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We are family: KIN Gallery

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At the close of the Lonsdale St Traders, now empty and demolished with plans to become a new vibrant space, KIN Gallery was born. Having evolved from the success of FIVEFOLD Studio, KIN is set to open its doors this Saturday at The Hamlet and will offer emerging makers more than just a gallery to showcase and sell their wares.

With open arms, the gallery will nurture and support makers, and the journey that they are each travelling while sharing their design story.

For gold and silver smiths, Sarah Carlson (25) and Ingrid Penc (27), the decision to establish KIN Gallery was an natural one.

“We decided the history of FIVEFOLD was intrinsically linked with the Traders and KIN seemed more appropriate as Fivefold had evolved beyond the five artists doing a pop up exhibition,” explains Sarah.

“KIN is a more all rounding gallery in that it’s not linked with the number five but a gallery that will have a longer vision in terms of being open to many more artists and many more pathways.”

Its ability to leverage emerging contemporary makers, in a space that they say is ideal for local designers and artisans, will see both consumers and designers become an integral part of the design story also, just as Ingrid and Sarah both have.

As Canberra has it, the metal welding pair met in boarding school with Sarah moving from the south coast to the nation’s capital at the young age of 13 and Ingrid from Wagga at the sweet age of 16. Little did they know then, what has evolved today.

“We’re both emerging makers ourselves,” says Sarah, an ANU School of Arts patron and graduate.

“We want to capture the engaged market in Canberra who are willing and excited about supporting local design, and open that up to [other] emerging makers.”

Their gallery represents over 30 artists from across Australia, each of them at different points in their making who, says Sarah, are trying to figure out how to make a career out of it.

“They’re figuring out what works what doesn’t and how to balance what they do—their practice—with their everyday life,” she says.

“If we can help one person in this gallery achieve it that would be fabulous.”

But it’s the name of the gallery that truly captures the essence of what the girls are hoping to create among the Canberra design community.

“The one thing that we really like and in particular with our artists and residents is that it feels like a family,” says Ingrid revealing the meaning behind the gallery’s name.

“So we have that link with kin and an associated link with everyone but it does have a double meaning…Kin also means gold in Japanese.

Hence the gold colouring in the logo, oh and the fact that the girls like a bit of bling.

Sarah adds that the name also opens itself to allowing people to forge their own relationship with it.

“Sure KIN reflects community but it also reflects the intimate nature of making, wearing and engaging with handmade objects and jewellery.”

Then there’s the other aspect of KIN which really excites the girls—the workshop.

“In Canberra, there are institutions such as Megalo, the Canberra Glassworks and M16 which are really fabulous to providing access to workshop space…but there hasn’t been an open workshop to fall into where you can have casual access or do permanent work,” says Sarah.

Adds Ingrid, “When you are studying you have about 20 other people with you and you’ve got that support that you can feed off each other, but then you graduate and there’s not a lot after that.”

“When we graduated, there was Pocket Studio which was established by Ali (Alison) Jackson but I think the point of difference [here at KIN] is not only does the workshop provide access to the artists, it also tells a story to the person visiting the gallery, which is really important to us as well,” Sarah says.

While jewellery is so often highly consumed, purchased readily at multiple places, KIN tells a story of how and what environment the jewellery and vessels have been made whilst providing crucial access to makers and inviting the everyday person to engage not only in the gallery but the workshop as well.

“We’re part of that design story too,” says Sarah.

“Someone will put rings into the gallery that they have made before but we do have occasions where it doesn’t sell and it’s not quite right. We’re able to give feedback to the artist, and then they amend the design and bring it back to us. Most people who make wearable objects I believe, is that the most crucial part about wearing the jewellery is when it’s on the body. Going from the bench to being on the body translates two different stories. And it’s not until the consumer comes in and supports the person by buying and engaging the work, and wearing it that you really know how it’s translated as a designer.”

As for the craft of silver and gold smithing, Ingrid loves the balance between the older generation makers and the new wave of emerging designers, and says there is a nice balance between the two.

“One thing I found is that through social media and a lot of other forums, there is a lot of people talking now,” she says.

“I don’t think that makers talking to each other and sharing that information was necessarily a big part of the culture of the profession before, but now there’s this openness…And it’s got us excited.

I think also with the handmade revolution has really made people interested again and appreciating what’s handmade rather than just buying 10 of the mass produced.”

The essence of the emerging maker is one that also brings with it new challenges adds Sarah.

“Whilst the craft of handmade is desired and wanted at the moment, and I always think it will be,” says Sarah, “I don’t think it should ever be considered something that’s dying. Finding a balance in the age where everybody wants to be able to consume, to know the product they are buying straight away and know that it’s going to be the same when they buy it over and over, poses a new challenge.”

“It’s challenging for the consumer to understand and it’s also challenging for the artist…but it’s also why we offer the workshop access.”

With the contrast between the gallery and the workshop offering an complementing and interactive link between the two, the workshop access has also been extended to running classes, something that Ingrid is looking forward to.

“We run classes about once a month and we’ll be adding more classes as we go along. I teach them on a Saturday, so it’s for a full day where people can come in and see what it takes to make their own jewellery and see how dirty it is to get something shiny at the end.

“That’s my favourite thing about it.”

As for who they’ve currently got their eye on?

“There are multiple artists at KIN and we’ve put our name against all of them so obviously we consider them to be a ‘Watch this space’,” says Sarah.

“We’ve definitely picked them because they are exciting!” adds Ingrid.

To discover who these fabulous, creative and talented emerging makers are you’ll just have to stop by tomorrow when they open their doors…(along with a few of their neighbours too).

The essentials
What: KIN Gallery Opening launch
When: 10am until late, Saturday 7 February
Where: The Hamlet, Lonsdale Street Braddon
Open: 12pm-7pm Thursday and Friday; 10am-4pm Saturday; and 11am-4pm Sunday

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