Australia mourns the loss of silversmith Helge Larsen. Australian craft owes such a huge debt to Helge Larsen. Alongside Darani, he was not only a master silversmith but a great community builder.
According to WoCCA board member Liz Williamson:
Helge Larson was an outstanding jeweller renown internationally who made a significant contribution to the Australian craft and design sector with his leadership, mentoring and advocacy. He will be remembered for his creativity and technical expertise in his practice, his generosity of spirit and willingness to share; a sincere, kind-hearted soul with a pleasant, engaging manner. Our thoughts are with his family as we send our condolences.
The following is an extract from: Skinner, Damian, and Kevin Murray. 2014. Place and Adornment: A History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.: Bateman.
In 1959, after training with Ots, Darani Lewers was encouraged by her father, the sculptor Gerald Lewers, to travel to Denmark . She arrived in England but found it difficult as a woman to obtain a position in the jewellery industry. After working for a while in costume jewellery, Lewers visited Copenhagen where she met Helge Larsen.
Larsen had completed an apprenticeship with Viggo Wollny, a master of the guild in Copenhagen. While he appreciated the skills he obtained there, Larsen could not relate to the ornate style that was featured in the workshop. In 1953, he had successfully undertaken the course at the Guldsmede Hojskolen (School of Art and Design). Then, in 1955, Larsen was awarded a two-year scholarship from the Danish American Foundation to study and work with the silversmith Stig Gusterman, who was producing ecclesiastical ware in Colorado. Larsen gained further experience with the University of Colorado, but of greater importance was his involvement with the Navajo jewellery scene. For a time, Larsen worked in Santa Fe, teaching jewellery skills to local Navajo people. On return to Denmark in 1957, he established his own business, Copenhagen Solvform. Larsen took Lewers on as a trainee in 1958 and 1959. Their work came to the attention of English curator Graham Hughes, who included it in the International Exhibition of Modern Jewellery 1890–1961 at the Goldsmiths’ Hall in London. Lewers was the only person living in Australia who featured in this exhibition, which brought together 1000 objects made during the previous 70 years, focusing particularly on artists making jewellery and on studio jewellery. Solvform broke up in 1960. In 1961 Larsen migrated to Sydney and set up a workshop with Lewers.
According to Patricia Thompson, their initial jewellery was influenced by Scandinavian craft traditions: ‘Their early work involved the simple hammered forms that originated in Scandinavia, and then they became interested in folk jewellery – “Large forms became many small forms linked together”.’ But this evolved into more geometric forms, exploring kinetic effects. The Scandinavian influence was particularly marked in Sydney in the 1960s, where Georg Jenson had opened a shop and the Swedish Baron Axel von Rappe ran Scandinavian House (1961-1967), which included jewellery and hollow-ware.
On the year of their return they had their inaugural exhibition together at Macquarie Gallery, the gallery’s first ever exhibition of this kind. The recognition of Larsen and Lewers by Goldsmiths’ Hall had secured their place in the emerging field of modern jewellery, and the exhibition was consecrated by Sun-Herald art critic James Gleeson:
The exhibition is as stimulating as a collection of fine sculpture. Indeed, many of the necklaces, pendants, rings and brooches reflect in miniature the highly wrought sophistications of the world of Arp or Brancusi . . . sensitive taste, high craftsmanship and an active imagination have been combined to make these objects into works of art.
The exhibition strengthened the aspirations of jewellery as a new form of the visual art then emerging in the Sydney scene.
While subtle, there were local references within these modernist forms. According to Judith O’Callaghan:
While rough pitted surfaces were meant to evoke the texture of the landscape, a number of pieces incorporated materials such as abalone shell and wood that Helge and Darani had collected on bush walks. Some designs were actually based on natural forms, for example, the oxidised silver pendant which suggests the shape of an explored pod, that outer shell opening to reveal a cabochon star sapphire. Local stones, such as sapphires and agates were used quite extensively but like shell and wood they were treated as a formal element complementing the metalwork, rather than as a precious point of focus.
In the early 1970s Larsen’s and Lewers’s work began to reflect more urban themes. They replaced geometric forms with designs of medieval towns, schematic urban plans and architectural features. On return to Australia, they began to focus on the local manmade environment. Their brooch, The Australian Dream, depicts the typical Australian suburban home, and they also made Harbour Bridge and Opera House pendants, engaging with national identity at a symbolic rather than a personal level. Instead of employing natural materials, they inserted photographic elements into these works.
