Hunting and Gathering

We are always on the lookout for materials and find the very best ones in the strangest places... Like outside this corner store in Dulwich Hill. The studio assistant and I couldn't quite believe our eyes when we saw the gems nestled in these buckets outside and were beside ourselves when we saw the treasure trove INSIDE!!! We have been patiently saving these materials for our next unnatural adventure - Unnatural Tendencies which  opens on October 3 at the amazing Fingers in Auckland.

A foliage laden pram is a familiar sight around these parts...


Unnatural Acts Catalogue

We have published a very fancy 20 page full colour catalogue to accompany the Unnatural Acts exhibition... It would not have been possible to do this without the extraordinary assistance of Team Brand. Zoe Brand and her Mum, Jeanette Brand who designed and created it for us. It is a beautiful book and we are so very, very grateful to them both.

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of the catalogue, please contact Velvet da Vinci gallery or drop us a line.

Meanwhile, please enjoy reading the fabulous catalogue essay that Zoe has crafted for us interspersed with a few more images of works from the exhibition...

452 to Paradise
A few years ago, on a trip to Adelaide, I chanced upon a road sign, that in big reflective letters simply read O-bahn to Paradise. My mind drifted to a dreamlike world. As I stepped down from my chariot dressed in a cherry red toga with a golden grape wreath upon my head, I would be presented with a ceremonial reception. Beer would flow freely and trumpets would sound. This was my grandiose, and perhaps a little kitsch, idea of Paradise. Only, I had a feeling this suburb in Australia’s fifth largest city might not live up to my expectations. This humorous idea of paying a few dollars to catch a bus to Paradise, has stuck with me ever since.

Not long after this unexpected discovery, I was introduced to another delight, a project that jewellers Melinda Young and Lauren Simeoni were beginning to germinate and would grow to become unnatural, Naturally and now unnatural Acts.

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,
Mark Vaarwerk, Brooch

My initiation went something like this: Young handed me an A4-sized padded envelope addressed to Young from Simeoni and invited me to inspect its contents. It contained just one single item: a huge plastic lettuce leaf. There was no note, no explanation, just the TO and FROM address written on the outside. From my facial expression, it was clear that I did not understand. Young, however, offered no explanation, just a cheeky grin. Further inquiry uncovered that this was just the veiled way that Young and Simeoni like to communicate.

 All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,
Caz Guiney, Neckpiece

Over the past three years Young and Simeoni have posted a communal notebook and found objects, usually plastic fakery, like the gifted lettuce leaf, back and forth between their respective studios in Sydney and Adelaide. Through this process they have each developed a series of work in response to these shared communications and objects. Like neighbours exchanging recipes and garden clippings over the back fence, it seems appropriate then, that the fruits of their labor have been exhibited on stylized wooden hedges, with their neckpieces and brooches, hung in colour coordinated vignettes. It is as if Young and Simeoni are perhaps thinking about their own jewellery paradise and in unnatural, Naturally creating their version of a Garden of Eden. Drawn together by their similar aesthetic and appreciation of a good pun, it is clear that both Simeoni and Young take much joy in their creations. The humour of the work is deeply seeded not only in the use of their found objects, but also in the quiet nod of appreciation passed in the titles of the pieces. I however, have a sneaky suspicion, that under all the flourish, things might not always be what they appear. Spend some time with these works and you start to notice that all the plastic fakery might actually be teasing you; the works may look a little different after you glance at a few titles: Half Lung, Puce, Pollinator, Leak and Probe. Perhaps you might also like to consider where some of these works sit when placed on the body.

 All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,
Bridget Kennedy, Brooch

This project seems unrivalled not only in the unconventional approach to collaboration, but also in scope (creating new work for each of the five previous exhibitions) and in its longevity (beginning in 2008 and with no immediate indication of slowing down). Like a plastic bunch of grapes, the work still seems fresh, however kitsch and unnatural their inspiration and materials, the resulting work is relevant and reflects how each jeweller views the world around them.

