Melbourne-based Vicki Mason has been a contemporary jewellery designer and maker for nearly 30 years with a dedicated focus on plants, trees and nature. Growing up in country New Zealand, she was instinctively drawn to plants. “I spent my whole time pulling plants apart, making perfumes from plants, dissecting them, pressing them. Gardening was huge in our family, plants were always a topic of conversation and I saw many beautiful gardens.”

Her work Canopy, which occupies Object Space on William St, looks at the issue of tree vandalism in Australia and its effect on urban environments. Her miniature hand-crafted trees and houses are made to be worn as brooches or pendants.

What is the aim of Canopy?

My work is always about what I'm seeing and living. Where I live in Melbourne, the house across the road that was a family home for many years, it was bought and two big 200 year-old trees poisoned. The council fine for this was around $930.00. A $4 million dollar home is being built and the home owner has probably built the cost of fines into the build. Pretty much every week I hear chainsaws running, it's just really depressing. I think at the moment people are starting to really go, No, it's not right. And we need to speak up.

Vicki Mason, Canopy (detail), Object Space exhibition view, 2024. Photo: Amy Piddington.

Is each tree in Canopy based on a particular tree?

Initially I was very literal, I had 14 or 20 trees that I was going to try and make. But when I came to actually do the techniques and make them, that had to go right out the window. I've never worked that way before. Usually, it's a direct translation of an idea but I had to be flexible and go with the experiments.

Why do you think people respond to miniatures?

It's a childhood hangover – it is for me anyway. I think there's an intimacy that comes with things that are hand-sized or smaller. And when you have to focus on something small, it's a different way of thinking and the stimuli are different, it's asking different things of your brain and your emotions.

Vicki Mason, Canopy, Object Space exhibition view, 2024. Photo: Amy Piddington.

What do the small seeds signify?

In the Canopy installation, one side is blue with lots of trees and the windows in the houses are cool colours based on thermal heat map photographs that I found really beautiful. The other side is orange with very few trees and the final house has a red window with a treeless yard. It’s actually quite a confronting show but it ends on a hopeful note with the ‘Seeds of Hope’ series of works. The cast tree seeds (oak, ash, beech, magnolia, wattle etc) are symbolic of regeneration and the need to maintain hope in the face destruction,

Vicki Mason, Canopy (detail), Object Space exhibition view, 2024. Photo: Amy Piddington.

Thanks Vicki!

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About Tree Vandalism

‘Tree vandalism’ is a term used by local government to describe an increasing trend of trees being damaged, poisoned, or killed. This illegal vandalism is becoming more common across Australia. The clearing of land for agriculture and development often involves the removal of large canopy trees to expose harbour views and increase property value at the expense of the environment.

Urban trees are crucial for health, well-being, and climate resilience. Reports of tree vandalism are rising across Sydney, with over 1000 incidents in 2023 alone.

We need stronger support from government to investigate and prosecute tree vandals and to properly value our urban canopy. Help push for change by signing this petition urging the NSW State Government to implement stricter penalties for tree vandalism and recognise council trees on asset registers.