Their approach to nature was quite experiential – as jewellers, one of Lewers and Larsen’s principal contributions was to forge an artistic attitude toward nature. Their horizon is a world based on an order flowing from, rather than imposed on, nature. In their own words:
Societies seek to order the forces of nature, while nature has its own organic structures which in turn influence societies. Our way of working involves a planned and structured approach – to create a sense of order and determine the content. We respond to and explore the imprint left by cultures on the environment as well as the order which exists in nature.
This approach represents an ongoing concern in Australian contemporary jewellery to find a language of making that enables a better understanding of the land on which European civilisation has been transplanted.
A tribute to the President of the World Craft Council, who passed away on Thursday 1 April 2021, by Dr Kevin Murray.
The World Crafts Council community is grieving the loss of Dr Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi, whose Presidency of the Asia Pacific Region instilled such pride in craft heritage. I had the good fortune to work alongside Dr Ghada as her Senior Vice-President and editor of her flagship encyclopedia project. I offer these reflections as a contribution to the many tributes that are flowing in.
Four years ago, after lunch in her Kuwait home, Dr Ghada kindly agreed to tell me some of her background. I had intended to conduct a more formal interview during her upcoming Presidency, but that sadly will not be possible. I do remember a key point of her life story.
Dr Ghada told me about the Qaddumi village in Palestine from which her family had to leave during the Nakba in 1948. It seemed an idyllic time, redolent of the fragrant orange groves. She remembered particularly that her mother was not able to realise her potential in life, which made Dr Ghada determined to focus on her own studies.
In the early 1970s, Dr Ghada studied Arabic Literature at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Soon after, in the 1980s, she was curator at the Islamic Art Museum “Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyya”, Kuwait. She completed her PhD in 1990 at Harvard University in the History of Islamic Art and Architecture, titled “A Medieval Islamic Book of Gifts and Treasures”. In the early 1990s, she took the position of Researcher at the Kuwait National Museum. Then in 1994, she became Deputy Director for Culture, Department of Antiquities and Museums.
Dr Ghada played leading roles in the Kuwaiti government. In 2000 she was made Director, Department of Publishing and Distribution, National Council for Culture, Arts & Letters, then in 2001 she became the Founder and Director of Research & Cultural Studies.
In 2004, she returned to Harvard for a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Islamic Art. From that year she also commenced her involvement in the World Crafts Council, Asia Pacific Region, as Senior Vice-President for West Asia. This culminated in a rare two-term Presidency (2013-2020) during which she oversaw the growth of the World Craft Cities program, Award of Excellence and personally instigated the Online Encyclopedia of Crafts for the Asia Pacific Region.
I was witness to the warm reception to Dr Ghada by the many craft communities that she visited. Her presence and support for the crafts were keenly appreciated, reflected in the bounty of floral bouquets presented to her and pride in displaying craft treasures. Dr Ghada was extremely careful to give each their due and was quite tireless in meeting their demands.
Dr Ghada also worked behind the scenes in using her authority to ensure that governments gave craft its due. Many events such as the World Crafts Council General Assembly in Isfahan 2016 and Inaugural Festival of Handicrafts in Kokand, 2019, would not have occurred without her support.
Dr Ghada was a shining sentinel for the World Crafts Council. Despite the rigours of travel to remote regions, she would always appear immaculately dressed and bearing her magnificent smile. She was extremely diligent in acknowledging all the dignitaries present and inevitably incorporated a poetic jewel into speeches. Her personal presence was a key ingredient in the official support for crafts.
Underlying Dr Ghada’s tenure as President was a deep commitment to fairness in the dealings of the council. She invited artisans from all six regions to Kuwait for events to promote their work. She was adamant about each region having its due and expected us all to work for the benefit of our region, not just ourselves.
Dr Ghada was at heart a scholar. She was passionate about the history of materials and techniques across the region, particularly along the Silk Road. She had particular expertise in precious gems. I remember particularly her very learned discourse on turquoise in Mashhad, Iran.
The encyclopedia will be one of her enduring legacies. When explaining the project initially, Dr Ghada introduced me to the Arabic concept of sadakha jeriah, or perpetual donation, which referred to a gift that keeps giving, such as a water fountain. The encyclopedia is certainly one of those gifts that we will continue to enjoy into the future.