 All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,
Kath Inglis, Brooch

In 2011, Young and Simeoni have opened their garden gates and invited eight Australian jewellers, Anna Davern, Caz Guiney, Kath Inglis, Bridget Kennedy, Peta Kruger, Sim Luttin, Natalia Milosz-Piekarska, and Mark Vaarwerk, to share in their world of plastic fakery, sending them each an oddment of vines, lemons, grapes, cherries and onions. The result is unnatural Acts, an exhibition where these everyday objects are grafted together, given new life and transformed into something else entirely.

 All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,
Natalia Milosz-Piekarska, Neckpiece

These new realities, full of possibilities show how unexpected and funny life can be, like the discovery that Paradise exists and is just a short bus ride away.
Zoe Brand

Unnatural Acts... a taster of the work in the exhibition!

Here are some images showing examples of how everyone responded to the Unnatural Acts brief along with their artist statements... quite a few of the artists have also written additional things about their work and the process of making the pieces - click on the links to access this extra information! We are so excited by each person's response and the work that they have made is awesome!

Here are the materials again to remind you of what everyone was given to work with... All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,

My immediate response to my bag of materials was to want to cut it all up (my piercing saw is my favourite tool!). I was particularly drawn to the onion as I wanted to play with slicing it and trying to represent the layers found in a “natural” onion.

My first experiments were fun but I kept thinking that they looked like someone else had made them. My natural inclination when working is to build a narrative and I have been working with the imagery from old biscuit tins and tin trays for a few years now. I cut, rearrange and construct the layers of images to create hybrid creatures and strange altered landscapes.

The onion makes a conspicuous reappearance in the David brooches, but it is also present in the layers and layering of the construction of the brooches.
Anna Davern

 All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,
Anna has blogged about her work here


Difficulty with prescribed physical starting point – no conceptual framework, no relation to my location, not my stuff, disconnected
Plastic smells like it has been in a smoker’s house YUCK!
Attempt purely aesthetic compositions -- nice but not me
Completely disassemble, completely destroy and rebuild – run over the whole lot with the car to create an element of chance… mmm might be a bit risky
Manipulate rather than destroy… punch holes… yes I will punch holes
Challenge myself to use all of the material supplied… yes this is important
Upcycle – product cycle – lifecycle
Holes, lots of holes, punch, punch, punch this plastic food stuff… lifecycle… AH! Got it… The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Caz Guiney
 All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,
Caz blogged extensively about the process behind her work. Check it out here, here, here, here and here

I think of myself as a material based maker, in that significant relationships are formed between the material, my hand and the tool. For ten years my practice has centred on the manipulation and transformation of a commonplace material: Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), into the precious. The material is initially coloured then small pieces are removed from the surface through a process of hand cut incisions and carved patterns. Transformed from its prosaic ‘natural’ state, this new material glitters with a play of light and reflection.

unnatural Acts really challenged the way in which I approached my work. I am used to having an unlimited supply of one material to physically experiment with and now I was limited to one envelope of varied materials. I knew I had to change my approach or else I would exhaust my resource in a minute! If only I could have more of these materials... I considered Charles Darwin’s theory of ‘natural selection’ and played with the idea of ‘unnatural selection’. Unnatural plants would need the assistance of ‘plastic pollinators’ to reproduce.
Kath Inglis

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,

Kath has written about her work here


This work reflects an ongoing exploration into concerns of environmental and human fragility.
Miracle-gro and Crop-giant were two of the fertiliser brands heavily advertised by the side of the road that I observed while travelling in the Philippines.
Bridget Kennedy

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,

Fake plastic onions. Someone in this world is making their living from manufacturing fake plastic onions. I feel as though I stepped into this person’s life for a few days, I shared the desire to make it look real and to make it look good. I sliced an actual onion to understand the detail inside, the cells, its layers - and it made me weep.
Peta Kruger

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,  

Contrary to the ordinary course of nature, the series Somewhere There Exists… does. Exist I mean.
Where once there was merely a collection of artificial bits-and-bobs (having received them in the mail), there now exists a collection of jewellery pieces that would never otherwise have existed. If it weren’t for the project Unnatural Acts, I would not have been led down a garden path of imagination and promise: to create a new, small collection of work in response to a bag of colourful unnatural plant-like forms. Somewhere There Exists… is a visual bite of a bigger idea that is slowly evolving (and not dissimilar to some of my earlier work).
While continuing to inform the overarching theme of my current exploration Melancholy Series, this collection is much more playful. Melancholy Series has a darker tone: it poetically explores notions of beauty, nostalgia and passing time, questioning how the creation of objects can guide or replace memory. While Melancholy Series alludes to forms found in nature, deliberately abstracting them to de-familiarise the familiar, this series explores the imaginary by creating new, unnatural jewellery from silver, wood and plastic. Essentially these are objects of frippery and decoration, born in response to thinking “somewhere there exists...”.
Sim Luttin

