Hot or Not? Wire Wrapped

Opinion :

Wire wrapped jewellery has to be one of the most abused methods of construction known to metal craft. The plethora of ugly, misshapen abominations I endured while searching for good examples to show you meant that I searched through FIFTY PAGES on Etsy before I came up with these few examples (that’s around 2,400 products if you’re wondering).

These are the best I’ve found. While they’re not all exactly my cup of tea, these examples do display admirable skill, attention to detail, precision and a sense of form and composition.


red landscape earrings -

{red landscape earrings –}


dirigible plum earrings -

{Luna Lovegood dirigible plum earrings –}


green bastard pendant -

{green bastard pendant –}


spaceship pendant -

{spaceship pendant –}



Why is there so much bad? I really believe it’s because of that gigantic monster of a double-edged sword that is the DIY movement. I love the DIY movement because it has encouraged people to create and do and believe in handmade.

Sadly, it has also meant that anyone and everyone with a pair of pliers and a hank of wire has decided to call themselves a ‘jeweller’. Crikey. It’s like me changing the washer in a tap and calling myself a plumber.


It’s a question of quality. Like any material, with any method, there are utterly stunning examples. They all have three crucial ingredients –


imagination + design knowledge + skill


Try these from the grand dame of wire jewellery, Arline Fisch.  She is a US jeweller who has been translating textile techniques through wire for most of her working career – more than 50 years.


Arline Fisch - Lace Hub Necklace

Arline Fisch – Lace Hub Necklace


Arline Fisch - medallion halo necklace

Arline Fisch – medallion halo necklace


And watch out when she chooses to introduce coloured wire into her work.


Arline Fisch - coral wreath necklace

Arline Fisch – coral wreath necklace


Arline Fisch - corals - photo William Gullette

Arline Fisch – corals – photo William Gullette


Craft needs more skill.

The world needs more beautiful and less ugly.

The crafted object : Mark O’Brien {cardboard}

Mark O’Brien makes chickens. From cardboard. And cars,  guitars,  robots and shoes…


mark obrien - robot

mark obrien – robot


The Manchester-based illustrator who graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a degree in Graphic Arts chooses to work in cardboard for its accessibility, and its ability to grab attention. He loves reinterpreting iconic and everyday things such as drumkits, cameras and Mini Coopers because they’ve got a story to tell, and people can relate to them.


mark obrien - Table Manners - Biscuits - collab with Rebecca Manley

mark obrien – biscuits – ‘table manners’ video collab with rebecca manley


mark obrien - star trek phaser

mark obrien – star trek phaser


mark obrien - cardboard canon

mark obrien – cardboard canon


To date, he has made work for theatre props, commercial displays, video, animation, photoshoots, and art exhibitions around the world, including clients such as Folksy, Shuh, Greater Manchester Police and the RSPCA. And when he’s not creating work for other people, he’s still making things for himself just because he thinks it’s excellent fun. And besides, he can make all the shoes that he wants for himself that he couldn’t otherwise afford.


mark obrien - birra moretti shoes

mark obrien – birra moretti shoes


mark obrien - purple high tops

mark obrien – purple high tops


mark obrien - church st records - created for the skyliner show

mark obrien – church st records – created for the skyliner show


mark obrien - Chicken crossing Abbey Road - for RSPCA

mark obrien – chicken crossing abbey road – for RSPCA


Mark runs public workshops in recycling for cardboard and other materials, and also works with schools to promote crafting to kids.

You can find Mark’s portfolio on his website, and buy his shoes (and a robot or two) in his Etsy shop, MarkofBrien.


Opinion : 3D printing and craft

Just how do 3D printing and craft fit together? Is it just a matter of using a virtual image or scanning in what you want and shoving a copy of that thing out of the printer? Or as many copies as you want out of the printer?

And how is that craft?


