I found a link to Mark Vaarwerk Homework t-shirts and stickers online. They are really amazing! Are you planning anymore?

Thanks! They were something I did just for a little fun. I never sold very many because I am the worst at self-promotion! So, I doubt that I will ever get around to doing more…

Check out our website for some of Mark’s work and pop in to the gallery to see our full range.

Anna-necklace-2-small1Sydney College of the Arts Masterclass

 Jewellery From Sublimation Printed Metal and Plastic, with Anna Davern

Saturday 5th July 2014, 9.30am – 5.00pm

Workshop fee: $176 (plus $45 for materials)

Earlybird fee: $143 (plus $45 for materials) for bookings before June 7.

Jewellery From Sublimation Printed Metal and Plastic

Sublimation printing is a very exciting and simple technique of transferring images onto metal and plastic using heat. In this class, electronic files of images and photos will be printed and then transferred to a variety of plastic coated sheets of metal. A variety of techniques will be taught to then create items of jewellery from the printed material focusing on cold joining techniques.

Students will be shown how to reproduce the process in their own studios without the use of specialised equipment.

About Anna Davern:

Anna Davern is a contemporary jeweller whose practice straddles the visual arts, jewellery, fashion and education. She is a founding member of Northcity4, an artist run initiative that supports the Australian contemporary jewellery community by providing workshop space, education programs and resources to promote sustainable work practices.

Anna exhibits regularly and has been represented in numerous Australian and international group exhibitions. She completed her undergraduate degree in Jewellery and Object Design at Sydney College of the arts and she also holds a Masters degree from RMIT. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards and has participated in residencies in Sydney and Tallinn, Estonia.

Anna teaches at Northcity4 and has taught and lectured at NMIT, RMIT, Box Hill Institute, Sydney College of the Arts and the Estonian Academy of Art.

Level:This class is suitable for experienced makers as well as non-makers. No jewellery experience required.

Materials and tools:

A $45 material fee will be payable to the tutor on the day. Students will receive a pack of sheet metal and pre-cut metal shapes and a variety of images to print. Extra materials will be available to purchase (cost between $2 and $15 per piece).

Some hand tools will be required including a piercing saw, sawblades, a half round hand file, scissors, burnisher.

Further details will be provided on enrolment.


Conveying Korean Metalcraft with Kenny Son.


  Kenny Son is an emerging designer-maker who has recently completed a six-month mentorship under master metalsmith Sung Joon Cho in Korea, with funding provided by the Australia-Korea Foundation. Kenny participated in the program with the aim of introducing traditional Korean metalsmithing skills to the Australian jewellery community. After graduating from Sydney College of the Arts in 2010 with a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) and completing a Masters in Design at the University of Technology in 2013, he has successfully launched his own object and accessories label, Studiokyss, based in Sydney.

Kenny was kind enough to answer some specific questions about his time in Korea as a context for understanding more about his upcoming exhibition at Studio 20/17, Conveying Korean Metalcraft. I interviewed him over Skype from Sydney while Kenny was close to completing his program in Seoul, South Korea.

Let’s start by telling me how you came to make jewellery and objects? I imagine it’s been quite a journey.

I started at Sydney College of the Arts, majoring in Jewellery and Objects. I started because I just wanted to make. I really liked working with my hands, building things, making things. I started it, I loved it, I still do.

 I graduated from SCA and took a year off to try different things and see what I wanted to do – from photography to working at the Powerhouse Museum. I realised that I wanted to continue learning but at the same time I wanted to try something different. That’s why I went to UTS, you went to UTS right?

Yes, I studied there for one year before I started at SCA.  

I did it the other way around. I finished up at SCA and wanted to try something different in terms of approach and execution. I went to UTS and did Object and Accessories for my Masters Program.

 And when did you graduate?

 I graduated in the middle of last year. I had this idea [the program] that I wanted to do pretty much as soon as I graduated. The beginning of that year I looked into the scholarship provided by the Australian Korea Foundation that looks at building the relationship between Korea and Australia in relation to culture. It’s an Australian government foundation, the primary focus is on the improvement of Australia, benefitting from things that relate to Korea.

It has a subject or a topic that the scholarship focuses on each year. Last year it had to do with sport, but I thought what I had planned was different, that I had a case. They thought it was really unique and different. And yeah! Here I am, nearly at the end of the six months, due to go back to Australia.

 What does your program focus on?

