The crafted object : Frank Ideas {jewellery}

Frank Ideas
frank ideas - neon pink rubber and felt necklace

frank ideas – neon pink rubber and felt necklace


Rowan Shaw started designing jewellery because both of her kids were keen swimmers.  “With training every morning at 5am it meant I was stuck in a car or by a pool a lot and jewellery was portable. At that stage it was mainly textile necklaces using felt or cuffs made from vintage buttons, scavenged from thrift shops at beach towns when the kids were competing at nippers carnivals.”


frank ideas - neon green and orange earrings

frank ideas – neon green and orange earrings


frank ideas - red and black necklace

frank ideas – red and black necklace


Her current jewellery is more simplistic in style, using modern materials such as plastic and rubber in sleek forms, with bright colours, and utilising the materials themselves for textural interest.

Her world has revolved around design and making ever since she can remember. With an architect father she grew up surrounded by contemporary design books and magazines, carpet and wallpaper samples, and modern furniture. “My mother made most of our clothes and created fabulous costumes for the plays I was always in so there were always buttons, cottons, wool and fabric samples lying around. As a family we were often immersed in handmade projects for the house – curtains made from paper beads that we created from the gloriously colourful pages in glossy architectural magazines, covering walls with wonderfully textural textiles, sorting volcanic stones for landscaping in our unusual garden…My adolescence was spent rehearsing and acting, painting murals on walls, working with polymer clay (eons before it was cool) dipping wire in bright (possibly toxic) substances to make mobiles and…well, simply creating. I remember when I was about 12, making a mobile out of “dippity glass” (does anyone else remember that stuff??)  that I took to school to use as a demonstration for a talk about  processes. No one, including the teacher, believed I had made it myself, assuming it had been bought from a shop.”


 “That was probably the first time it dawned on me that not everyone spent their life making things.”


Frank Ideas originally started as a furniture design business several years ago, run by Rowan and her friend Gillian. “The name originated because we were both very frank in our taste and opinions. Our designs were  quite Scandinavian in feel using light coloured timbers, very utilitarian or modernist in aesthetic. We used to spend a lot of time in architectural hardware companies and timber yards battling with sexist males who were often quite patronising and assumed we had no idea what we were talking about. We had a lot of fun explaining to them that we were “Frank” not his assistants. I kept the name once Gill moved to a more idyllic, rural life deciding that I would still have Frank Ideas even though I was now designing jewellery. I have many clients who buy regularly from me on line and still assume I am a rather flamboyant gay male.”


frank ideas - folded silver origami necklace

frank ideas – folded silver origami necklace


After several bouts of studying and working in theatre and design, she eventually found her way to jewellery. “I now feel like jewellery is what I should have been doing my whole life, but am glad it evolved from other disciplines. I’ve done some very short silversmithing courses but apart from that am totally self taught, using intuition and trial and error to develop my own techniques and style. I am totally materials based – ie I very rarely draw a design first (unlike all those years spent at a drawing board) but instead will dye felt or knot rubber long before I know what I am actually going to do with it. I have boxes of experiments which I hardly ever throw out – even the most disastrous is set aside until (sometimes a few years later) I eventually rediscover it and it will be the solution to a current design problem. This somewhat chaotic approach to design leads to hoarding of materials – I frequently purchase vintage African beads, find pieces of rubber or fabulous bits of fabric that I have no idea what to do with – they will appeal to me because of their colour, texture or history. They will sit on a shelf until inspiration hits – hardly a disciplined or rigorous design approach!!”


frank ideas - red paper flower necklace

frank ideas – red paper flower necklace


“I love the process – probably more than the final result. I love the experimenting and total absorption that comes from working with unusual materials. I really love the solitude and am sooo thankful that the Internet means I don’t have to try to sell my pieces at markets very often. I am often amazed when people get excited by something I’ve made.”

Having such an extensive design background has given Rowan a huge pool of influences from which to draw. She says that architecture is of course an enduring backdrop to everything, but her favourites in other mediums shine through, and include the fabulous paper jewellery of Ana Hagopian, the rich colour of the legendary ceramicist Clarice Cliff, as well as the inspiring array of otherwise discarded materials used by British sculptor Tony Cragg. “I actually still believe that less is more, its just that sometimes I choose to fight against it.”


frank ideas - red and grey felt necklace

frank ideas – red and grey felt necklace


frank ideas - black rubber knotted choker necklace

frank ideas – black rubber knotted choker necklace


Working out of her home studio in Balmain, Sydney gives her easy access to the many things that are important to her – especially water. “We are a five minute ferry ride to the MCA and the Opera house so I’m close to the city which I passionately adore. I’m an urban girl who delights in bridges, buildings, art galleries and shops. We are 20 minutes drive from Bondi where I swim and walk most days in summer. During winter it is only a 5 minute trip to the local pool where I swim most mornings. I need water in my life; swimming laps is the closest thing I get to meditation. I find the repetition calming, and the rhythm of breathing helps me find the centre I need to plan the day in my studio.”