3D printing and craft : Igor Knezevic - 3D printed lampshade

Igor Knezevic – 3D printed lampshade –

 {click image for link}


Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are several different types of 3D printing. Early versions used to shoot precise laser beams through a plastic soup, and where the beam struck, the soup hardened. Most commonly now, there is Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) which works kind of like an ordinary inkjet printer, spitting out a string of plastic (or metal etc), building the image up in layers (these are the type of machines made by Makerbot and Filabot). A newer type is Selective Laser Melting (SLM), and builds on original ideas, using a high-powered laser beam to fuse together finely powdered metal.


The very biggest advantage of any of these types of printing is that as long as you can put the design on screen, you can print it out. Infinite flexibility. (Almost.)



3d photobooth portraits from

3d photobooth portraits –

{omote 3D was a pop-up event last year in Japan that involved scanning members of the public in a special booth and printing them out in full colour. There were even family portraits.}


There are, however, some serious drawbacks to 3d printing.


1. you can steal designs. Would you like your own Eames chair rip-off? How about some new Lego? And … how about that cute new iphone cover you just saw on Etsy? Breach of copyright is not only dishonest, for small businesses it can be downright devastating. (More of my thoughts on copyright in the digital age here.)

2. technology grows old quickly. Just like the increasing number of old phones and old computers, there will be an increasing number of obsolete printers, discarded in favour of cleaner, faster, more flexible machines. What do we do with old tech? We already have an uneasy relationship with our growing mountain of tech waste. Out of sight out of mind is no solution at all.

3. more waste. You can’t recycle your unwanted creations easily. What do you do with all those ugly bits of plastic experiment and bad prints that you can’t use/don’t want? Filabot do make a machine to reclaim some plastics – but that’s an extra piece of equipment with extra maintenance and extra expense, which is also subject to becoming outdated in the future.


But of course, when the technology is used properly, there are excellent advantages.


1. less waste. Despite the production of unwanted objects that may be difficult to recycle, overall there is less waste during the manufacturing process – think of all the scrap material discarded when cutting, drilling, filing and sanding in more traditional making processes. With additive printing, you only really use as much material as you need.

2. you don’t have to make new moulds for every new product that you try. You use no moulds at all.

3. you get exactly what you want. Especially useful when you can’t find what you want in the shops. Can’t find that rare spare part for your dooverlacky? Print it out. Got a great idea for a new aerodynamic handbag so you can glide through the shops? Print it out. You can design your product and see it on screen, tweak it and put it through 100s of iterations before deciding to manufacture, instead of building possibly hundreds of test pieces to discard before the final design. In many instances, the physical properties could also be tested virtually, before discovering  problems during the manufacturing process.


So, back to the question of craft. Does 3D manufacturing replace, shift or enhance traditional methods?

Perhaps, because most of us have not had personal experience with this technology,  we might be forgiven for thinking that a maker working in a virtual environment has perfect control over their material. However, consider the growing number of different materials that can be used – this requires a working knowledge of each material’s particular behavioural properties. Then there’s post-processing which is totally hands-on – there are many finishing processes used, such as removing supports, smoothing and sanding,  painting, dyeing, polishing, joining and more.


3D printing and craft : 'landscape04' ring by – ring – landscape04


Renowned  portraitist Chuck Close  utilised digital technology to create a series of loomed tapestry self portraits. They took Close around a year to set up before printing – selecting palettes, running test strips, calibrating. He considers that there is an enormous amount of labour still involved – but that it shifts in focus from the end to the beginning of the project.

In a post on the Facebook Group Critical Craft Forum, the question of 3D printing and craft came up. In the discussion, Kevin Murray reminded us of the furore that photography caused in painting circles when it first became popular in the 1800s. But photography did not replace painting despite the fact that they both produced images. Instead, the new technology helped to push painting in new and exciting directions. He continued; “To say that tool developments are interconnected is not to deprive the artist of any freedoms, but to offer the possibility that new creative practices are opened up in the wake of technological ‘advances’.”(1)

New things! A space for possibilities.

Experimentation is part of the conversation. Take this very cute bear – it’s a traditional stop frame animation, using 50 small 3D printed bears, made by creative agency DBLG, based in London. And it’s beautiful.



