Gray Street Workshop Celebrates 30 Years in 2015! In 2015 Gray Street Workshop celebrates 30 years as an artist run space. Over the three decades we have been dedicated to providing support, opportunities, promotion, mentoring and studio space to emerging, mid career and established artists working in the field of contemporary jewellery and object making.
Our philosophy is to encourage a rich and thought-provoking range of professional experiences and exchanges. Our access bench facility has provided a bridge between formal education, training and professional development to over 90 jewellers from around Australia and overseas.
Our uncompromising commitment to our work and to a studio-based practice has enabled Gray Street to evolve into one of Australia's most exciting and respected workshops.
How did Gray Street Workshop begin?
Catherine Truman: In the early 80s I shared a studio with Anne Brennan and in 1984 we toured our exhibition Thoughts into Flesh, an exhibition that expressed feminist politics, to Melbourne and met Sue…who happened to be preparing her exhibition that had a distinctly anti-nuclear flavour. In 1985, deciding we had a lot in common, we decided, with the valuable support of state and federal government funding, to combine our resources and the workshop was born in Gray Street in Norwood, South Australia.
Hail The Australia Council!!!!!! (unashamed plug)
Have the objectives of Gray St Workshop changed over the years?
Catherine Truman: Originally we got together to explore making work that expressed ideas beyond the tradition of adornment. Our mission statement then went along the lines of….”Gray Street Workshop provides a sustainable work environment for its members in an atmosphere which encourages practical development alongside theory and research.” Right from the beginning there was a shared belief amongst us that jewellery has the potential to express personal, social, political and economic issues.
The work enthusiastically reflected the politics of the day…so that hasn't changed. We shared tools, space and ideas and our principle objective was to invite others to work along side us.
The philosophy of the workshop now is to encourage a rich exchange between jewellers with a wide range of professional experience, from students and those just emerging in their careers through to mid-career and established contemporary practitioners. I would say that my personal objective under the umbrella of Gray Street is to encourage tenants to learn about their own unique processes and to build on that foundation. Then what they express and how they express it comes from the heart. We’ve had around 100 tenants pass through our doors over 30 years. Change is inevitable and welcome. The philosophy evolves with the people and their needs, but the basic tenets are constant.
What do you see in the future for Gray Street Workshop?
Catherine Truman: The word ‘legacy’ comes to mind. We are constantly exchanging what we’ve learned and what we know. We’re like a slipstream for artists at the beginning of their practices in a way. We learn how to learn and how to mentor each other… hard to see that ever ending.
Sue Lorraine: I would like to think that we have...and will continue to provide support and encouragement for others to stick with their passion.
Tell us about the title of your exhibition Theatre of Detail.
Sue Lorraine: It just seemed like the perfect combination of words… a stage on which to show off ideas, concept and skill, to look at something closely, to bring together the real and the imagined…presented as an enchanting spectacle… a Theatre of Detail.
What draws you to making jewellery and objects?
Catherine Truman: The boundless potential with form and scale and the intimate associations with the human body … the relationships it facilitates between people.
Jess Dare: I make because it gives me joy, its part of who I am. It’s alchemy I suppose, from gardening to cooking to flame-working to jewellery making, mixing parts/materials together to create/grow something that didn’t exist before. I am drawn to the intimate scale of jewellery and objects, drawing people into my world, my sense of wonder and intrigue. I love the problem solving and challenge of working with different materials and working out how they will fit on to the body. On another level it’s my way of processing the things I see, my way of dealing with the things that I have experienced.
Sue Lorraine: I enjoy the challenge of saying more with less, of paring back the detail, of making the complicated look simple, so spend a lot of time refining the design and perfecting the process.
I like to consider scale, the relationship to the body, the narrative in the materials, the positive and negative space of the work and its function.
Really I just love to problem solve and make things with my hands.
Have you ever had “artists-block”? What helped you to move through it?
Catherine Truman: I’ve learned how to literally move through frustrating moments. When in doubt just get up and walk…simple. I think ‘artist block’ can just as easily occur when you’re so absorbed in the making and you cant see the forest for the trees. Stopping then, taking a breath and walking away will give you insight… never fails.
Jess Dare: Yes I have and where once I found it frustrating and debilitating, which only exacerbates the block, I can now step away and work on something different, often a repetitive task like saw piercing my production work or lampworking repeated elements for a larger plant. I find my brain works best when my hands are making so I can turn a problem over in my head whilst churning out my other work. When all else fails I hop in to my garden and pull up weeds, I find it incredible satisfying and clears my mind, focusing solely on which weed to pull out next, how can I pull it out with all its roots still intact.
Sue Lorraine: Just part of the process, good ideas come when you least expect them…the rest of the time you just have to keep those hands busy.
If you could wear any piece of contemporary jewellery or object, what would it be and why?
Catherine Truman: I form a relationship with both the work I wear and it’s maker. It’s never just about decoration.
Jess Dare: This is a hard question as it changes all the time. Sometimes what I wear differs from what I hold dear and sometimes they are inextricably linked. I tend to attach sentimentality to most things I own based on how it came in to my possession and also my relationship to the maker.
In terms of adornment I love big earrings and can’t get enough of Peta Kruger’s beautiful earrings. But sometimes I just want to wear a brooch that makes me smile, like Lisa Furno’s These trophy heads have funny accents. Or perhaps one of Panjapol Kulpapangkorn’s thoughtful 7 days a week brooches. I fell in love with this series in Thailand and met his mother who the brooches are based on. They are a touching response to the cruel disease, dementia. Or my favourite Karl Fritsch ring, it’s a simple round band with a claw set black diamond and the black diamond has a hole drilled right through the centre.
I could play this game all day, because I love these portable artworks that we make, that tell stories both about the maker and the wearer.
Sue Lorraine: I might go for one of David Bielander’s pieces…perhaps a beetle or a slug! I am building up an entomology jewellery collection.
Theatre of Detail – An Exhibition of New Work by Jess Dare, Sue Lorraine and Catherine Truman, in which we unravel concepts of scale, time and material specificity. The work on exhibition consists of objects, videos and jewellery presented as a series of installations and/or vignettes. We are very pleased to be presenting this exhibition at 10 Crossley Street, Melbourne under the umbrella of Gallery Funaki especially for Radiant Pavilion during September 2015.
The Theatre of Detail exhibition opened in Adelaide in March 2015 as part of the Fringe Festival. In July it will be exhibited at AirSpace Projects, Sydney to coincide with the 16th Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia (JMGA) conference titled Edgesbordersgaps. In 2016 the show will tour to ATTA Gallery, Bangkok and The National, Christchurch.