Crafting Contemporary Across the Oceania

Contemporary jewellery is a fusion of creativity and innovation that gives us a glimpse into the ever-changing world of modern adornment.

Written by Ashie Luke

Contemporary jewellery is a fusion of creativity and innovation that gives us a glimpse into the ever-changing world of modern adornment. It encompasses diverse forms, materials, and styles, reflecting cultural, social, and artistic movements. Alister Yiap, Alicia Hannah Naomi, Claire Hammon and Greg Fromont share their perspectives on contemporary jewellery. Their unique experiences and insights provide valuable information on the significance and evolution of contemporary jewellery in the modern art and fashion landscape.

Alister Yiap

Images supplied by Alister Yiap

Alister Yiap’s journey as a contemporary jewellery designer began with a Bachelor of Arts in Jewellery Design, where he discovered the allure of creating pieces that transcended traditional boundaries. “Pieces are made not for a client but for an artist’s personal development and self-expression,” Yiap reflects. His early work focused on pushing the boundaries of jewellery design, often inspired by fashion and geometry.

Reflecting on his past work, Yiap emphasises the importance of exploration and experimentation with materials and techniques. “There are no set materials,” he explains. “I’m yearning to discover, research and develop interesting ways of working with conventional and unconventional materials.”

In recent years, Yiap has transitioned towards trade-style work, aiming to create more practical pieces for everyday wear. This shift has been motivated by a desire to support his practice while continuing to produce contemporary jewellery and design objects.

Despite the shift in style, Yiap continues to incorporate elements of contemporary jewellery into his current work. “I’m obsessed with geometric shapes and how clean and crisp they can appear,” he shares. He also emphasises the importance of creative thinking and intuition in his design process.

Alicia Hannah Naomi

Images supplied by Alicia Hannah Naomi

A deep appreciation marks Alicia Hannah Naomi’s path to contemporary jewellery for art, nature, and travel. Introduced to the craft through mentorship and training, Naomi found her voice as a jeweller, blending her artistic sensibilities with her passion for sustainability. Reflecting on her journey, Naomi recalls, “I had my first exposure to contemporary jewellery in 2003 through an opportunity to work with the goldsmiths Francois and Nicholas Payet. It was the first time I’d seen jewellery that felt distinctly handcrafted and from the unique point of view of the artist who crafted it.” This encounter ignited her passion for unconventional adornment and set the foundation for her artistic exploration.

Naomi’s designs are a testament to her deep connection with Australian culture and identity. She explains, “Contemporary jewellery in Australia often reflects our culture and identity through the use of natural materials like Australian Sapphires, Opals and Pearls, which are emblematic of our country’s rich natural resources.” Drawing inspiration from the vast and diverse Australian landscapes, from the rugged outback to the serene coastlines, Naomi incorporates these textures and patterns into her work, creating pieces that resonate with authenticity and depth.

Embracing both tradition and innovation, Naomi’s approach to jewellery design is rooted in a deep respect for craftsmanship and heritage. She remarks, “My approach to innovation is deeply embedded within, rather than balanced with, traditional techniques. What may seem novel often has a long history of use by other practitioners and makers.” By blending traditional techniques with modern sensibilities, Naomi crafts pieces that honour the past while embracing the future of contemporary jewellery.

Claire Hammon and Greg Fromont

Images supplied by Meadowlark

Claire Hammon and Greg Fromont, founders of Meadowlark, consider contemporary jewellery as a form of art. They explain that it is a mixture of traditional techniques, sometimes combined with modern art ideas that can either reference the body or be a series of works based on a particular process. Meadowlark uses both traditional and modern techniques to create pieces that reflect the present culture, especially the fashion world.

According to Hammon and Fromont, the evolution of contemporary jewellery is experimental and diverse. “It can easily be very art world heavy, with obscure references, or references to other makers, but it can just as easily be all about a new process or material, perhaps one made up by the maker, and that process can be just as involved and refined as a traditional technique that has been around for hundreds of years,” they note. Meadowlark’s design ethos thrives on creative tension, reflecting the complexities of human emotions and experiences.

In their approach, Meadowlark stays attuned to current trends in contemporary jewellery while maintaining its unique aesthetic. “By looking at everything, but not looking too much at everything. The design process entails working on ideas in a sort of isolation. I tend to think of the creative process as a filtering process. You feed the mind with all the types of things you like and want to go into the design, and then over time your brain will do its own work, and then we make make make, and hopefully, the outcome is something good,” they explain. The design process entails working on ideas in a sort of isolation. Meadowlark dreams big, making amazing things regardless of functional wearability, and then tries to make them work better.

Comparing the perspectives of Alicia Hannah Naomi and Alister Yiap with insights from Claire Hammon and Greg Fromont provides a nuanced understanding of contemporary jewellery trends. Naomi and Yiap emphasise the balance between tradition and innovation, highlighting the importance of pushing boundaries and exploring new materials and techniques. Both designers draw inspiration from their cultural backgrounds and surroundings, infusing their creations with authenticity and depth.

In contrast, Hammon and Fromont offer a perspective rooted in art and experimentation. They view contemporary jewellery as a fusion of traditional techniques with modern art ideas, resulting in pieces that reflect the complexities of contemporary culture. Meadowlark’s designs thrive on creative tension, embodying the diverse and eclectic nature of contemporary jewellery.

Highlighting common themes such as the balance between tradition and innovation, the use of unconventional materials, and the role of jewellery as a form of self-expression allows a comprehensive view of contemporary jewellery’s dynamic and ever-evolving landscape. Each designer brings a unique perspective to the table, enriching the discourse and shaping the future of contemporary jewellery design.

The insights shared by Naomi, Yiap, Hammon, and Fromont offer a deeper understanding of contemporary jewellery as a form of artistic expression and cultural reflection. As we navigate through the diverse world of contemporary adornment, it becomes evident that the allure of contemporary jewellery transcends trendiness, serving as a canvas of societal introspection and self-expression. By embracing innovation and individuality, designers like these pave the way for a future where contemporary jewellery continues to inspire.

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