Creative Spotlight:
Life as an Jewellery Artist in Residence at the SHAC with
Grant Parker

October 29th, 2020


Grant Parker is a local creative and highly skilled Jewellery Artist, who also happens to be the Logistics & Stock Manager for Suzie Anderson Home. We had a conversation about life as a Jewellery Artist in Residence at the Southern Highlands Artisans Collective. 

Before moving to Australia in 2001, Grant worked as a lecturer and practitioner in literature and performing arts. With no formal training, but a keen interest in fashion design and history, in 2002 he began to create one off jewellery designs using late 19th and early 20th century glass, celluloid and Bakelite buttons.

He has sold his pieces at artisan markets, boutique stores and his own vintage clothing shop. He pursues a singular mission in each of his creations: to showcase these small but dense embodiments of cultural and technological change.

When did you first begin an interest in Jewellery Design?

I began an interest in jewellery design almost 20 years ago when I came across a small collection of Victorian glass buttons. I was fascinated by their intricacy and beauty but perplexed by what to do with them. They were simply too beautiful and impractical to sit on modern clothing, and they'd been confined to a rusty tin for decades. It seemed obvious that the best way to preserve, liberate and enjoy them, was to make jewellery out of them.

Where do you draw inspiration for your one-off creations?

The materials themselves are the main source of inspiration. I see my role as a designer to create designs that are harmonious and sympathetic to the materials I use. I rarely make preparatory sketches, and when I do, the finished pieces never bear any resemblance to them. The designs evolve organically as I'm experimenting with the materials. Ultimately, a French Jet button from 1890 will tell me what it will and will not do; both practically and aesthetically.


Is there a particular period from which your pieces resonate?

A lot of the feedback I get from other people is that my jewellery evokes the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It isn't something I consciously do, but it was undeniably an incredible time for all forms of design, and crucially an important time for hand crafted art.

It isn't surprising to me that that transitional period between the late 19th and 20th century is referred to as "The Belle Epoch" and "The Gilded Age".

What do you enjoy most about being a designer?

The greatest joy about being a designer is being able to share my concept of beauty with others. It's the opportunity it affords me to step away from an otherwise crazy world and really communicate with people.

Your Jewellery pieces are so unique. How do you source the beautiful materials that go into creating your jewellery?

I've built up a substantial collection of vintage buttons, beads and findings over the last 20 years.

Most are European and come from a variety of sources: markets, estate auctions, boutiques, charity shop finds. However, here in Australia it's been fascinating to discover and connect with people with similar passions.

About fifteen years ago, I discovered a retailer who dealt exclusively in antique buttons in The Rocks in Sydney. Her knowledge (and her collection) was immense and intoxicating. She generously invited me to sell my pieces in her shop, and this was my first experience of selling something I'd made.

Describe a day in your Atelier and what it is like to create in that space?

A typical day at The Shac for me is about immersing myself in my own "non-real reality". I've spent every weekend over the last few months creating a studio space that is an aesthetic extension of my jewellery. It's involved everything from painting, sourcing furniture, "borrowing" antiques and curios, and moving things around more times than I care to remember! I do think creativity is about transporting yourself and others, to another world. So making jewellery at The Shac is just part of my creative process.

Your upcoming event is The Southern Highlands Art Trail in November. Can you tell me briefly about that?

The upcoming Arts Trail gives anyone with an interest in creativity to share and enjoy the incredible talent of artists in the Highlands. Whether that's visiting a collective group of artists at a place like the Shac, or the private studios of artisans and hobbyists, it's the time to see artists "in situ" in their creative worlds; to observe their process, ask questions and share thoughts.

CURIOUS TO LEARN MORE? 

The Southern Highlands Artisans Collective ~ is a not-for-profit organisation building a vibrant creative hub in the old potato shed (next to The Big Potato) in Robertson NSW, bringing together some of the most talented artists and artisans in the Highlands under one roof.

Opening Hours 
FRIDAY / SATURDAY / SUNDAY / MONDAY 10AM - 4PM (or by appointment Tuesday - Thursday)