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