Inside the Collection

She has emerged! 2009 Design NSW Travelling Scholarship Winner- Liesl Hazelton

2009 Design NSW Travelling Scholarship Winner Liesl Hazelton
Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton

Since 2008, the Powerhouse Museum and Arts NSW, presented in partnership with the British Council, have been offering an $18,000 scholarship for a designer at the beginning of their career to undertake an approved program of professional development overseas. The 2009 winner of this scholarship was jewellery designer, Liesl Hazelton. Liesl works with discarded materials like computer cables, wires, mini iPods and stainless steel mesh to make eye-catching and innovative rings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, wall displays, chairs and sculptures. See here for a more detailed profile of Liesl’s work.

In this post, we hand the reigns over to Liesl who reflects, for us, on her past 12 months – what she did with her grant, what she designed, who she met, what new skills she learnt and what impact the scholarship has had on her career. You can also visit the Museum to see some of Liesl’s jewellery designs on display near the main cafe on Level 3 and her very ‘wirey’ chair for the ‘Re-loved – Designer Stories’ installation on Level 2.

Collection of rings made from telephone cables
Collection of rings made from telephone cables. Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton.

It was like I was moving too fast for my legs to catch me. While I stumbled and stomped, it felt like a whirlwind as I finally tumbled and rolled to a safe, but shaken stop. Now looking back from where I came, I know I had fun. I would not have wanted this experience to be any different and I am confident that everything turned out okay!

I have shaken myself off…I am now ready…

I was awarded the NSW Design Travelling Scholarship in 2009. When I was told, I was living in Amsterdam – working as a jeweller’s assistant and part of the Redlight Design Team. The original plan was to relocate to Germany, work again with the Fasanenhof (a sheltered workshop in Stuttgart), prepare a solo exhibition and establish ‘Whole Lotte Love’ in Europe.

I thought about this and questioned when it would be time to do something for myself? After studying for the past 5 years, I was reaching the cut-off limit for an emerging artist. So, I left and I received the award. But, did I want to go somewhere and study again? Work as an intern? Or, meet someone I admire?

I was stunned. I have never had an opportunity to do something for myself, at the expense of someone else, other than my parents! I was thrilled to think that if I wanted, I would be able to live in another part of the world without having to work in an Irish pub to fund myself!

Liesl Hazelton at work
At work. Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton.

I had a plan. I wanted to meet Kwangho Lee in Seoul, Korea. I wanted to have a show in New York City and I wanted to go to Guatemala/Central America and learn traditional techniques of weaving and embroidery. I wanted to make this a trip which would challenge my creativity and my comfort zone.

Textiles in Guatemala. Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton.
Textiles in Guatemala. Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton.

I returned to Australia. I was away 3 months this time (I am usually away for years!), but I covered a lot of ground. Three months, five countries. I had achieved all I planned out. I came home to prepare for the Programmed Show in Brooklyn, NYC. For this, I made jewellery with obsolete electronics – the focus was rethinking the relationship with these electrical objects that are no longer in use.

iPod dial necklace. Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton.
iPod dial necklace. Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton.

But, I was in the right café at the right time in February. I overheard a conversation about a machine which could press metal in a way I didn’t think possible. I piped up and from this meeting I made some new friends and I was invited to show at the Australian Design Museum at Shapiro Gallery, Woollahra. So, what was my name doing on an invite with Marc Newson, Robert Foster and Blakebrough-King? Maybe getting comfortable? Maybe getting too big for its boots?

Bits of mini iPod ready to be made into jewellery! Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton
Bits of mini iPod ready to be made into jewellery! Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton.

Next…Pecha Kucha at the MCA talking about the work I did with the Fasanenhof in Germany. I was nervous…actually, I was scared! It was hot in there, but it was summer. And, it was most eyes on me – although, I guess I was talking loudly into a microphone! After all 20 slides and 20 seconds for each, I didn’t even have time to undress the front row of the audience! This was something that I didn’t think would come from the scholarship, but having now done a lot of public speaking, I am getting so comfortable, I can talk at weddings and do karaoke straight!

But…Sydney Design is now upon us which means there is another new scholarship announcement!

Cable embroidery. Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton.
Cable embroidery. Image courtesy of Liesl Hazelton.

So, in retrospect, the scholarship definitely gave me experiences I would not have considered or maybe even pursued otherwise. It opened doors into other fields of design and it gave me credibility in my industry. It caused me to become more critical and it made me question my work and think about what I was to say with it…because now, I have an audience.

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