Dr Ghada had great compassion for the plight of artisans affected by disaster. She herself gave generously and steered the support of the WCC-APR. We are grateful in Australia for the support offered to those whose workshops had been destroyed by the catastrophic bushfires, and particularly sad that she never had the chance to visit the South Pacific region.
Dr Ghada inspired great devotion in those around her. She was ably supported by Ranga Al-Ghossain-Qubbaj, Girija Sudhakaran and Mark Umbreta. And, critically, she had the support of her family, Saad and Nabila.
Dr Ghada’s departure is a dreadful loss, especially as she was about to take on the Presidency of the World Crafts Council – International. But the strength of her commitment will help guide those who will attempt to fill the gap. When faced with inevitable difficult ethical issues, we can find an answer in the question, “What would Dr Ghada do in this situation?”
The President of World Crafts Council – Australia, Jude van der Merwe comments:
“Dr Ghada had an extraordinary wisdom and generosity of spirit. She was enormously kind to me when I first met her in Nepal and again in Khon Kaen, Thailand for the World Ikat Conference. Our world is poorer without her but her example shines through.”
Layla Walter from Mahi ā Ringa – Craft New Zealand Aotearoa comments:
“With the passing of Dr Ghada Qaddumi comes a tear in the fabric of the international craft community. Condolences to her family, WCC colleagues and makers across the world. The absence of Dr Ghada in her new role as President of the World Craft Council International, her experience and connection to others will require something of us all – to connect more to mend this gap in our community. With our actions may we continue to weave a strong fabric between us all. Thank you for your work Dr Ghada.”
Monday 30 November 5pm (AEDT)
The strength of a culture depends on a diversity of stories and skills that are sustained over generations. Civilisations develop institutions to help preserve and develop those skills, including musicianship, dance, drama, art and craft. Craft has a particular value in the way it engages a full range of senses and gives meaning to everyday life. Without institutional support, Australia risks losing its capacity to make useful objects of beauty and meaning.
Being a manual skill, the teaching of craft can be more intensive than abstract knowledge work. Thus it is often targeted by managers of large institutions who seek to apply a standardised funding formula. But in no longer passing on that skill, we will have seriously diminished our culture.
There are recent proposals to cut tertiary craft courses at Griffith University and the Australian National University. If successful, others might be encouraged to follow.
In response to this threat to Australian culture, WoCCA has organised a forum to develop a collective plan to support craft education in the face of this challenge.
This is a public meeting. A wide range of perspectives is encouraged.
On 2 November 2020 Griffith University released the Proposal for Workplace Change Roadmap to Sustainability (R2S), advising that they plan to cut the Jewellery & Small Objects course, along with the printmaking and other fine art studios.
The justification is a $700m shortfall this year.
J&SO and printmaking have the highest student satisfaction ratings within the QCA. But the courses were identified as high cost with specific spatial and technical requirements.
No doubt, it would be cheaper to teach Photoshop in a computer laboratory. But we need to consider the long-term implications of this loss of specialisation.
President World Crafts Council – Australia, Jude van der Merwe, urges for a reversal of this decision: “The World Crafts Council Australia urges the university to reconsider this course of action and commit to a serious investigative study about the resulting employment, directions and profiles of graduates in these courses.”
The J&SO program is the only university course of its kind in Queensland and one of only five nationally. According to Dr Kevin Murray, author of Place and Adornment: The History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealand, “The Queensland jewellery course is a national leader. It has a unique role in engaging with jewellery students and academics in our region, particularly Indonesia.”
The closure of this course will immediately lead to the loss of teaching and technical jobs. Queensland students will no longer have a pathway to future jobs in the jewellery and creative industries.
The skills and understanding of materials gained through specialisations like jewellery can benefit careers in other fields. The globally famous Australian designer Marc Newson first studied jewellery at Sydney College of Art.
Jewellery has a special value in Australia given the wealth of minerals from which the nation benefits. According to Dr Murray, “Despite humble origins as a convict colony, settlers found themselves on a land of great mineral riches. But we are left with more than holes in the ground. Australian art jewellery has gained a reputation on the world stage for its innovation and meaning. It proves that we are a country that can make things.”
The J&SO workshop at Griffith has taken years to develop. The loss of equipment and technical knowledge will be hard to restore in the future.
