Last week in the NSW mid-north coast town of Bowraville, Australian Design Centre partnered with the Indigenous Jewellery Project’s Emily McCulloch Childs and contemporary jeweller Melinda Young, for a week of professional development workshops with Gumbayngirr artists.

The Gumbaynggirr have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The word Bowra comes from the Gumbaynggirr place name, Bawrrung, which possibly means cabbage tree palm, or 'bullrout fish', 'scrub turkey' or 'bald head'. There is a strong tradition of wood carving and jewellery making, which continues today.

Gumbaynggirr artists were invited to participate in a five-day contemporary jewellery making workshop. The professional workshop was attended by nine local artists who were introduced to jewellery making techniques including saw piercing, metal texturing, heat patination, cold-joining, making jewellery findings and air-dry clay beads, knotting and cordage, all with a focus on working with natural materials including locally collected native timber and shells.

Outcomes included necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

Previously these artists have been working on their painting practice, in workshops and an exhibition organised by local community organisation Jaanymili Bawrrungga Inc and Arcadian Creative Management in Bowraville.

These workshops offer a positive opportunity for local women to learn new skills and share this knowledge in the broader the community.

In May the artists will exhibit their work in a pop-up exhibition in Object Shop. Several artists will visit ADC and engage in further professional development while in Sydney.

This is the third Indigenous Jewellery Project workshop Australian Design Centre has produced in partnership with founding curator Emily McCulloch Childs and leading contemporary jeweller Melinda Young. Read about the Walgett Project here

This project was supported by the NSW Government though Create NSW as part of Arts Restart.

More about the Indigenous Jewellery Project

Founded in 2013, the Indigenous Jewellery Project (IJP) is the first nation-wide Indigenous Australian contemporary jewellery project. IJP works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned art centres across Australia, running workshops on country with traditional Indigenous jewellers, founding curator Emily McCulloch Childs and leading contemporary jewellers.

The aim of the Indigenous Jewellery Project is to strengthen and continue existing traditions and facilitate artists to develop a career as exhibiting contemporary artist jewellers through upskilling, involving developing practice and the use of professional jewellery materials. It is focused on developing and maintaining Aboriginal jewellery and small object tradition and practice, reinforcing the connection to traditional lands and the natural world and developing a sophisticated contemporary art craft practice, in which works are created that both sit on the body and outside it.

Image: Denise Buchanan, Jugaan (Brolga), The Bawrrungga Project 2021. Photo: Emily McCulloch Childs.

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