How to curate a jewelry exhibition

How to curate a jewelry exhibition

How to curate a jewelry exhibition 1920 1080 Dautor

Kellie Joy Barnes

To celebrate traditional silversmithing in a contemporary context, Melbourne Polytechnic will be exhibiting ‘The BOSS’ as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival following on from its success during the recent Radiant Pavilion Jewellery & Object trail. ‘The BOSS’ features the best of silversmithing work, from current students, recent graduates and alumni of the Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design at Melbourne Polytechnic.

Featuring a unique and vast collection of vessels and objects, ‘The BOSS’ shares an insight into each individuals’ interpretation of silversmithing. With each vessel symbolizing their artistic practice.

Exhibited artists: Jan Allison, Kellie Barnes, Jacqueline Betsy Lord, Georgie Brooks, Nami Chubachi, Merryn Cleland, Polly Dymond, Renee Hope, Sally Howes, Barbara Ladini, Amelia Marks, Dunielle Mina, Claire Raimondo, Zoe Ace Richards, Harriet Sabien, Stephanie Sieber, George Steendam, Ha Than, Sarra Tzijan & Monicque Rens-Timmermans.

AUTOR interviewed the two curators of the exhibition, Caz Guiney and Mary Hackett to find out more about their vision and the way the exhibition came to life.

AUTOR: In which context the idea of curating a student silversmithing exhibition did appear to you? ( It was a part of your job, it was commission by the students etc how did happen?)

Caz Guiney: The idea for the exhibition titled ‘The BOSS – The Best of Student Silversmithing’, arose from an opportunity to submit a proposal for Radiant Pavilion – Melbourne Contemporary Jewellery and Object Biennial. As the Program Coordinator of the Jewellery and Object Design courses at Melbourne Polytechnic, I saw it as the perfect opening to enable our students to participate in an event that they may not have been able to access or have been professionally ready to apply for individually. It was also a great opportunity to get a group of students involved in an important industry event supported by staff, Radiant Pavilion and the community. Especially as for most students, it was their first experience of exhibiting their work publicly. Mary and I chose to exhibit a collection of student Silversmithing work in response to the outcomes of the silversmithing unit, which produces a comprehensive body of student work that lends itself to curation.

AUTOR: Do you use to work as a team of curators together, or it was just for this exhibition? How you will describe your cooperation for BOSS, who did what?

Caz Guiney: This was the first exhibition that Mary and I have curated together, although we’ve worked closely together in the Jewellery Department at Melbourne Polytechnic for over the past 3 years. With Mary as our established Silversmithing teacher, it was a logical step to join forces as a team and curate the exhibition. Throughout planning we collaborated across all aspects; including application criteria, the initial request for student contributions, final selection, through to the design and layout.

AUTOR: You are also artists and teachers. How is to be on the other side as curators?

Caz Guiney: The curation of the exhibition was informed by my experience as an artist, teacher and program coordinator, along with skills beyond these professional disciplines. To be on the other side, required the ability to envision relationships between the works selected and identifying how they related to one another. As the pieces were produced by 20 different individuals, it was important to respect each individual piece yet manage to create a relationship between the works to enable a dialogue. I believe it’s the responsibility of the curator, to ensure that this dialogue brings out the best in each piece and the body of work as a whole.

Mary Hackett: As the silversmithing teacher, I enjoyed the process of curating my student’s work. It was a pleasure. I feel proud of their work and how the exhibition appears cohesive and yet allows for the individuality of each student’s work to be acknowledged and celebrated. To me curation is just another artistic expression. Instead of utilising our usual mediums, we were exploring ideas of what vessels could be through the work of others. It is a very privileged position.

AUTOR: Which were your criteria to select The BEST Student Silversmithing works? It was difficult? Why?

Mary Hackett: It was a very difficult decision. I almost feel that we could’ve had a couple of exhibitions addressing different directions that students took with their work. The top criteria were that the silversmithing pieces had to exhibit a strong understanding of the skills learnt, and that their pieces were well crafted. The next was a correlation between their ideas, design and techniques. Finally, the pieces chosen had to fit cohesively within the exhibition.

AUTOR: After your experience of working with students, what advice / support you find essential for them especially when they finish their studies?

Caz Guiney: My advice to graduates is to apply for everything that they are eligible for including exhibitions, competitions, grants, residencies etc. The application process is a vital way to hone skills in writing artist statements and refining what it is you do as a maker. Regardless of your initial success or failure, each time you put a proposal together it gets easier and more refined. I advise anyone submitting an application to get someone else to read it, to ensure all criteria are addressed and that the application is free of typos or mistakes. My other piece of advice to graduates is to get together with peers and curate group exhibitions. This is a fabulous way of designing your own project brief with deadlines and responsibilities to ensure you avoid the post study slump. These group shows can also be put on your CV and increase your chances of further inclusion in exhibitions.

Mary Hackett: I would advise graduating students to take risks with their work, to follow their inner voice and not be drawn into following trends. Always be a student, don’t stop learning new things, but ask questions of the world around them and themselves. Don’t be complacent and become comfortable in a style or thought process. Instead, draw and reflect on your work constantly. Lastly, I would advise students to be contemporary, to make work that reflects the world that they live in, not to reproduce the past.


Mary Hackett graduated from Fine Arts at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 2011 and received the academic excellence award the same year. He teaches jewelry design and silver processing at Melbourne Polytechnic and is the founder of Blacksmith Doris, a group of women involved in iron processing.
Caz Guiney is a jewelry designer and founder of Northcity4 Jewelery & Object Studios / School in Melbourne.