Jewellery has always been here – JamFactory/Tarnanthi

Ended — at JamFactory Adelaide

An exhibition of jewellery, small objects and films that investigates Anangu jewellery and other three-dimensional design tradition and experimentation. It features works created in the new mediums of resin and silver, from workshops undertaken on country with Kate Rohde, curated by Emily McCulloch Childs.

We are so excited to finally launch our amazing jewellery!

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This is the official press release:

New direction for Anangu artists

In an Australia-wide first, artists from two leading art centres of the APY Lands and Western Desert have adapted their long practiced tradition of jewellery-making into a new medium of resin. The results are being launched this Thursday at Adelaide’s JamFactory as part of the Tarnanthi Festival. Artists are flying down for the event.

‘Jewellery has always been here’, an exhibition by artists of Ernabella Arts at Pukatja (Ernabella) in South Australia and Ikuntji Artists at Haasts Bluff in the Western Desert, comprises brilliantly coloured resin jewellery and small sculptural objects as well as a selection of works in silver.

The idea of introducing Aboriginal artists to resin came to Victorian-based curator and author Emily McCulloch Childs, co-director of art company McCulloch & McCulloch,after seeing the brightly painted quandong seed necklaces made by women in the APY Lands. ‘These artists have exceptional ability as both jewellers and colourists,’ she says, ‘I could envision how beautiful their designs could be in resin which has a quality of intense colour and ability to attract light.’

Through connecting with Melbourne’s Pieces of Eight Gallery’s director, Melanie Katsalidis, who recommended resin artist and jeweller Kate Rohde as workshop artist, in 2014, McCulloch Childs and Rohde visited the art centres to run workshops funded by the Australia Council and Santos.

The results were surprising, says McCulloch Childs. ‘Through my research, I knew these artists had a really strong tradition of jewellery making and three-dimensional design, but even still, I was completely unprepared for what happened. The artists produced such inventive, beautiful work, drawing on their traditions but also creating new designs. It became increasingly clear to me that many of these artists have extremely sophisticated design minds that work clearly in the three-dimensional: they are true object designers and makers.’

The title of the exhibition, says McCulloch Childs, arose out interviews during film-making of the projects with filmmaker Daniel Coutts. ‘Dan and I were amazed by what emerged during the making of the films: how significant the rather underappreciated tradition of Anangu jewellery making was.’ she says. ‘Participant artists would say to us – ‘painting is new: jewellery is everything. It has always been here.’

In fact, Aboriginal jewellery practice may well be the world’s oldest, having existed for many thousands of years.

The five exhibiting artists are

Ernabella Arts
• Senior artist Niningka Lewis whose multi-dimensional practice includes punu (wood) carvings, painting, weaving and jewellery, who has created works of native animals including the bilby and birds
• Younger generation ceramicist, interpreter Anne Thompson and her sister Marissa Thompson whose jewellery making goes back to her childhood when she would sit with senior women making ‘ininti’ (seed) bead jewellery. Much of their jewellery designs incorporate the famous ‘walka’: Ernabella design.

Ikuntji Artists

  • Younger generation Virginia NgalaiaNapanangka who honed her ceramic moulding skills in childhood at the studio of Hermannsburg Potters alongside her grandmother. Her works paying homage to Western Desert communities including Hermannsburg, Haasts Bluff, Papunya and Kintore, and their important creation symbols: the honey ant, witchetty grub, water serpent as well as a small sculpture of a mother holding her baby in a coolamon made just before the birth of her own baby.
  • Walter Jugadai Tjungurrayi who explores Western Desert men’s adornment traditions in a series of rings casting traditional ininti seeds in silver. These rings spring from the Luritja tradition of men wearing ininti in their hair.

The exhibition is a first, not just for the artists, also for the JamFactory who have worked with Ernabella Arts before: just not in jewellery.

It is also planned that the project be ongoing. As such it will offer not only a new direction, but also a new income stream for the artists and their art centres.

Manager of Ikuntji Artists, Dr ChrischonaSchmidt notes that during the 15-month evolution of the project, many participants commented that they had a very clear concept of their identity as jewellers, rather than painters. ‘Resin and silver could potentially provide a sustainable career for craft artists’, she says. ‘Resin is not as labour and size intensive as glass, yet can give a similar effect. It’s a perfect fit for many Anangu artists: they have adept moulding abilities due to their background in ceramics and punu (in resin work, original masters are moulded in clay and then cast in resin).’
Many of the artists, says McCulloch Childs are also great colourists.

‘Kate Rohde and I brought as many colours up as we could and it was fabulous seeing the artists choose their colours.’ says McCulloch Childs. ‘Some went for the sacred colour red, some more earthy tones and some for brighter, neon colours that really pop in resin. Seeing their delight in the finished pieces is just the best.’


Jewellery has always been here
NiningkaMunkuri Lewis, Marissa Thompson, Anne Thompson (Ernabella Arts), Virginia NgalaiaNapanangka and Walter Jugadai Tjungurrayi (Ikuntji Artists). An exhibition of jewellery, small objects and films that investigates Anangu jewellery and other three-dimensional design tradition and experimentation.

Visit event website.


JamFactory Adelaide
19 Morphett Street
Adelaide, SA 5000

Emily McCulloch Childs
Emily McCulloch Childs
0449 258 021