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I’ve always been interested in how things work…I like the ambiguity of what is machine made and what is handmade.
Blanche Tilden (b.1968, Australia) is a contemporary glass and jewellery designer. Blanche studied glass and jewellery at Sydney College of the Arts (1988/89) and graduated BA (Visual Arts), Glass (1992) and Grad. Dip, Gold and Silversmithing at the Canberra School of Art (1995), followed by a year as a trainee with Susan Cohn at Workshop 3000 in Melbourne. Blanche established her own workshop in Sydney in 1997 and moved to Melbourne in 1999, before setting up and working in Studio Hacienda with fellow glass and jewellery designer, Phoebe Porter from 2005-2008.
In this post, we feature a special video interview of Blanche filmed for the Museum as part of the 2007 exhibition Smart Works: design and the handmade and look at a few of Blanche’s jewellery items in the Museum’s collection which are based on mechanical movements found in everyday objects, including bicycle chains, pulleys, levers and conveyor belts. While appearing mechanical, and being well-researched according to their function, these jewellery pieces are actually very light, flexible and meticulously made.
The ‘Scissor’ necklace (above), made in 1998, is composed of hand cut titanium elements. The holes are drilled and the pieces heat-coloured to 600 degrees in a kiln. This provides the greyish-purple colour as well as protecting the metal when the glass rivets are heated. The rivets are borosilicate glass rods, cut with a diamond saw; one end is put through the links and heated by lampworking (over a flame), then squashed in a small hand-made jig to widen and flatten the end (the other end of that link is completed the same way). The whole necklace is then placed in a kiln to anneal the glass at a temperature of 560 degrees.
My jewellery explores the relations between the individual and the machine, consumption and obsolescence, the machine made and the hand made. When designing my work I look at mechanical movements found in everyday objects. Stemming from a desire to understand how things work, I use shapes inspired by bicycle chains, conveyor belts, pulleys, cranks and scissors, and I make my work with industrial materials such as titanium and borosilicate glass. My necklaces stimulate associations and memories that differ for each wearer. They remind us of the physical yet impersonal relationship that exists between the body and the machine. These are intimate objects of jewellery, built to human scale, hand made and machine inspired. They travel with the body.
Appropriately, for a Museum of science and design, these jewellery pieces complement the ‘real’ mechanical components and tools used in industrial machines and equipment in the Museum’s collection!
To find out more about Blanche Tilden’s work and that of Studio Hacienda, see here on D*Hub. There is also another video on here of Blanche and Phoebe talking together at the 2007 Smart works symposium.
Editor’s note: The content for this post was adapted from original research and text written by Dr Grace Cochrane. See full text here.