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Hand meets machine: Mechanical Sampling by Phoebe Porter

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Hand meets machine in a new exhibition—Mechanical Sampling—presenting a sophisticated collection of contemporary rings from Canberra jeweller Phoebe Porter.

Exploring the techniques possible within hand and machine fabrication, the exhibition features twenty-two beautiful rings designed and made by Phoebe in her studio at Gorman Arts Centre in Braddon.

These rings showcase the superb craftsmanship involved in producing each piece of jewellery, emphasising the precision and variety possible with her selected mechanical tools and techniques, but also the degree of control and creativity enlivened by hand-making.

Phoebe’s newest collection of jewellery responds to the experimental techniques and ideas she has explored since she acquired a mid-century Swiss-made Schaublin 102 lathe.

“I wanted to provoke a broader discussion of modern mass-manufacturing processes of jewellery, the value of the handmade, and how shifts in methods of production affect the way we think about jewellery and its role in our lives today.

“I think it’s really important to embrace the way seemingly opposite attributes can work together in harmony: the traditional and the contemporary, and the hand-made and the mechanical,” says Phoebe.

With incredibly precise detailing and exquisitely finished surfaces, Phoebe uses traditional and contemporary techniques and finishes: knurling, beadblasting, anodising, riveting and milling.

These are processes which many of us would have encountered in the jewellery we wear or admire, but most of us would be unable to name these techniques or identify their contribution towards the finished product.

Mechanical Sampling features a captivating video by Andrew Sikorski showing Phoebe at work in her studio to make visible the numerous processes involved in producing the rings.

Watching the meticulous and extensive processes to complete a ring by hand, from initial sketch to the final polishing and the stamp of the object maker, I am struck that Phoebe’s method of creation couldn’t appear further from the conveyor-belt ideas associated with modern mass production.

The marriage of old and new is also illustrated in the ways Phoebe’s rings reference the jewellery of previous eras fused with highly modern aesthetic principles, materials and techniques.

Phoebe positions a hand-finished tantalum ring alongside an interlocking ring in 750 yellow gold set with champagne diamonds. Another work combines stainless steel with sterling silver and industrial sapphire in a sleek revolving setting.

The collection is undeniably contemporary in appearance, with their refined modern design and emphasis on pared-back geometry and linear ornamentation.

It would be perfect for engagement or wedding rings, a present to yourself to mark an important milestone, or even everyday wear for a contemporary jewellery enthusiast.

Elegant and superbly finished, these rings are testament to Phoebe’s skilled use of tools and techniques, while emphasising the quality of the materials and their response to techniques of manipulation.

It’s no wonder Phoebe was appointed as the 2019 DESIGN Canberra designer-in-residence—Canberra should be very proud that Phoebe chooses to live, work and make in our beautiful city.

Mechanical Sampling raises a number of important considerations on the nature of contemporary jewellery and making, beautifully resolved in the form of these twenty-two rings.

the essentials

What: Mechanical Sampling by Phoebe Porter
Where: Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre
When: 31 October – 14 December 2019

Photography: Andrew Sikorski

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