Blak Jewellery: Finding past, linking present

Contemporary jewellery exhibition by 11 Victorian First Nations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and designers participating in the first year of the Koorie Heritage Trust’s inaugural Blak Design program.

Blak Design is a ground-breaking four-year program presented by the KHT to foster First Nations cultural innovation within the Victorian design sector and provide a platform for nurturing sustainable, First Nations design practices.

Blak Jewellery – Finding Past, Linking Present opens Saturday 4 September until Sunday 14 November 2021 at the Koorie Heritage Trust, Yarra Building, Fed Square. Virtual tours are available here.

Participating First Nations artists:  Ange Jeffery (Wiradjuri), Aunty Beverley Meldrum (Wirangu, Kokatha), Cassie Leatham (Taungurung), Hollie Johnson (Gunaikurnai, Monero Ngarigo), Isobel Morphy-Walsh (Taun Wurrung), Jenna Lee (Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri), Kait James (Wadawurrung), Lisa Waup (Gunditjmara and Torres Strait Islander), Sandy Hodge (Lardil), Sharn Geary (Bundjalung) and Aunty Suzanne Connelly (Wiradjuri).

Each of the participants has undertaken intensive, hands-on workshops; learning and refining their jewellery making skills at RMIT jewellery studios under the guidance of jewellers Blanche Tilden and Laura Deakin. They have also participated in professional development workshops with creative industry leaders in business, design and marketing.

Each are presenting a beautiful range of contemporary jewellery anchored by their connection to culture, Country and family.

“What I love most about the program is how we’ve all learnt the same incredible skills using different materials, then used them to turn our stories into jewellery and wearable art that is so different from each other,” says Kait James. “My work has been based around my love of sheoaks or ngarri in Wadawurrung, and the connections to my ancestors. Using different material to look at form and movement but also combining my love of colour to create various different pendants and necklaces.’’

For Hollie Johnson “… the Blak Design program has opened my eyes up to a whole new world that I had only scratched the surface of. I have gained an immense appreciation for this fine art, along with meeting and working with some amazing people from across many artistic disciplines. I am so grateful for this opportunity, as the people and this experience is something special that I will always carry with me. The pieces I have created from this program carry connection to Country. Combining both flora and fauna of what connects myself to Family and Place, that of which we have held dear to our hearts for many generations. As these are just some of the many aspects that First Nations People always carry with them.’’

‘’It’s been an honour to be part of the Blak Design program,’’ says Ange Jeffery. “The program provided me with the opportunity to work alongside talented peers and amazing First Nation artists, and many generous mentors that have empowered me to grow and create at a whole new level.”

“Blak Design is the continuation of a series of projects and discourse the KHT has delivered since 2014, exploring Australian contemporary First Nations design,” says Tom Mosby, KHT CEO. “These projects aim to promote First Nations design principles and best practice methodologies and theories to the broader design community while supporting and mentoring First Nations designers.’’

Blak Design is supported by the Ian Potter Foundation, in partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria, RMIT University and Federation Square. The Blak Jewellery exhibition is proudly supported by Radiant Pavilion, Melbourne’s contemporary jewellery and object biennial.

Blak Jewellery – Finding Past, Linking Present opens Saturday 4 September until Sunday 14 November 2021 at the Koorie Heritage Trust, Yarra Building, Fed Square.

Open daily, 10am – 5pm. Free entry

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