This decision goes against the grain of education elsewhere. RMIT University is about to implement a new craft specialisation program, led by its jewellery department.
According to Dr Murray, “Jewellery is one of the most dynamic art forms of our time. As wearable art, it offers an immediate and personal platform for creativity. Globally, art jewellery draws on democratic values that seek to transform a traditionally elite form into a medium for a diversity of experiences, including gender, colour, class. It has become a particularly important medium of expression for first nation peoples, especially in Australia.”
We urge you to sign this petition to help reverse this destructive decision.
World Crafts Council – Australia supports makers of handmade products that add pleasure and utility to our world. Works made by hand reflect an understanding of materials and the dedication of skill. These objects tell us stories that reflect our values.
But there’s a problem. Where can we find these handmade objects? Many makers live regionally, where they can find a slower lifestyle and proximity to nature. But this also makes them more difficult to find.
To meet this challenge, WoCCA is developing an Australian Craft Map. East Gippsland has been selected as a pilot region.
This is partly to support bushfire recovery. We have already been able to support re-building workshops, thanks to our generous World Crafts Council network. Now we are seeking to promote makers to a broader audience.
The COVID lockdown means that many have abandoned plans for overseas travel this year. East Gippsland beckons as a destination for Melbournians to leave the city where they have been confined most of the year.
This is a time when we are keen to support local communities to recover from the twin disasters of bushfire and pandemic.
We are developing a website and app that has information about where they can find handmade products in East Gippsland. This will include ceramics, jewellery, weaving, furniture, glass, painting, printmaking and photography with a handmade element. This can also include ephemeral products such as soap, which also reflect care and skill.
We are working in partnership with the Phoenix Trail, which is producing printed materials. Our component involves a website and smartphone app.
The hope is to establish something like a Wine Itinerary that can guide travellers to places where they can connect with locals.
The information provided can include specific times for studio visits (or by appointment), galleries or shops where works can be purchased and classes/events for the public.
To participate, you need to fill out your details in an online form. This information will be checked regularly for accuracy, to give you the opportunity to make changes. This will be monthly initially, then every three months after that.
This project is part of One Village One Product, a movement that began in Japan and supports local regeneration through specialisation. It is supported by a DFAT Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grant.
For more information, send an email to gippsland (at) wccaustralia.org.au
Below are some of the participants in the craft map:
I am a craftsperson with over 50 years of experience. In the 1970’s I remember participating in a crafts council initiative to spread the idea of craft, called the craft train. A carriage was simply set up as a basic studio, different craft practitioners travelled to rural towns where the carriage would be put on the siding and local residents were invited to come along listen to the tutors talk about their practice and then get involved in making something.
Watching the news and seeing the devastating impact on local communities and wondering if craft could be used to help heal and become a focus for communities to share and come together.
Men’s sheds are a great example of this. I wondered if a room or community hall could become a meeting place, I’m thinking for women but it may not be gendered. simple benches and tables, tools for Clay, painting, sewing, jewellery. A few mugs an urn.
Craftspeople may have equipment or materials they could donate, there may be local craft practitioners willing to share their skills. A community may band together with a grant to invite someone to demonstrate or run a workshop, using the grant for materials and to pay the craftsperson.
I wonder if ‘women’s sheds’ is a possible craft intervention. My niece Chloe writes about her grandmother’s crafting shed built in the garden when she retired.
I know some councils have clay studios and women come together to sew boomerang bags or volunteer in opportunity shops
Men’s sheds are essential but I do not know if sewing or ceramic groups operate in regional Victoria and elsewhere. I believe Women’s sheds could be useful in communities affected by the recent fires.
Thanks to generous support from the World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific community, WoCCA has some funds to offer short term assistance to those craftspersons struggling to recover from the devastating bushfires.
Our expressions of interest in funds for bushfire relief have closed. We’ll be in touch with the recipients on 6 April 2020.
Meanwhile, see below for information about how you can assist in bushfire recovery.
World Crafts Council – Australia would like to offer ways in which you can give support to those affected by the bushfires that have devastated so much of Australia.
The tragedy is immense. In the broad scale, it has taken many lives, killed millions of wildlife and destroyed the habitat in which they live. Specifically, it has directly affected many craftspersons who are drawn to the bush as an environment to make beautiful works. Some have had their workshops destroyed, and many more will struggle to recover their lives.
