More Tinsmith disclosures from Jeweller to the Lost studio Saturday, Jul 31 2010 

mal E here; the secret is out, the jewellers have put me to work doing the dirty work – that’s real dirt under my finger nails! Commissions were set aside this week as Barbara, Juan and mal E started the first week of make/play using the materials of the tinsmith – tin, copper with the addition of steel, pressure and heat, hammering, folding and sawing. Margie Fraser dropped over to interview Barbara for publicity and we expect a photographer this week from INSIDE/out Magazine – watch this space!

Killing two birds with the same (opal) Saturday, Jul 31 2010 

This opalised plesiosaur vertebra is owned by fellow artist, collector, geneologist, pathology specialist and Barbara Heath commissioner; Dr Gael Phillips. I scanned it last weekend before it became the active ingredient of a new commission brief. Last night I attended the opening of the ‘Gabba 5 Ways Antiques Emporium’ where a few friends have stalls. Amongst Jorn Harbeck’s Rare Book offerings is a fab 1908 first edition of ‘The story of the Noble Opal’ by Sydney B. J. Skertchly, Brisbane: Flavelle, Roberts & Sankey. Priced at A$1,650.00 this is a nice clean copy with a newspaper photograph of Skertchly and the Queensland Governor taped to the back of the title. Both very rare specimens and well worth the asking price <>. I must also mention Adrian Gray and his eclectic Shop 56 stock, taking up easily the largest area and showing his usual (I should also say unusual) quality local colonial and oriental mix of collectable and affordable furniture and objects <>.

UPDATE: 25 August 2010 – Barbara’s design .pdf downloadable here

2nd UPDATE: 30 April 2011 – The finished piece posted to this blog.

St Helens History Room and the Derby Tin Trail, Tasmania Wednesday, Jul 28 2010 

We visited in early Feb 2010, I’m just cleaning up all the Tinsmith files in preparation for a publicist’s visit tomorrow morning. The coffin liners were a particular highlight for Barbara and I, we have another friend Ben Ziegler in LA who would like the the high-res coffin image . . . it  is downloadable here.

St Helens History Room: Sue Briginshaw and her team of curators, gallery guides and many local historians made us welcome, opened up exhibits and took the time to explain elements of the local tin trade. The History Room is attached to the local council chambers, right beside the place where locals attend to their cray pot licenses, pay their rates and it is a mecca for tourist leaflet collection – a perfect positioning for the old world stuff we love. Sue and her husband John are close neighbours and friends of John Potter and Roz MacAllan at Binalong Bay, it was there over a long delightful summer evening that we first swapped tin snippets and we showed a DVD of Barbara’s mother’s family movies of Christmas holidays on the East Coast from the 1920s-1940s.

The Derby Tin Centre: The tin trail runs over the north-east area of Tasmania known as the Blue Tiers. We first became acquainted with the story of the Chinese on the tin fields through Joan Scott’s little research book – Celestial Sojourn. Joan pays tribute to the gentle Chinese who so diligently worked this area and whose contribution has largely gone unacknowledged. Once we had visited all the graves, the older camps and towns we ended up at the Tin Interpretation Centre at Derby. There we met the local councillor and historian, John Beswick. One of Derby’s best known and fourth generation sons, John Beswick penned the famous book on Derby’s tin mining history; Brother’s Home. John was curious about our research and showed us through the centre, signed our copy and made suggestions of places and sites for further visits. The book can be sourced via email

The powerpoint of the trail is downloadable here, its 24 Mb. Slide 1 is shown above – Miners asleep in the bush.

Two important Kina Shells, now with bespoke fastenings Saturday, Jul 24 2010 

This is the second money shell commission that Barbara has worked on for the curator and collector, head of Australian Art QAG/GOMA; Julie Ewington. This commission was to design and make fastenings that most suited these objects. Both from interesting sources with their histories intact, now they are secured for vitrine presentation and the odd ‘rumble in the disco jungle’ . . . the one above is fabricated in shakudo, the one below has a knotted necklace of matt onyx with oxidised silver fastenings © Bh – Jeweller to the Lost.