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,


I found the materials I was sent for unnatural Acts, to be a somewhat telling and disconcerting harvest for what has become native to my western contemporary urban culture. However, in response, I pruned and diced my way through the fake fruit and foliage to create two neckpieces that celebrate the lurid colours and embrace the playful qualities of the materials. I drew inspiration from the traditional Lei, a predominantly Polynesian and Hawaiian ceremonial and celebratory garland composed from materials native to, or at hand for the maker, such as flowers, seeds, teeth, shells and in more recent times, man made elements such as plastic, candy and coins. A symbol of welcome, friendship and good intent, these garlands are material gestures composed from elements specific to geographical and cultural significance. Taking on the role of bricoleur and alchemist, it was not my intention to discriminate against the materials in front of me, to devalue them or judge them. They are a raw material to be explored, manipulated, celebrated and treasured. By honoring these materials, I feel I am giving them a new context that elevates them above the disposable commodity they were intended to be.
Natalia Milosz-Piekarska

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,


My favourite piece of jewellery is a necklace made of plastic twigs. Never before have I appreciated the delicate form of a synthetic stick from a plastic floral arrangement, complete with a browny-green patina and potential new life budding from its gnarled joints. –Kirrily Hammond (artist & curator)

When I found these humorous salvaged pieces, I saw them as a reminder of how consistently strangely our culture views the natural. I am fascinated, weirdly excited and disgusted.
I insist on giving these oddities a new life.
The rich colours and textures of these found objects are important triggers of inspiration, and a limited palette provides more possibilities. A homage, a wearable passport to a whimsical ‘other’ reality, finding the beautiful and seductive in what is otherwise thought of as mundane. The onion will be a fabulous brooch.
Lauren Simeoni

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,


Accustomed to working with unconventional plasticky substances, when making jewellery for unnatural Acts my focus was simply to welcome the donor materials into my usual collection of Useful Things. Initiated by means of tortures and experiments already common to my practice - shredding, cutting, mixing, spinning, amongst others - these new materials quickly found a way to fit in with my current obsession with transforming expanded polystyrene into colourful jewellery using simple experimental and crafts-based techniques.
Mark Vaarwerk

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,

I played and I played and I played.
I sliced, stitched and sawed.
I had grand plans.
Made sweeping gestures.
Colours exploded across my bench (and some paint spilled). 
Several enormous, lemony brooches announced their ghastly presence.
I made an onion chandelier.
Big green leaves became cheeky, swingers’ merkin pendants.
Small, weird, blue leaves tossed and tumbled like waves around a neck.
All composted.

And then, suddenly, all that was left were the stalks… Buds of a new idea grew: Ikebana stark.
Shadow play. Hidden secrets.
Melinda Young

Unnatural Acts... About the artists

Here is an introduction to the artists in Unnatural Acts...

ANNA DAVERN is one of Australia's most respected contemporary jewellers. Her practice straddles the visual arts, jewellery and fashion. She gained her undergraduate degree in Jewellery and Object Design at Sydney College of the Arts and her post-graduate studies and subsequent Masters degree were completed at RMIT, Melbourne. Davern works from her studio in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. She exhibits regularly and has held two major solo exhibitions at Craft Victoria, Melbourne. She has been represented in numerous Australian and international group exhibitions. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards and has participated in residencies in Sydney and Tallinn, Estonia.

