Treasure Hunters

Michael Tink and Erin Malloy’s Melbourne label, Wild to Ware, hand-makes jewellery that can be traced from source to sale.

For some, a river is just a river. But for Michael Tink and Erin Malloy, it’s an opportunity. The duo search country Australian waters with their own hands to uncover treasures from the depths; natural sapphires to be transformed into jewellery under their Melbourne-based label, Wild to Ware. Materials travel directly from the earth, to their hands and then to those of a finished piece’s lucky owner – can a supply chain get more transparent than that?

Michael and Erin are makers of different strokes who share a commitment to sustainability. Michael is a jeweller and Erin a graphic designer, object maker and self-confessed “dabbler”. The pair are partners in life and now, business. It all started when Michael crafted a ring for Erin from hand-sourced gold and sapphire. “Friends and family loved the story and loved how it looked and it just grew from there,” Erin remembers.

Wild to Ware creations are almost entirely made-to-order in-house: “The only thing we don’t do ourselves in gem cutting, and that’s done in Melbourne,” Michael shares. “Being able to source and make everything ourselves means so much.” Erin mentions that part of the fun is deciding where to go hunting next for materials like gold, gemstones and sapphires. “We find a lot of joy in researching … we’ll go out camping when we go looking for stuff.”

It’s a lucky thing that the two enjoy the process, because it can be hard yakka: on their missions in Victoria, NSW and Tasmania they’ve faced the elements, several snakes and once, a zealous water rat that joined them in their tent. It’s all worth it for the payoff, Michael adds: “It’s just addictive. It’s kind of like gambling!”

Those who roll the dice will know that the odds aren’t always in their favour. Most of the time, Michael and Erin find materials that don’t meet the standard – making their scores all the sweeter. “I think that’s the beauty of it,” Erin reflects.

Such is the beauty of these natural materials that Wild to Ware pieces take inspiration from their haul. Their stunning creations hint at the starry-eyed dreams of people chasing fortune and success in Australia’s goldfields many moons ago. Their first range, Miner’s Relics, alludes to this very idea. All collections are prototyped, tested and sampled in-house and they prioritise recycling and reusing materials. By not wax casting, Wild to Ware minimises production waste.

Erin is equally interested in minimising waste when it comes to woodworking. She sources timber largely from local furniture makers, trading their useless offcuts for beer. When she’s not swapping brews for materials, Erin looks to a yard offering recycled timber or even picks up Australian timbers that have fallen on the ground while she’s camping. Erin shares that she’s drawn to utilitarian objects and “making simple things that people can use every day to make their routines a little bit more ritualistic.”

Whether it be Erin’s woodworking or Wild to Ware’s jewellery, you can guarantee that any creation comes with a story – the moral of which is to live a life with intent.


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