In the same discussion on Critical Craft Forum, another group member Rachel said “It is interesting to see how many people have negative feelings towards 3D processes. Implying that when using those processes, you are not using your brain only shows a lack of understanding about the tools and media available. All craft, 3D printed objects included, require creativity, intelligence, I hope originality, and most certainly skill.”

“I think the problem is the mainstream idea that makers using 3D processes are simply scanning objects and shoving them out to the printer. This is just wrong. What you’re seeing are examples of how “cool” the new technology is on the surface, not what it can do when a skilled maker is behind the tools.”


“Junk can be made with traditional processes and junk can be made with new processes.”


“Just as photography did not replace painting, 3D processes do not replace traditional processes. All are valid mediums of making. Objects created are deemed successful or unsuccessful due to the skill, efforts, and creativity of the maker, not the tools or medium. Rejecting a medium or set of tools because it is not what you would prefer to use, or you don’t understand them, doesn’t move anyone or any field forward.”



At the intersection of digital and handmade, artists are exploring ways of how to include the human touch using digital tools.

One has constructed an environment where a gluegun-type pen is wielded freehand, but where it intersects with the projected virtual computer model, the holder of the pen experiences resistance so that they know where the model should be made; however they still have the freedom to express their craft knowledge as well as be inclusive of the natural imperfections of the handmade object.

Design collaborative Unfold have produced technology that scans your moving hands, and so allows you to shape your form in the air while you see it on screen, becoming like a virtual potter’s wheel.

Architectural and film concept designer Igor Knezevic gets me thinking on a whole different level. ” I am waiting for the day to come when we can do 3D printing on a micro and nano scale so then you go and create not only a form, but also the material properties and how it behaves … imagine foamy, spongy, gnarly materials… and somehow get graphene into the mix. This is going to get crazy.”(2)

There are endless possibilities to be explored; both digital and traditional will grow, mix, change and move into their own paths.

Susan Taing, director of 3D printing company  says “It’s like the food industry. For years people bought cheap chicken and beef and didn’t care where it came from. Then they got interested in locally grown food, and that started a movement. The same thing will happen with products—we’ll go back to a more artisanal market, with a lot of smaller local hubs, enabled by technology.”(3)


3D printing and craft : 3D rice cereal 2013 by  Janne Kyttanen

3d rice cereal 2013 by Janne Kyttanen

{food itself is another frontier. rice cereal was printed in the shapes of Janne Kyttanen’s signature pieces – heads, light fixtures, shoes, iphone covers, and his signature .}


So how will 3D printers fit into our lives in the future? There are several scenarios.  Small 3D printers for the home are becoming more commonplace;  although they are limited in their capabilities and the quality of their output, still, you can use your own software and create your own things.  Or, you can contribute to sites such as Thingiverse (an offshoot company of Makerbot), which is like an opensource community – upload and share your designs.

At the other end of the spectrum are high end specialist printers that are capable of printing in various types of materials, where designers can send their files to be printed professionally.  Companies like Shapeways work with architects, designers and more.

Certainly 3D printing is gaining in momentum. Will it extend to the point where there is a ‘copyshop’ in every suburb, so that locals can go and get anything they need? Car parts, new chairs, specialty tools for other DIY projects. Who knows?

While you’re about it, check out the 159 PAGES worth of 3D printed goods on Etsy – some are good, some are very, very bad, and some are, well, just meh. Just like any other craft.


How do YOU see 3D printing fitting into what you do – is there any possibility? Specialist tools for your traditional craft? Decorated accessories for your existing tools? New design ideas for jewellery?  Or even a new coffee cup to drink from while you work? I would LOVE to hear from you especially if you already incorporate these technologies in your work.