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,
CAZ GUINEY'S concept-based practice engages with public space, attempting to establish a dialogue among the landscape, the object and the body. Her work draws on the urban fabric as a source of material and inspiration for jewelry. Guiney's work includes site-specific jewelry installations and responding enthusiastically to briefs such as unnatural Acts.
In 1995, Guiney completed a Bachelor of Art in Jewellery and Metalsmithing at Monash University, Australia. Since 1997 she has exhibited throughout Australia and in New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Germany, Chile and the USA and held three solo exhibitions. She has been the recipient of two New Work Grants from the Visual Art & Crafts Board of the Australia Council and an Arts Development Grant – Creation from Arts Victoria. Currently she teaches in the Jewellery and Visual Arts Departments of the Northern Melbourne Institute of Technical and Further Education (NMIT).

You can also read about the artists here

KATH INGLIS was raised in Darwin and moved to Adelaide to study jewelry. After graduating from the South Australian School of Art in 2000, Inglis continued to develop her practice by working from a number of studios, including the renowned Gray Street Workshop, JamFactory Metal Design Studio and soda and rhyme. The workbench is now located in a gorgeous home studio in suburban Adelaide surrounded by a native garden. Inglis' practice is multi-faceted and includes frequent exhibitions in national and international galleries, large-scale collaborative public art projects and teaching. Inglis is also a member of the Craftsouth board.

BRIDGET KENNEDY completed an Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design at the Design Centre Enmore, NSW in 2005. She was then awarded the College Achievement Award and the Jewellery and Object Design Scholarship (a one-year residency within the College). In 2006 she was awarded first prize in Graduate Metal X, an exhibition of works representing 64 recent 'jewellery and object' graduates from art schools around Australia. She was also selected as a finalist to exhibit in the 2006 City of Hobart Art Prize, and more recently was the winner of the 'emerging artist' category in the 2008 JMGA (Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia) NSW Profile Award. In 2008, she opened Studio 20/17, a contemporary jewelry gallery with fellow jeweler, Melanie Ihnen. The gallery is committed to increasing the profile of contemporary jewelry within the wider arts arena.

PETA KRUGER worked as a graphic designer and illustrator before studying visual arts at the Adelaide Centre for the Arts, South Australia. After finishing her degree she worked for Scott Wilson and Jane Adam, both based at Cockpit Arts in London and on returning to Adelaide, completed an associateship in the Metal Design Studio at the JamFactory. Her first major solo exhibition was held at Metalab, Sydney in 2009 followed by the JamFactory in 2011. In 2011 she will be undertaking a mentorship with German/New Zealand jeweller Karl Fritsch with the assistance of a Jump Mentorship grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. She is currently based at the JamFactory in Adelaide.

SIM LUTTIN recalls that her earliest memory of what she wanted to be when she grew up was an inventor. She has a Masters in Metalsmithing and Jewelry Design, Indiana University, USA and a BFA in Gold and Silversmithing, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia. Luttin has held solo exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney as well as participating in numerous group exhibitions nationally and internationally. In 2009 she was commissioned to make the prestigious Emeritus Medal for the Australia Council for the Arts. She won the Alma Eikerman Award for Metalsmithing while studying at Indiana University, and has been the recipient of an Australia Council Emerging Artist New Work Grant. Luttin has pieces in the collections of Galerie Marzee, NL and the Art Gallery of South Australia, and work included in numerous publications. In addition to her contemporary jewelry practice, Luttin is the Gallery and Exhibitions Manager at Arts Project Australia, Melbourne.

NATALIA MILOSZ-PIEKARSKA initially attained a degree in Design/Visual Communication before going on to complete a BA (Honours) in Gold and Silversmithing at RMIT, Melbourne. Natalia now works from her Melbourne based studio as a contemporary jeweler and artist, making and participating in a diverse range of exhibitions and projects. Natalia also teaches at RMIT within the Gold and Silversmithing Department and is currently undertaking a six-month internship in London, UK, with renowned fashion jeweller Scott Wilson as part of the British Council, Australia's Realise Your Dream Program. Natalia's primary focus lies in the realm of amuletic and talismanic adornment. With much of her research delving into various aspects of superstition, folklore and ritual, her work explores our human inclination towards charmed objects and the power of belief.