Your support is much appreciated. There are general fundraising campaigns to assist in community recovery and also specific initiatives to assist individual studios. We will keep a list of these on this website. We encourage you to submit any further information about initiatives, goods or services you may wish to offer, or requests from those affected. You can add a comment to this page, post on our Facebook group, or email us.
Craftspersons raising funds for general purposes
- Clay For Australia online ceramics auction until 31 January
- Jewellery Auction at Gallery Funaki
- Canberra Glassworks has a fundraising event on 22 February
Ways of offering goods or services for humans and wildlife
- Creative Responders Registration
- The link to koala mittens has been removed as they have received more than enough. Thank you!
Campaigns for specific studios
- Studio Kiln & Car for Ellie destroyed in bushfires (target achieved)
- Steven and Janine Harrison, Balmoral, NSW
- The Australian Ceramics Association links page to many fundraisers for potters
- The Clay Hen, Verona (Bega Valley), NSW, lost her studio on 31 December 2019.
- Daniel Lafferty and Gabrielle Powell, Cobargo, NSW: 31 December 2019; Their home was saved but the studio was destroyed and they need help to rebuild.
- Kees Staps of Yatte Yattah, Conjola, NSW, has lost his pottery gallery and workshop, and although his house has survived it is damaged.
- Fran Geale, near Tumbarumba, Snowy Mountains, NSW: 31 December 2019; Fran’s pottery studio has been destroyed; People can post donations to Fran (any tools – cutting wires, glaze tongs, books, underglaze colours, glaze ingredients, cones, bats) at PO Box 318 Tumbarumba NSW 2653.
- Peter and Vanessa Williams, Mogo Pottery, NSW: lost everything 31 December 2019; Their home and studio and all the contents have been lost. They aren’t insured. Their home and studio were two heritage churches they had relocated and renovated. St Mary’s was 120 years old and St. Bernards was 130 years old.
In August 2019, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Education delivered a report titled Performance-Based Funding for the Commonwealth Grant Scheme. This report included a recommendation to tie university funding to “overall employment rate”.
Employment for craft graduates is not typical of other vocations, such as accounting or engineering. Rather than a salaried position, craft often involves self-employment in running a small workshop. These make a concrete contribution not only to our economy but also the community which takes pride and enjoyment in what’s produced.
Traditionally, craft was taught in workshops by masters. Since the 20th century, these have gradually been replaced by formal institutions such as universities. Tertiary craft courses offer a level of sophistication that is important to a nation’s skill set.
Craft is a key strength in any society. Our craft skills reflect qualities of commitment, creativity and purpose. Civilisation is largely an evolution of the techniques used to fashion our world into a space of utility and beauty. With the use of natural materials, each society develops its unique capacities to transform its environment. Our museums offer testaments to this endeavour. In recognition of this, support for a nation’s craft capacity is growing in most governments around the world.
We call on the Minister to ensure that the “overall employment rate” takes account of the vocation outcomes for the craft sector.
I believe that craft education plays an important role in Australian life. Any changes to funding for universities should reflect the employment styles of craft practitioners.
You can sign the petition here.
The First International Handicrafters Festival will be held in Kokand, Uzbekistan, 10-15 September 2019. This coincides with the special issue of our Garland magazine on Central Asia.
The organisers are calling for craftspersons to apply as participating artists in this event. Travel and accommodation will be covered by the festival.
Applicants are required to submit:
- Three images
- Letter of Recommendation on having enough experience in the field of
handicrafts ,and participation in competitions and festivals held in their own country or abroad, issued by authorities of corresponding field
- Ten photos of craft products and or video of the technical process
This is the second in a series of Australia craftspersons who are eligible for the World Crafts Council – Asia Pacific Award of Excellence. These include finely made and innovative objects that are designed for everyday use. The objects in this spotlight show the value and appeal of Australian craft today.
Albert Tse is a Sydney-based metalsmith who employs 3D technology to make bold unisex jewellery.
3D printing allows me to create a 3D topographical view of Australia in fine detail with four different height layers that give you a view of what Australia looks like.Albert Tse
The Memento Australia cufflinks are designed and handcrafted in Sydney, Australia by Albert Tse. They are 3d printed in wax to maintain the sharpness in the layers, and then cast in 925 Sterling Silver and oxidised to enhance the detail.
Albert Tse can be found on Instagram at @alberttsemetalsmith