Monday, February 27, 2012

Q&A with Jewellery Designer/Maker Anna Davern

Anna Davern recently participated in a Group Artist Talk held at The JamFactory where she presented along with Roseanne Bartley (featured in last week's blog) and Melbourne based artist Penny Byrne. Both Anna and Roseanne have works on display in the touring exhibition, Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor, while Penny Byrne's Art of the Possible is also showing at The JamFactory. The three of them together made for a very interesting and enjoyable afternoon. Anna answered a few questions for us regarding her art and her practice.

Tell us about yourself, how did you become a jeweller?

I’ve been practicing as a jeweller for over 15 years now and so many different choices have led me along the path I have travelled. When I was at school, I was good at science and maths and so when I went to uni I thought this was the direction in which I should go. But after 3 years of study and no achievement of a degree I realised that that path wasn’t for me.

I did some short courses in life drawing and jewellery making while attempting to pursue a career in film and television and pretty soon worked out that my desire to make ‘things’ outweighed my desire to make films, although an element of story telling still informs my practice.

I did my undergraduate degree at Sydney College of the Arts in Jewellery and Object Design and then completed my postgraduate studies at RMIT in Melbourne.

Which jeweller, craftspeople, writers, artists, musicians, anyone do you find particularly inspiring and how have they influenced your approach to making?

My teachers and mentors over the years have been very inspiring to me: Margaret West, Rowena Gough, Carlier Makigawa, Robert Baines, Louise Weaver, Manuel Vilhena… They taught me to think about jewellery in different ways, they taught me to enjoy making and they taught me about how art and jewellery can communicate.

Are there any specific collections, museums that you have found inspiring and why?

I loved the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. They have this incredible collection and I was there in late winter so there was hardly anyone there and you can get really close to these artworks that you’ve been looking at in books for years. When I was there, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a contemporary jewellery exhibition and got to see some jewellery that I’ve been looking at in books for years.

Welcome us to your studio - where is it?

I’ve recently been involved in setting up a new project in Melbourne called Northcity4. We’ve rented a large warehouse in Brunswick and have spaces available for permanent tenants as well as an access workshop and spaces that artists can rent for short term projects. We are also setting up a school where we will run classes and workshops for beginners as well as masterclasses for established makers. We will also run a series of seminars and artist talks and provide resources for Melbourne’s jewellery community. It’s very exciting and it’s starting to get busy with the tenancies filling up. You can check out our fabulous new website here.

Anna Davern, Brooch For Madame Brussels, 2011

The work for the exhibition: Can you describe the specific themes reflected in this body of work?

This is my artist statement for the Madame Brussels brooch:

"Imagine life as a woman in late 19th Century Melbourne. Do you do as is expected of you and follow your husband to become a policeman’s wife in isolated rural Victoria? Or do you see an opportunity… take a risk… go it alone… perhaps call in a favour or two… and find your independence as a successful business owner in the only business that is available to you as a woman.

What would I have done? Was she brave? Or was she desperate? Was she Machiavellian? Or was she fair and honorable in her enterprise? It’s not possible to answer these questions but one thing is certain, her choice gave her a level of independence that was not afforded to her female contemporaries."

Describe your method of production in this current work?

The Madame Brussels brooch is constructed from collaged sublimate printed steel with a copper backing. Sublimation printing is a very simple technique of transferring dye to plastic using heat. In this work, electronic files of images were printed and then transferred to plastic coated sheet metal using a heat press. The images are then cut out and connected using traditional jewellery techniques.

Anna's Brooch for Madame Brussels can currently be seen at The JamFactory as part of the Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Exhibition.

You can visit her website at
Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor runs at The JamFactory until 14 April.

An accompanying symposium featuring Leading Women of South Australia will be held Saturday 31 March at Nexus Multicultural  Arts Centre to be followed with drinks and nibbles in GalleryOne at The JamFactory. Entry to this event is free. Come along and celebrate 100 years of International Women's Day. Visit our website for details.