Tinsmith show moves into the make stage, Barbara unearthed an old favourite image most appropriate for this time Friday, Jul 23 2010 

Sandy Calder’s studio in upstate New York, this page is (maybe) torn from an old issue of Twen Magazine . . . we can’t remember. I do know it pricked Barb’s imagination way back when we first met and I remember it was when I first cut up all my magazines for studio reference; Ramparts, Esquire, Nova, Twen, Tattler, French & US Vogues – they all were reduced to drawer-size concept stimulants.

This week the studio is busy fabricating up their first shapes in copper and tin sheet, testing melted tin wiped over those shapes, experiments using tin as solder, punching patterns and making the tools to make the shapes – next the copy and photography must be completed for advanced publicity and when we finally know what will be shown . . . a get-together with the Artisan installation crew to design the space. Watch this space!

We always post some dual-birthday image, this is the one from 2010 Friday, Jul 23 2010 

Email received today – how would you have responded? Thursday, Jul 22 2010 

First for the scanned email, I’ve protected the client’s details with a simple brush rule.

so . . . how would you have handled this request?

I first of all went to the commissioner’s list posted on this blog’s (pages), top left hand column. Opened the file and checked the details, went to the locked section of the safe. Opened the box labeled – ‘jewellery left by people’, found the ring with the date and phone number (long cancelled). Well there’s still another 19 parcels belonging to lost commissioners . . .

My Tasmania by Barbara Heath. Prepared for Handmark Gallery, Salamanca Place. Wednesday, Jul 21 2010 

I was born in Sydney in 1954 and as a child I recall my parents describe my sister and I as ‘fifth generation Australian’.  I remember thinking that in a nation as new as ours this might be considered to carry some weight – a contradiction of sorts, since Australians like to think they judge a person at face value rather than family pedigree. Nevertheless it was a descriptive that warmed me during a peripatetic childhood as a bankers daughter, as we moved home from country to city and from Australia to the UK, I counted a total of nine ‘first days at a new school‘ and knew how it felt to be an outsider. In fact every member of our family was born in a different state and it was a topic of much teasing and fun since no-one could really side with another.
Tasmania was my mothers’ birthplace and its her family ancestry that has been one of the factors that have drawn me back here.
In 2005 my husband and I bought the old General Store at Tunbridge in the Southern Midlands – like many visitors before us, we fell for a Georgian beauty and its starkly beautiful surrounding landscape. The well known building has become our second home and we are slowly nuturing back its original features.
We have always known of the Dazeley’s convict ancestors – though I dare say it was a closely held secret for several earlier generations eager to be rid of any moral taint. Much information gets lost or skewed in those long silences. The Campbell Town memorial pavement places Thomas Dazeley and Elizabeth Jessop’s bricks side by side and has them both arriving on the Theresa in 1845. In truth my Great Great Grandmother had arrived a few years earlier, sentenced to seven years servitude in Van Diemen’s land for the crime of stealing a watch worth less than five pounds. Thomas Dazeley’s story held similar pathos, he had stolen an article of clothing. He was caught, tried and convicted and his sentence expelled him from family, place, continuity and belonging. Harsh indeed, as are so many aspects of Australia’s colonial story. In time, the progenitors of the Dazeley family were granted certificates of freedom and like many freed convicts Thomas was seconded to the police force, eventually settling in Longford as a police constable.
Subsequent generations of this side of my family reveal preachers, teachers and engineers, the latter located on the north coast, my Grandfather and many of my uncles were employed at the Finlaysons Foundry at Devonport. I like to think my career as an artist/jeweller owes some debt to the material skills of these men, effectively our work concerns the same themes of creative problem solving in metal.
My work as a jeweller began early, at seventeen when I was apprenticed to Laslo Puzsar a high profile diamond jeweller in Melbourne, his policy was to release his apprentices to study part time at the Gold and Silversmithing program at RMIT. The insights gained from this cross sector training have characterised my studio practice which includes jewellery, bespoke or commissioned, product range or experimental as well as small sculpture, architectural detailing and large public artwork.
Choosing a career path as a teenager always seems to be a bit like grabbing the stick from the wrong end, but fortunately for me this medium suited any innate abilities I may have had and my early choice has been sustaining – intellectually, financially and emotionally. Jewellery is in effect a sign language carried on the body; expressing style, wit, humour and of course sentiment. Certainly reflection on making and material culture have fascinated and informed my approach, but what I may not have anticipated in working in this field is the aspect of connectedness to my community. My designer husband (and co-conspirator) once described my studio practice as Jeweller to the Lost, its a mysterious title that hints at the intimate collaborative nature of making meaningful objects that articulate personal stories at a human scale. Its here that my work has brought me close to people as they seek the right object to witness the depths of their emotions.
As the work crosses from human to large urban scale, there are similar histories and symbolism but these narratives expand to scope ideas of place and of a collective history. One of my favorite recurring themes draws on vernacular architectural detailing of the 19th century Queensland house, specifically the lattice screens and shade devices which provide shelter from the harsh light and hot climate. The lattice permits light but also casts shadows. Implying both protection and barrier, logic and sensuality the lattice speaks of transition and an opportunity for passage.
Threads of continuity, belonging and inheritance are explored in the exhibition ‘Tinsmith’ – which is informed through my research into Queensland’s colonial workforce. The history of Tinsmithing follows the path of just one utilitarian skill set and its migration across centuries and continents. The playful new objects made for this exhibition, materially express this genealogy as well as the shifting, permeable boundaries between craft, trade and industry.
Similarly my own migrations to and from Tasmania and Queensland are revealing to me my own story of family, place, continuity and belonging. It will be interesting to discover how this may manifest in future work. Our favourite image of Salamanca Place, at the top of this blog spot is from Michael Sharland’s lovely, lyrical book – Stones of a Century. Handmark Gallery & our jewellery is also to be found at 77 Salamanca Place, Hobart 03 6223 7895. Other Salamanca shots, (read the file title for artist details) – 1234

