Review / Brooches become excitingly fashionable

craft / “Bro.och – an exposition of brooches”, Bilk, Palmerston Lane, Manuka until July 15. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

“Tools for Life”, by Melissa Cameron… These useful little objects can be worn, and used in times of emergency…

RECENTLY I read that brooches are back in fashion, though the fact they had dropped out of fashion apparently passed me by.

While they’ve been popular with me they haven’t been so popular for men and Bilk is encouraging more men to adorn their chests with brooches and pins.

Brooches are perhaps the easiest piece of jewellery to have and wear – as a wearer they can help change your appearance, as a viewer they might give you a clue to what the wearer is thinking. In this enigmatic mix we have the maker – surely the most important player.

Bilk has assembled a formidable group of jewellers for this exhibition.

Helen Aitken-Kuhnen and her apprentice, Jasmine Watson are exhibiting enamelled pieces. Helen is revisiting a form that she made many years ago, and the fluid, organic shape in soft, pale colours is as successful now as it was then. The brooches have a velvet-like smoothness, the colours quietly blending into lighter and darker shades from the edges to the centre. The silver touches give the edges definition and highlight the form.

Jasmine is using a seemingly traditional method of defining the enamel colours. A curved silver frame is filled with enamel. The brooches are timeless.

It’s a treat to see Eugenie Keefer Bell’s work. Four “Stardust Brooches” in silver sparkle with tiny pieces of silver scattered over the top. The glittery surface curves, catching the light. These elegant brooches could easily be worn by a woman or a man.

“Trophy Wife Barbies”, by Annelies Hofmeyr… They are fun, but scary at the same time…

Brooches can be humorous, whimsical and plain fun. Trophy Wife (Annelies Hofmeyr) is showing three “Trophy Wife Barbies”, to whom she has given names. They play on the concept of a trophy, being mounted on a wooden shield, and all wear horns. They are fun, but scary at the same time.

Less in-your-face but just as whimsical are four “Name Work Badges” by Nick Bastin, which are also named. Although based on the common shape of a name tag worn by workers in a variety of industries, they do not identify the wearer.

Melissa Cameron has repurposed several tools titled “Tools for Life”. These useful little objects can be worn, and used in times of emergency and include a “Hex Key”, a “Bottle Opener” and a “Bike Wrench”.

Panjapol Kulpapangkorn, a Thai designer who was recently awarded Thai Designer of the Year, 2017, is adapting cigarette lighters for two brooches “I light you, 2014” and “I light, 2017”. I believe that artists who can create humour out of waste have a special place in this world.

The exhibition includes many other well-known Australian jewellers whose work is exciting, fun and beautifully executed. The materials are diverse and include glass, silver, wood, steel, basalt, PVC and titanium.

Come on guys – get with the strength and buy a brooch!

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