Cheers! Julie X

Precision and surprise : the 3D printed jewellery of Cinnamon Lee

Cinnamon Lee’s first encounter with 3D manufacturing technologies was at the Australian National University, while she was undertaking her Visual Arts degree. ANU had just acquired an FDM rapid prototyping machine, and she took to it immediately; she feels herself lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. “The thing that really kept my interest was the level of accuracy and precision that I was able to achieve using the technology. Because I have come from a traditional craft background, these new tools really offered an inspiring way of conceiving how things could be made.”


cinnamon lee - Blood Oath

cinnamon lee – Blood Oath

 {all images courtesy of John Lee}


With work-from-home graphic designers for parents, she grew up learning how to use a scalpel and setsquare instead of scissors. ” Their craft (pre-computers) had a significant impact on my childhood… I was always making stuff. I also clearly remember getting my own set of rapidograph pens when I was 10 and having to learn how to look after them so the tiny nibs didn’t get blocked. I think I probably learnt a lot about design fundamentals through osmosis as a result of being exposed to my parent’s profession, although I was blissfully unaware at the time.”



cinnamon lee - Solitaire 2&3

cinnamon lee – Solitaire 2&3


Besides her parents, Cinnamon counts her brother as an important influence. “My older brother was traditionally trained as an animator (using pencil, paper and lightbox), and he continues to provide me with inspiration by the individually unorthodox way that he has managed his own career in the arts. I admire the way he makes his own rules and never follows any pre-trodden path.”

“Like many others I am also constantly impressed by the wonders of nature, on both micro and macroscopic levels. I am especially interested in the impact that science and technology has on human development. I love the sense of order amongst chaos revealed by deeper and more complex layers of understanding of the world around us. I am both excited and horrified by the extremes of human nature…all facets are fascinating.”


cinnamon lee - See Through pair

cinnamon lee – See Through pair


Over the last 15 years of practice, including completing her Masters in 2010, she has produced work for both lighting design and in jewellery; a fusion of concept-driven, individualistic design, 3D additive manufacturing processes and hand-making techniques result in work that is precise, bold and very engaging.

Her latest work  includes a range of rings in gold and titanium with black gemstones, and introduces the new process of selective laser melting (SLM), whereby a high-power laser beam fuses together finely powdered metal.


cinnamon lee - Promises x4

cinnamon lee – Promises x4


cinnamon lee - Until Death

cinnamon lee – Until Death


cinnamon lee - Inset Pair

cinnamon lee – Inset Pair


cinnamon lee - Diamonds to Hearts

cinnamon lee – Diamonds to Hearts


Tough Love is Cinnamon’s most recent solo exhibition,  focusing on the forms of wedding and engagement rings, but reinterpreting the traditional symbols of diamonds and hearts in subtle and surprising ways. Some of this work is now making its way into a new store in the Strand Arcade, Sydney – Courtesy Of The Artist Customsister store to the established contemporary jewellery gallery, Courtesy of the Artist.


cinnamon lee - covert romantic

cinnamon lee – covert romantic


cinnamon lee - Super Solitaire 1

cinnamon lee – Super Solitaire 1


cinnamon lee - Super Solitaire 2

cinnamon lee – Super Solitaire 2



Her best piece of advice comes from Mahatma Gandhi. 

“Almost everything you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”



cinnamon lee - bench



cinnamon lee - bench



Cinnamon’s work has been acquired for a number of public collections including The National Gallery of Australia’s Decorative Arts Collection. You can find more of her work on her own website,, and at


The crafted object : Sim Luttin {jewellery}

Australian jeweller Sim Luttin grew up wanting be an inventor. Time spent watching things being created by her grandfather tinkering in his shed and her scientist father had a profound and early influence on her. “I was encouraged to do things in a more labour intensive, meticulous way, which was often a longer and highly detailed process. Now, many years later, I approach my creative work this way.”


sim luttin - these things

sim luttin – these things


In a career that has spanned across the country and internationally, Sim produces work that is deceptively simple and elegant; spacious and subtly textured. She works principally in monochrome using materials of oxidised silver and steel, and her sleek forms are seductively tactile in their smoothness.