LAUREN SIMEONI is an Adelaide-based artist working from the Gate 8 workshop collective. Simeoni has a Bachelor of Arts in Gold and Silversmithing from Canberra School of Art; a Design Associateship at the Jam Factory and a 1-year mentorship at Gray Street Workshop in Adelaide followed this. She exhibits nationally and internationally including five solo exhibitions, is the recipient of numerous grants and has undertaken several public art commissions. Her work appears in numerous publications and is held in collections including the Art Gallery of South Australia. Simeoni also guest lectures at universities and actively participates on South Australian Craft and Arts boards and projects. Simeoni is currently working on the ongoing collaborative exhibition project unnatural Acts with Melinda Young.

MARK VAARWERK is a modern day alchemist. He is renown for his innovative and inventive jewellery practice that focuses on the transformation of throwaway plastics, masterfully rendering mundane materials into items of preciousness and intrigue. Vaarwerk completed an Associate Diploma of Arts (Jewellery) at the Sydney Institute of Technology, Enmore in 1997. Since graduating he has exhibited his work extensively nationally and internationally, most recently at Ventura Lambrate 2011, Milan. He has been the recipient of Research Grants from the Australia Council for the Arts and participated in several residencies in the UK. His work has been included in numerous publications and he has shared his unique material knowledge through teaching workshops at universities and colleges around Australia.

MELINDA YOUNG completed a Master of Visual Arts in 2002 at Sydney College of the Arts. She has participated in over 100 exhibitions in Australia and overseas since 1997, with recent solo exhibitions in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. Since 2008 she has also been working on unnatural Acts, a collaborative exhibition project with Lauren Simeoni. In 2008 she won the JMGA, NSW Profile Award for an established artist. Her work has been included in several publications and is held in public collections including The Art Gallery of South Australia and the Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway. Young has had a professional involvement with contemporary craft and design as a curator and writer, and through employment in galleries. She has taught jewelry at a tertiary level since 2000 as well as conducting exhibition workshops at galleries and universities in Australia and New Zealand. She currently teaches at COFA, University of NSW and Sydney College of the Arts.

Unnatural Acts - the installation, a sneak peek

Here's a sneak peek at the installation of the exhibition...

the gallery before....
 and after!

The next adventure...

Our latest unnatural adventure is the exhibition Unnatural Acts which we have curated for Velvet da Vinci Gallery in San Francisco. We are beyond delighted to have been invited to present this exhibition at Velvet da Vinci and extend our warmest thanks to Mike and Elizabeth for the boundless enthusiasm and support.

Unnatural Acts opened last night... Lauren is currently in San Francisco representing and has done an AMAZING job of installing the exhibition - it looks incredible! Today she is conducting an unnatural jewellery workshop at the gallery!

Unnatural Acts has allowed us to get eight of our most favourite Australian jewellers in on the unnatural act so to speak! They are: Anna Davern, Caz Guiney, Kath Inglis, Bridget Kennedy, Peta Kruger, Sim Luttin, Natalia Milosz-Piekarska and Mark Vaarwerk. Whilst we were together in February for the JamFactory exhibition we put together a showbag for each person (and ourselves) and sent them all off with the deceptively simple and open brief to respond to or make something with the materials in the showbag.

Here is what we sent everyone:

All images from unnatural Acts at Velvet da Vinci Gallery,


We were absolutely beside ourselves to learn that The Art Gallery of South Australia purchased some of our work from the JamFactory exhibition for its permanent collection!
Lauren Simeoni, Controlled Burn Neckpiece and Brooch

Melinda Young, Spiker Neckpiece

Bringing you up to date... Naturally

unnatural, Naturally has been touring since October 2009 and has now been shown at metalab, Sydney; Pieces of Eight, Melbourne and in New Zealand at Masterworks, Auckland and Quoil, Wellington and most recently at the JamFactory in Adelaide. The exhibition will be presented at The National in Christchurch when it re-opens and a new site specific version for Fingers Gallery in Auckland will open on 3 October 2011. We have also curated a larger version of the exhibition project featuring the work of eight other Australian jewellers to be shown at Velvet da Vinci, San Francisco in August 2011. We are continuing to exchange materials, develop ideas in our sketchbook and create new work for the project. 

JamFactory Workshops

We held two workshops to accompany the exhibition at the JamFactory, generously hosted by the JamFactory Metal Studio. As with previous workshops, these were fabulous days filled with excitement, inspiration and wonderful participants.

Here is a sneak peek at some of the work and the days in progress...