Let me introduce myself....
I thought I should introduce myself to you, we may not have met personally in store at Tall Trees Studio, in Olinda.
At my workbench
Photo by Cathy Ronalds Photography
First off my name is Helene (Mum always pronounced it Helen) and I am a Gold & Silver Smith or a Hand make Jeweller. I personally tend not to use the term Jeweler as it’s usage is now really broad, and what I do is pretty specific, I hand-make jewellery and small objects in Gold & Silver (mostly), with Gemstones and I utilise both traditional and modern hand-make techniques in my practice, I also own and run Tall Trees Studio, where I have my workshop, which is on view as you enter the store.
My journey with jewellery started at the very young age of 2 ½ years, with my Nan popping me up on her bed covered with its Pink Satin Duvet, handing me her pieces of jewellery to play with as we listened to the radio in her room together.
I remember how each piece sparkled and shone bright in my then small and chubby hands. The cool weight of the black French Glass Beads sliding through my hands, the pretty clip-on earrings with Marcasite and Crystal, that I clipped onto my dress and twirled on her bed, causing the pieces to sparkle and shine as I twirled.
These memories and more of both my Nan and then my own Mother who were both avid bowerbird collectors of jewellery, led me to want to be a Jeweller from a very young age. I didn’t follow that road until much later in life. Instead, I worked hard for the opportunity to work and travel, which allowed me to gather my own collection of pieces, these pieces in turn inspired me to go back to school at a mature age and learn to be a Goldsmith/Jeweller.
I went through several iterations before going on to complete my formal training at Melbourne Polytechnic, where I completed an Advanced Diploma in Jewellery Manufacture & Design, the start of my real journey as a Goldsmith. Before this I become a competent Artistic Glass and Metal engraver, but my pieces kept getting smaller and the need to embellish them with Gold and Gems grew stronger. I spent time talking to other glass engravers, learning from them, trying different styles, materials and learning so much. In the end for me smaller and wearable was where my artistic heart wanted to go.
I also had this desire to meld the past with today through wearable art – jewellery.
One of the most enduring art forms we create is jewellery, personal adornment that in the past has gone to the grave with us, in our life has protected us or has told the world of our heritage/lineage, our beliefs and our place in the world through the simple act of it being hand created, then wearing it.
For me one of the highest honours a Goldsmith is presented with today, is to be trusted by a client to take family pieces, that today are unwearable and transform them into new pieces that can continue to be worn today or in the future by the next generations.
Working with Gold and Silver these days there are several choices, I personally find I prefer to encompass the more traditional hand methods, in preference to using CAD or Wax Carving & Casting for everything. The joy of starting with granules of buttery gold, alloying them up to the required carat. Matching maths and metallurgy together to create a balanced alloy that is true to carat. Creating and taking the billets and hammering them to realign the metal crystals before the process of rolling, heating, rolling heating repeatedly until the billets are turned into sheet or wire to create new pieces of jewellery. The sheer physicality of creating your own sheet and wire which in turn is used to create intimate one-off pieces of wearable art is an absolute artform in itself, that machines only mimic.
I also love to work with the usual fine metals Gold, Silver but mix it up a bit with non-traditional materials such as Shibuichi and apply more modern Goldsmith techniques to create contemporary art jewellery, sometimes with precious gemstones. I find myself in my workshop shifting from time honoured Goldsmith techniques and tools to more modern equipment such as a Micro Welder, bench grinder, sand blaster even occasionally encompassing CAD or Digital Design for more complex pieces that are then 3D printed before casting.