Basically, my program focuses on learning traditional Korean metalcraft techniques, and going back to Australia with a range of workshops and an exhibition at Studio 20/17. My progress will be shown as well as my mentor Cho’s lifetime work, who has a lot of years behind him, a lot of work and a lot of experience. Korean metalcraft is something special, so it will be good showcasing that in Australia, to see what Australia is missing in terms of the area.

Did you design the program yourself?  

 Yeah, I designed everything, along with a friend of mine, who is a well-known jeweller here. I was speaking to him to see if he had any ideas and he said, ‘Hang on, I’ve got a person in mind, let me talk to him first’. He introduced me to Sung Cho. He was born in 1945 and he’s been a metal craftsman all his life. I got introduced to him and had lots of phone calls with him. He said that he thought this program would be worthwhile and he had something in mind as well and we sort came up with this program.

It was hard for me because, and this is only my assumption, but a lot of the other people applied for the scholarship through a company or a school, which makes it a lot easier in terms of insurance, accommodation, paperwork…

In terms of just general support?  

 Yeah, exactly, and because Cho’s coming to Australia I had to organise everything for him as well. So doing the actual program as well as all the behind the scenes stuff is really difficult. Things like finding accommodation for the short stay [in Seoul]… I’m just like, how did I do it? I think now that I know that I scaled everything a little bit too big for myself to handle in the beginning, but hey, it’s a challenge and it’s what I wanted.

What has the experience of the mentor/mentee relationship been like? That’s not something that a lot of people get to experience in Australia.

 It wasn’t easy. There’s the age difference, he was born in in 1945, I was born in 1987, that’s already forty plus years difference. He’s lived in Korea for seventy odd years and I’ve been away from Korea for twenty odd years so there was that cultural difficulty to start with. But, time fixes that.

It was quite special. It’s different learning on a one to one basis. It’s more intimate, more direct. If you do something wrong or make mistakes, there’s someone to go ‘nup’, or ‘do it again’, and let you know what the right way is. It’s a really good way of mastering something. I started the program November 1st, and everyday, except some Saturdays and Sundays, I went from 9 in the morning to five o’clock, or five-thirty, everyday. It means you have a lifetime teacher than you can always go back to if you need. It was really good, really special.

It sound like you will to continue having a relationship with him when you’re back in Australia.  

I think so.

Can you explain one of the techniques you’ve learnt from Sung Joon Cho?

 One of the techniques I learnt was ipsa.Simply explained, it is creating a chisel that has a very sharp angle, probably less than 5 degrees, well, much less than that, created out of specialized steel. It’s the repetition of the hammering against the chisel onto a steel plate and you are creating hundreds of, how should I put it…marks or indentations, and then putting in really fine silver wire.

Oh wow.

 And you’re hammering it into the indentations that are made with the chisel. The wire has to be about .2 or .18 millimeter thickness. You are creating a series of shapes or images with the wire and hitting those into the indents.

Wow, that sounds amazing.

 Yeah! It’s quite interesting.

What has your experience been of the Korean metalcraft and jewellery community?  

 I can’t compare it to anywhere else around the world, only Australia, so it’s a very personal comparison. My opinion is that the metalcraft scene in the Korean universities are a lot more disciplined. There’s a lot more hours put in. Students stay until say 11pm, sometimes 12am. It’s just hours and hours and hours – that’s what’s expected. In Korea, even after they turn 17, 18, 19, a lot of them still stay home or they have a dorm at school. They get support from the family in terms of school fees. In Western culture, once you are an adult, you move out, you make your own living. And it’s hard with work commitments to find that amount of time.

A lot of the teachers or the lecturers have studied either in Japan or Europe, like Germany, Munich so forth. So a lot of the influences are from there in terms of design and skills. And material wise, it’s quite different from Australia. In Australia, there’s a lot of, if I can say [laughs] kind of very strange materials that comes into the metalcraft scene, I shouldn’t even say the metalcraft scene because some of them don’t even end up using metal! That’s what’s so great about the Australian jewellery scene is the freedom to work with so many different materials and techniques. The atmosphere or environment also influences you. Australia has such a good natural [environment], it’s full of trees and beautiful plants and flowers and so forth. Here, it’s very hard to see wildlife because there are so many high-rise buildings, it’s so urbanised. That’s got a lot to do with the work that comes out.