“I have always worked by developing an idea first, which forms a basis for sketching the development and final piece, then I make the work by hand. At different times my focus has differed and the development of one of these areas has superseded the other. Earlier in my career, I would start with an idea, research it then sketch a lot – down to every last detail that would appear in the final piece. Now I tend to work more intuitively. I start with an idea and write it down, then I research and collect things that relate to the project e.g. images from life and the internet, then I might sketch a few ideas before jumping straight in. The end result may or may not look exactly like the original sketch, and I am really enjoying working this way.”


sim luttin - melancholy - these things that never were

sim luttin – melancholy – these things that never were


sim luttin -  lasting thought

sim luttin – lasting thought


She feels fortunate that her parents took  her to many museums and galleries, and provided her with lots of books to read; “My imagination was always nourished.” When she left high school, she knew she wanted to pursue an arts career somehow, but didn’t really have a specific path in mind. It was when she came across a book on Australian Contemporary Jewellery, featuring  the work of craft luminaries such as Warwick Freeman, Julie Blyfield, and Robert Baines that she decided what she wanted to do. “I was awe struck and within 12 months I’d successfully got in to Gold and Silversmithing at RMIT, Melbourne.”

Her list of influences is long. “Where do I begin?! Many things influence me and I admire many people, from Australian contemporary jewellers such as Julie Byfield, Sue Lorraine, Helen Britton, and Robert Baines for their incredibly creative and perfectly crafted work, as well as international jewellers such as Mirjam Hiller, Lucy Sarneel, Otto Künzli, and Bettina Speckner. Outside of this jewellery world, I admire other people like Abi Crompton from Third Drawer Down for her vision and drive; choreographer Twylar Tharp for her dedication to making creativity your daily practice; and ceramicist Honor Freeman for her impeccable concept development and execution of her installation work.


sim luttin - bidding adieu

sim luttin – bidding adieu


“However, my biggest influences have been my peers, nature and moments captured in the everyday.” It is this emphasis on the everyday and the temporary nature of things that prompted one of her favourite projects. “It was my Masters project titled ‘The Temporary Nature of Things’ (2008), which idealistically looked for beauty in the everyday, distilling daily observations into 366 jewellery pieces and artist books. The collection represented the temporality of life; fleeting moments, small observations captured and now past. I was searching for ways to pause and connect with my everyday. This project has since fuelled my interest in time-based projects, and what the starting point for my 2013 solo exhibition in the USA “These Moments Existed”, which explored ideas of ambivalence and melancholy, by taking 365 digital photos that inspired wood and paper contemporary jewellery that were ambiguous or ephemeral in nature.”

sim luttin - framed

sim luttin – framed


As any internationally acclaimed artist will tell you, her career has had its highs and lows. Her worst experience came after she had created a new line of work while an Associate at the JamFactory. “I was so proud of it, only to have it pointed out to me that there was a New Zealand artist who had already created almost exactly the same work. I had no idea and I was devastated. My mentor at the time Sue Lorraine gave me some great advice when it happened, which was that “it was a great idea, but now you know someone else has designed it you have to take your work in another direction. Often our paths cross with other makers, and when that discovery is made you have to let it go and carve your own path. It’s why it’s so important to be aware of other makers in the field and know their work”… or something to that effect. It was a good, humbling and early lesson and something I have always been conscious of since.”

And of course, the high points more than make up for the lows. In 2006, Sim was the recipient of a full scholarship to complete her Masters at Indiana University in Bloomington, USA. It was an exciting moment for her. “It validated my art practice and was the first time I really felt I could achieve great things as a contemporary art jeweller. The second moment was on completing my MFA, when I got a call from Charon Kransen in New York for representation in the USA. That was a pretty amazing moment for me.”


sim luttin - piece a day project

sim luttin – piece a day project


Currently, Sim splits her time between working in the gallery at Art Projects Australia, making contemporary jewellery, and cooking and entertaining. And something curious? “I can’t stand the colour purple…the mere site of it can make me go pale.”


Sim Luttin's bench

Sim Luttin’s bench


Her best piece of advice? “Make your creative practice an everyday habit.”