Design sent off to London in response to an internet request Saturday, Jul 17 2010 

The measurements and gemological valuation came as a .pdf – what a wonderful stone. We responded with a second design and drawing update and estimate AND it is now, a future prospect.

More friends supply Tinsmith data from their own family archives – Graham and Ann Hesse connections Wednesday, Jul 14 2010 

In 1874 the Postal directory for Queensland lists 42 tinsmiths across the state with 17 of these located in Brisbane.  Some working merely for themselves, others employing one or two, but none employing more than three or four. We read of a fire in 1864 destroying amongst other buildings, the tinsmith shop of William Keith. However the Keith business continued,  as the 1876 Postal directory puts W Keith in Queen Street – western side between Edward & Albert Streets – south from Finney Isles Department store (now David Jones). There was a hardware store in this section called “Ironmongeries Pty Ltd” up until the 1970s – perhaps William Keith did morph into this?

What we do know is that even in the mid 1800’s there was a nostalgia for lost skills no less poignant than today – as a reporter for The Queenslander in 1869 writes: ‘We have a distinct recollection of a tinsmith’s shop in a midland county town in England long, long years ago, and the absorbing interest with which we used to watch the workmen with their hammers and pliers fashioning various articles, slowly and with much labor but with marvellous deftness and skill, as we then and still think.’  Somehow or other we lost sight of our old friends the tinsmiths from that time until a few days ago, when we visited the Brisbane tinsmiths workshops and could not recognise a single tool again except the hammer and soldering iron.’

‘The Americans have completely revolutionised the tinsmiths’ trade, as they have so many others, by introducing machines to perform nearly every operation required. At Mr. W. Keith’s we saw some of these modern machines – First, there is an enormous pair of shears, standing up from the workbench at an angle of about 45 degrees – merely cutting tin seems child’s play to it. Next an ” edging” machine, by which the cut edges of tin are turned to the required angle. Then a grooving machine in which, by turning a handle, a little iron roller travels along a groove in an iron plate. The two pieces of tin are laid on the plate, the handle is turned and the two pieces are firmly and neatly joined together. Lastly, a wiring machine, in which a wire is rolled up in the edge of a tin vessel to strengthen it’.

‘Both at Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Keith’s all kinds of ordinary tin goods are made, such as dairy utensils, kitchen utensils of all kinds, street lanterns, grocers’ show boxes and canisters, japanned boxes and all kinds of japanned goods—in fact, everything required’.

William Keith. The very name ‘Tinsmith’  evokes nostalgic, romantic connotations; nomadic fixers of things, outsiders, tricky, silver-tongued salesmen who charmed the farmers wives with their glinting wares. Numerous stories exist of peddlers who started out hawking their tinware on foot, then buying a small cart, next a wagon and finally owning the hardware store. Its the story of the immigrant, of a fresh start in a new place, one un-encumbered by the constraints of the homeland.

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