 You’re recently had a small exhibition in Seoul. What were you exhibiting and what was the response?

 That exhibition wasn’t planned. It wasn’t part of the program at the beginning. It was held at Gallery Ah-won. Gallery Ah-won specialises in craft, mostly metalcraft. I’ve got to know the owners of Ah-won just through people I know in the industry in Seoul. They’ve been watching over what I’ve been doing. They also have an association with my mentor. They said why not show what you’re doing to the metalcraft scene in Korea as well. Nothing huge, nothing major. It was on for about a week. It was quite special. It was also an event to say goodbye to the people I got to know in Korea and a lot of people who have an association to the Korean metalcraft scene came, lecturers from different universities, current practicing artists and students as well.

The exhibition was progress work, trials and experiments. Nothing in the exhibition was finished. It was like a process diary, an archive, of what I’ve done and how I’ve learnt it, the process behind a certain technique. That’s how I displayed it. It was all laid out on three different tables. It was the tools as well, because I had to make all the tools. Cho’s known for that as well. Because he does traditional work, not a lot of tools are available for his work. In Australia the exhibition will be called Conveying Korean Metalcraft but here it was called The Process Diary / Conveying Korean Metalcraft because it was a process diary basically. It was just great, thanks to Gallery Ah-won.

 How do you think your personal relationship to Korea has changed? Do you see yourself going back to live there?

 At first it was hard. Some of the things I just didn’t understand, not like ‘what does that mean’. More like why, ‘why would they do that’? In Australia I’m very connected to the Korean community but actually being in the country, experiencing it as a 28 year old, is very different. Life as an adult in Korea is very different because of the history of how the country developed. Korea’s history has effected how people live today. There was a huge Japanese invasion in the early 1900’s and the Korean War in 1950. It’s an amazing country if you think about it. Everything was destroyed because of the war. It redeveloped, re-civilised. Now Korea’s a country with a number one IT area, so many huge companies; Samsung, Hyundai, LG. If you think of that you just go, ‘oh’, you understand why some of the people are really stressed, why some things are different. And that’s why a lot of people put in a lot of hours, like I said before, even the students, tend to put in lots and lots of hours. Because without that you can’t come than far in 56 years.

What do you hope to bring back to Australia?

 I hope to bring back more than what I initially did! It ranges from knowledge, skills and techniques to experience and even including emotions and stuff from over the six months. This program was highly set on skills, techniques and knowledge that are very rare in the Australian metalcraft scene, which could benefit the people in the industry.

Conveying Korean Metalcraft at contemporary jewellery design gallery, Studio 20/17, will show both your and your mentor’s work?

 Well, what I’ll be showing is the progress rather than finished work and what Cho will be showing is his lifetime’s work.

Ok, so that’s pretty major!

 Yeah, yeah! Not 100% [of it] because he’s sold a lot of stuff but what he’s got and what he’s managed to get, he will be showing. Everything he makes by hand, but it’s finished to perfection. A lot of people go, ‘oh is that cast?’ or ‘is that pressed?’ but he hand cuts, hand carves and hand raises everything. You just go ‘woah!’

How will the your work and Cho’s work fit alongside each other?

It will make a lot more sense, seeing my process and his finished work. I think it will be better that way.

You are hoping to introduce Korean techniques to Australia – how are you hoping to achieve this?

 Through the exhibition firstly, and I’m set to have a range of workshops. Firstly at the Jam Factory in Adelaide, Perth JMGA and finishing off the main workshop at SCA which is co-funded by the Korean Cultural Centre in Sydney.

I’m doing the workshop in Sydney by the way, and I’m very excited! Will you and Cho be doing the workshop together?

 Cho will be leading the workshops but I think it makes sense that I work as an assistant and as a translator.

How will your time in Korea benefit your future work? Do you think what you’ve learnt in these six months will become part of your work?

 I think so, definitely, yeah. I think six months, it could be a very short time but at the same time it’s a long time to be apart from your actual life and submerging yourself into a complete program. Everything’s set, everything’s planned, there’s freedom but you know what you’re going to be doing for the next five, six months. It will be a huge part of my future and my work. Not everything [I’ve learnt], I must say, because some things are really traditional and some things…it doesn’t fit into..

Your personal aesthetic?

 Yeah exactly, my personal interests. There will be huge influences or even changes towards what I do, and how I work, and the techniques I’ll be using as well.

 Did you have opportunities to travel outside Seoul during the program?

