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Indigenous jewellery project opens doors of possibility for Torres Strait artists

Workshop facilitator, Melinda Young, and participant Maryann Sebasio.

Twelve jewellers from across the Torres Strait have been introduced to the possibilities of a growing art movement through the Indigenous Jewellery Project (IJP).

The Gab Titui Cultural Centre hosted IJP founder and curator Emily McCulloch Childs and contemporary jeweller Melinda Young for the week long workshop, which taught artists new techniques in jewellery making and design.

Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Chairperson, Mr Napau Pedro Stephen, said the workshop was part of the TSRA’s ongoing commitment to support the development of the region’s artists.

“This workshop involved experienced jewellery makers who have been selling and exhibiting locally through Gab Titui for some time”, Mr Stephen said.

“It gave them the important opportunity to connect with industry experts to further develop their skills and the knowledge necessary to access opportunities outside of the region.”

“The TSRA looks forward to following the progress of the works and to continuing our relationship with the IJP and jewellers in the region.”

Ms McCulloch Childs is co-director of the multi-faceted Australian art company McCulloch & McCulloch and says the IJP was created out of a desire to see more Indigenous jewellers represented in the growing national contemporary jewellery scene.

“It’s actually quite a major and growing art movement, with craft merging into and now being recognised as fine art”, Ms McCulloch Childs said.

Ms McCulloch Childs said that although there have been concerted efforts to raise the profile of Indigenous art in other fields, a lot of Indigenous jewellery is still anonymously sold without any lasting reference to the creator.

“This project is about developing Indigenous jewellers to become career artists in jewellery and showing them that contemporary jewellery is this whole genre of art that they can work in,” Ms McCulloch Childs said.

“We’re trying to bring Indigenous art into the contemporary craft space and at the same time encourage contemporary jewellery into the Indigenous art space.  So part of this project is to get the work into spaces where it hasn’t been before, such as contemporary craft galleries and awards.”

Local artist Laura Mooka said the workshop had opened her eyes to possibilities beyond the local market.

“At the moment I’m just sort of going with the local trends and what we can wear up here…but then going into silver and gold that’s a different level,”Ms Mooka said.

The workshop taught artists how to produce each element of their jewellery piece, including hooks and clasps, giving them better quality control and reducing production costs.  They worked in lost wax and wire and created pieces to be cast using a foundry into their final metal forms.

For more information on the Indigenous Jewellery Project visit McCulloch & McCulloch online or speak to Gab Titui Public Programmes Officer, Melanie Nash via melanie.nash@gabtitui.com.au.

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.