You can find more of Sim and her work on her own website at, and on her photo and jewellery documentary project,

The crafted object : Sandra Bowkett {ceramic}

Sandra Bowkett is one of those artists that the more you find out about them, the more in awe you are of them.


sandra bowkett - bharni and copper spot dishes

sandra bowkett – bharni and copper spot dishes


Sandra is a ceramicist living in pristine woodland near Tallarook in central Victoria with her partner, producing cups and bowls in porcelain and decorated with oxides. Her work is simple and elegant, comfortable in its handmade origins.

She counts as one of her biggest achievements to date the successful building and firing of her own wood firing kiln, and “arriving at the point after many ‘phases’ where I feel I am working in a way that is an authentic expression of myself through my craft.”


sandra bowkett - copper spot cups

sandra bowkett – copper spot cups


sandra bowkett - pourer bowl and spoons

sandra bowkett – pourer bowl and spoons


Sandra grew up in country NSW, and was introduced to ceramics by her art teacher at school, which she continued to study at Caulfield Tech. Working briefly for a large production pottery firm in Healesville, she decided that was not for her and left to pursue her own ideas on making.

After travelling overseas, a Diploma of Education, and more travelling, she returned to Australia and set up her own studio in Melbourne, with visions of  the Turkish kilims that she’d seen driving her imagination.

Then, a trip to India in 1988 became a turning point in her life – while wandering around Rajasthan, she came across a potter’s yard, and in the corner of the yard was a massive pile of spherical water jars. For someone whose Western training valued the pursuit of individuality even more than skill, the sight was astonishing and the effect was profound. From that point on, her whole outlook on repetition changed, as did her own ceramic practice.


sandra bowkett - stitched - cup plate spoon

sandra bowkett – stitched – cup plate spoon


sandra bowkett - cobalt stripe vessels

sandra bowkett – cobalt stripe vessels


She felt the need to create stronger connections with the potters of India. Her first attempts didn’t go smoothly. When trying to facilitate a women’s ceramic workshop outside Delhi, the women were unenthusiastic and the product development didn’t happen how she intended. The experience made Sandra realise then that they didn’t need her – they had all the skills they needed from traditional practice producing functional items and were happy in that pursuit.

It is that tradition and its concentration on one thing to the point of great artistry in that thing that gives it immense appeal to Sandra. She also believes that part of the inherent beauty of functional items is their honesty, and these ideas have been a big driver of Sandra’s own work.

It was for these reasons that she knew there would be other potters in Australia who would benefit from what these traditional artisans had to offer.

So she persisted.

Slowly, over a period of ten years and a huge amount of travelling, Sandra has built a strong cross-cultural community. With the help of young Indian craft advocate and entrepreneur Minhazz Majumbar, they have forged Crosshatched, an overall concept and flexible structure for continuing craft exchanges between the two countries.


sandra bowkett - potter

sandra bowkett – potter


Sandra’s images of India are wonderful, evoking all the rich colour and often thought-provoking sights of the place (you can check more of them here). I asked her how serious she was about photography, and how it fitted in with her ceramics practice. She told me, “In the past I had briefly considered photography as a career but I do not think I am predatory enough, and the desire to make objects is strong.”


sandra bowkett - Kumartuli Kol figures

sandra bowkett – Kumartuli Kol figures


“However I live in a visual world; in India at every turn there is the picturesque, the unusual or exotic, and after many trips there I need to be in a certain mindset to take a picture. Sometimes I do not take my camera out with me so as not to be distracted by the possibility of a great shot, but just enjoy the moment.”


sandra bowkett - india

sandra bowkett – india


sandra bowkett - sketchbook - india Feb2014

sandra bowkett – sketchbook – india Feb 2014


Sandra has achieved a massive amount over the last decade; I for one am looking forward to hearing more of her stories soon and seeing how these cross-cultural traditions impact on contemporary craft.


sandra bowkett - studio view

sandra bowkett – studio view


sandra bowkett - view from my bed


You can check out more of the many artists and projects involved in Crosshatched at, and see more of Sandra’s own work at