I got to travel a little bit because I had some time during weekends, to see Korea and get to know Korea – going to Kunsan, it’s the southern coast of Korea. And also Jeju Island, it’s also off the South of Korea. Time and time again, it is the most wonderful place, a really amazing place within this world.

I’ve met so many people. Through the program I’ve become friends with a lot of good people, I’ve made a lot of connections and friends. Some of them will be great friends after I leave this country and because a lot of them are in the metalcraft scene, I’m sure we’ll be contacting each other if we need help with anything, on a personal level, and workwise as well. That’s quite special.

Lots of good food as well. I have a lot of Korean food back home as well but still it’s different. Definitely, food, lots of…I don’t know if I should say this but lots of drinking as well! Drinking culture here is huge.

 So you’ve had fun as well as working really, really hard?

I guess so! Towards the end it was more working, working but yeah.

 How are you feeling now you are at the end of your program?  

I’m quite excited, a little bit scared, but quite excited.

Thank you Kenny!


Conveying Korean Metalcraft will show at Studio 20/17 from the 14 to 28 June. Join the artist for drinks at the opening on Saturday 14June 4-6pm. To see Kenny’s work, visit his website, and to learn more about the Conveying Korean Metalcraft program, visit

Studio 20/17 in the Sydney Morning Herald!


Google synthetic diamonds...

The results are predominately synthetic diamond sellers, followed by articles detailing the laboratory process, a ‘how to’ on creating your own man-made diamond using a microwave to create ‘graphite plasma’[1] and a disgruntled ex-fiancé who asks ‘was it fair she dumped me because I gave her a fake diamond’[2]? It’s a jumble of information that fails to illuminate the numerous benefits of lab-grown diamonds and gems…

Synthetic diamonds, also known as cultured or lab-grown diamonds are safe, sustainable man-made gems. Laboratory conditions replicate the heat and pressure of the earth’s natural diamond-growing environment. The result is a real diamond, chemically, physically and visually identical to natural, mined diamonds but without the environmental, social and financial baggage of the diamond mining industry.

Synthetic diamonds are affordable, sustainable, 100% conflict free and come with a certificate to prove it. In addition, lab-grown gemstones including rubies, sapphires, emeralds and alexandrite, are also created using similar high-pressure laboratory processes, gems identical to their natural counterparts. Synthetic diamonds and gems provide an excellent alternative when looking for something special.

Don’t be fooled by Google.

Note: the image above is of work by Saori Kita. It isn’t made with synthetic gemstones. We just put it on the blog because we love it!




This just popped into our inbox……..

Following the success and interest in the first and second editions of the book New
Rings: 500+ Designs from Around the World and the first edition of New Earings: 500+
Designs from Around the World, Nicolas Estrada would like to invite you to submit work for selection
as to be included in the third book of the collection, titled New Necklaces: 500+
Designs from Around the World.

April already! We had a lot of fun with our Glorious Food exhibition for ArtMonth in March.

Bridget’s Lipoma Lemon (miracle-gro) brooch provided delicious inspiration for a lemon tart dessert created by Luke Mangan for the Visual Feasts dinner, a collaboration between the 2 Danks St galleries and the renowned chef.

Bridget Kennedy, Lipoma Lemon (miracle-gro) brooch

Bridget Kennedy, Lipoma Lemon (miracle-gro) brooch, 2012

Luke Mangan's delicious lemon tart

Luke Mangan’s delicious lemon tart for Visual Feasts









Continuing her long interest in food related art, during ArtMonth Bridget exhibited new works of electroformed and gold plated food, Eat Me!, as well as her fabulous oversized rice neckpiece  food for thought: Cultured (bleached).  Her asparagus pendants were a great favourite and drew much attention.

A special thank you to Mel Young and all who attended her ArtMonth talk.  We love Mel’s colourful works and are always amazed by the diversity of her quirky pieces. Her Apricot Delight neckpiece drew our favourite comment of the month “They’re like fuzzy little bottoms!”

Mel Young's ArtMonth talk (with Bridget Kennedy's Eat Me! series on the wall)

Mel Young with admirer (with Bridget Kennedy’s Eat Me! series and food for thought neckpiece on the wall)


Melinda Young, Apricot Delight Neckpiece (the fuzzy little bottoms)

Melinda Young, Apricot Delight Neckpiece (the fuzzy little bottoms)


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