the raw beauty of australian jewellery

We speak to the designers of three labels making waves about how their connection to the landscape inspires their work.

by Rosie Dalton
25 January 2016, 3:35pm

The Australian landscape is raw and rugged and its undeniable alchemy is a clear inspiration to many of our designers, particularly it seems to those making jewellery. But what exactly is it about Australia that so inspires this realm of design? i-D spoke with the designers of three Antipodean jewellery labels — Melanie Kamsler and Tamila Purvis of ManiaManiaVenice Rish, and newcomer Holly Ryan to find out.

First launched in 2009 by a couple of friends and collaborators, ManiaMania is a label that has become synonymous with the idea of mystical adornment - a concept that fits nicely with the mystical roots of Australia's own native inhabitants. Last year, Melanie and Tamalia also decided to lend their magical touch to fine jewellery; a decision that coincided with their casting of Julia Restoin Roitfeld as the brand's newest high-profile ambassador (previously having worked with models like Abbey Lee, Bambi, Matilda Dods and Lindsey Wixson). In very democratic fashion, the art director and filmmaker was asked to create a series of selfies to accompany their Immortalia Resort 2015 collection; a collection that also incorporated the use of stones with Australian significance. "The story behind [the stones] and the energy attributed to them is how we make our selection," Kamsler explains of their design process. "For example - opals are known as a "Truth Stone" and both the Indigenous Australians and native North Americans believe that it can induce psychic and mystical visions. It is emotionally associated with love and passion, and is said to bring loyalty and faithfulness, which we felt made them perfect energetically to use in our engagement rings."

Holly Ryan is another Australian designer inspired by Australia's raw beauty. Her clean lines reflect the topography of her homeland and she is committed to working personally with Australian miners in order to source many of her stones. "I am so inspired by nature in its rawest form," Ryan explains. "So I use stones like opals and pearls, that have come straight from nature. In Australia, there is so much to choose from, so you don't have to take anything away from what it is."

Like Holly Ryan, Venice Rish is a designer who produces handmade jewellery, explaining that this is where the magic happens. "It's where you truly unveil the individual characters and eccentricities of the material," she says. A designer known for the eccentricity in her work, Rish is currently completing her Masters at Central Saint Martins in London, a move that has only grown her appreciation for home. "I feel a very strong connection to the Australian landscape and our freewheeling lifestyle," she explains. "My [Masters] project is about Potentially Habitable Worlds and the aerial perspective of much Indigenous Australian art has been a source of inspiration in imagining the topography of worlds outside Earth."

Alchemy is something that both Ryan and Rish also say they feel an affinity for. "It is something I got into quite heavily when I was younger," says Ryan. "It is the art of transmuting metals and being an alchemist is like having a magical ability to turn a common substance of perhaps little value into something of great value." A designer very committed to sustainability in her work, Ryan explains that she feels alchemy at work in her approach to recycling metal materials. "I like to think that I am a bit of a magician in that way, turning my scrap metal into new sheets of metal and then changing that with my hands and making it into something beautiful like a wedding ring." Rish, too, explores alchemy in her work. "I specialise in a material that is very alchemic by nature," she says. "Dichroic glass is a high-tech medium, consisting of tiny layers of metal oxides fused onto the glass surface. This allows some wavelengths of light to reflect, while others pass through, and it is unique because of its infinite possibilities. My obsession is inventing dichroic combinations and watching their transformation into individual universes or tiny particles of vibrating energy."

Australian jewellery designers are at no loss for inspiration, then. That which stems from the mines of their own country, the teachings of their Indigenous population, or the physical beauty to be found in the lay of the land. On top of all this physical and emotional inspiration, though, is a more practical perspective that stems from the country's history in design. "We come from an environment that is not embedded in tradition when it comes to craft," Rish offers. "So it is an opportunity to design in an untamed way."


Text Rosie Dalton

holly ryan
melanie kamsler
tamila purvis
venice rish