“My life is lived in total chaos, much to the dismay of my family who are all quite orderly in their approach to life and living. My husband is very tidy but has learnt to turn a blind eye to the disruption and mess that seems to follow me. I try to keep my work contained in my studio or my office but I often spill out of both spaces.”

Her favourite piece of advice is one from Ira Glass, and I love it too. It’s about just keeping on doing.


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” {Ira Glass}


You can find more of Rowan’s jewellery in her Etsy shop, FrankIdeas.


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.

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,

Photography : Blackcurrant Photography {Kell Rowe}

“I can spend an hour in a square metre of garden bed. I feel so driven to capture the tiny things that others ignore, it’s almost a fear… what if nobody else ever photographs that plant? I have to make its life have been appreciated, if only for a moment.”


Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower


Kell Rowe had a camera in her hand from the time she was 8; photography has always seemed a natural and integral part of who she is.

 “Photography is a way of life for me. It’s not something that I can just give up…” 

She studied photography during and after high school, and has since completed a Diploma in Photography. Early on in her career, she won a few agricultural show awards, and the Darlington Arts Festival prize for junior photography. “It was a $70 prize, and a certificate was presented to me by aerial photographer, Richard Woldendorp. I was only 17 at the time, so it was a pretty big deal.”


Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower


Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower


Kell is a photographer of many things, based in Perth, Western Australia. She is the face and force behind Blackcurrant Photography, which specialises in glorious images of Australian wildflowers – native orchids, banksias, acacia, ti-tree, kangaroo paw and more. Her images are rich, sensual and delicate; getting up close and capturing that fragile point in time is at the core of what she does.

It’s also that sense of briefness that she admires in two of photography’s greats – Annie Leibovitz and Alfred Eisenstaedt. “They immersed themselves in the scene, getting right up close to the action, so that anyone looking at the photograph got an immediate sense of being in the moment. ”


Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower


Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography - Australian wildflower

Kell Rowe / Blackcurrant Photography – Australian wildflower


And it’s that sense of the moment that she has carried through to another project she has undertaken. Kell’s series “My place in time” is an exploration of Perth and its surrounds – the architecture, the people, and the changing landscape. “I started the project just under a year ago as Perth was in the grips of sharing old photos and celebrating our history. I was concerned that a whole generation of photos may be lost because these days many people don’t print their photographs, and don’t take many pictures of their local area. I have discovered so much about my city since I started, and whilst I sometimes regret rushing on writing the prompts, I appreciate that it encourages me to take photos I normally wouldn’t have.”

“Whenever I view street scenes from the past, I love searching for signs and old cars, little details. These sorts of photographs were always taken with a hugh depth of field (f16 or f22) and I have started to apply that to my own street photography. I love scenes that go on forever, for the eye to explore.”


kell rowe - my place in time #17 - somewhere I visited as a kid

kell rowe – my place in time #17 – somewhere I visited as a kid


Kell stumbled across Etsy in 2007, and started selling her work online shortly after. And even though she spends time communicating with friends via social media, and frequently makes sales to overseas customers, she says the distance that that entails has never quite sunk in; how it means her work is being worn and is on people’s walls 20,000 kms away. “I still mentally group friends in NZ with friends in the Eastern States. It was nice to have someone recently remind me that it is a big deal. I do always get a thrill when I get notification that someone liked my work enough to buy it.”


kell rowe - my place in time #43 - something old

kell rowe – my place in time #43 – something old


“I don’t really have a best piece of advice, but I have lots of little mantras that run through my head, usually relics from photography lecturers over the years. Things such as “never trust the strap” (always hold the camera too), “check your backgrounds”, and “always leave the house with your camera”. I’m getting better with that last one.

“One that’s changed my photography the most is to ‘zoom with your legs’. I used to take my kit lens, an 18-70mm zoom lens everywhere but I was finding it very heavy and tiring; now I love the 35mm. Because my camera is called an APS-C and isn’t full frame, my 35mm lens behaves like a 50mm. It gives me a similar field of view to the press photographers of old, and the closest to what I actually see with my own eyes. If I want to photograph something I have to physically get up close to it. This has helped me a lot with getting used to being in crowds and getting out of my comfort zone. Because it is so light and small, I feel that I don’t look as threatening as I did with a zoom lens… because sometimes strangers still get weirded out if you’re taking photos of them in public. Even if it is perfectly legal to do so.”


kell rowe - my place in time #53 - if i had kids i'd take them here

kell rowe – my place in time #53 – if i had kids i’d take them here


Kell sells her photographs as prints, greeting cards, and features many of her flower images on earrings and pendants. You can find more of her work in her Etsy shop, BlackcurrantShop, and on her own website,