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Sim Luttin Contemporary Jewellery

ESSAYS / 2008-2019

Written by Sarah Bond, 2019
Designed by Liz Cox,


Marking any occasion petitions a moment of time. Celebrated events enable us to take note, reflect, signify and pause the journey. Full Circle is an exhibition that marks an occasion; 20 years of making for individualistic Melbourne-based artists Linda Hughes, Sim Luttin and Katrina Tyler. Three talented jewellery artists who met in the bunkers of RMIT Gold and Silversmithing as eager students, ready to accept new challenges and no doubt, quench their thirst for knowledge from industry peers.


Fast forward to 2019, and after cycles of development, countless individual journey’s and years of honing technical skills, Hughes, Luttin and Tyler commemorate their full circle. With thriving studio practises and sustained careers in the national and international jewellery community, these artists have remained close friends since 1999 and acknowledge that while their work is diverse, they “are united in creating intimate handmade objects that are abundant in creative integrity and dynamism”.[1]


Full Circle presents new jewellery and object works that expand each artists’ existing areas of enquiry. Installed across the foyers of Sofitel Melbourne on Collins (in cabinets and mounted on purpose-built large wall displays), each separate installation considers its site, while purposefully interacting with each other. There exists a subtle sharing of concepts cross these individual works. The industrial landscape, how we as humans engage with it and value its beauty and utility, is explored in various works. In this exhibition, we also explore the effects of time, we observe the everyday and acknowledge the unnoticed events and stories through the eyes and skills of Hughes, Luttin and Tyler.


Linda Hughes is an established jewellery artist. Known for her distinctive use of graphic lines and colour, she has stripped these new works of colour and concentrated on ‘projecting the line[2]’ and working exclusively in white. With this colour shift, comes a sense of lightness and self-assurance, that for me tilts a little to Mid-century modernist design.


Hughes explores the life of roadside marker posts in Full Circle. This new monochromatic series of laminate, wood and sterling silver brooches and pendants extends her fascination and dedication to patterning, in particular, the stripe - its history, everyday existence and utilitarian use in signs and markings. For over a decade, Hughes has been consumed by stripes and does not see a linear form or calm repeated symmetry like some, instead experiences fluid movements and reactions claiming “stripes are very noisy and demanding…the stripe is a device of agitation…stripes are the small nervous strokes of the brush within a composition – a restlessness where the surface is never still”. [3] The bold pattern of a stripe is hard to ignore.


Hughes enables the surface to heave with breath, creating a dynamic optical illusion onto a flat surface via the linearity of stripes. Conceptually and technically driven, Hughes’ refined and exacting skills continue to play tricks on the viewer, who perhaps expect a machine manufactured finish rather than the meticulous graphic finish from one of Melbourne’s gifted artisans.


Sim Luttin has established an art practice synonymous with sophistication, impeccable technical skill and contemplative surfaces. Her scale is intimate and materials reflective; silver, copper, steel, patina, photographs, sublimated aluminium and glass. Influenced by nature in her work for many years, Luttin's current interest is in exploring time-based projects that respond to the everyday.


Her latest series, ‘Momento(o)s of Disquiet and Beauty’ reflects her ongoing and keen observations into the everyday and unnoticed elements of the contemporary streetscapes. Drawing from recent travels to New York, Luttin elevates the unnoticed and mass-produced metalwork of the streets - the road pothole and manhole, the drain vent, the window grill – and transforms them into intimate adornment. “I encountered many circular and geometric solid and open grid constructions and began to see the beauty in the formal elements and repetition…I could visualise keepsakes that could be worn on the body serving as urban signifiers and reminders of moments past.”[4]


Exploring the histories and surprising handmade production methods of some of the New York metalwork[5], Luttin makes sense of these everyday objects through her conceptual reflections, research processes and experienced craftsmanship. Consisting of pendants and brooches, these new works are accompanied by a series of edition snapshot street photographs printed on sublimated aluminium. These act as part reference, part documentation but stand alone as considered photographic objects in their own right.  Photography is integral to Luttin’s developments of new objects. As a prolific photographer (on her iPhone) and commentator, she deftly draws and orders from her image library, conceiving new works and asking more questions about shared and unknown histories. Luttin’s practice plots a course through time: examining notions of ritual, personal authenticity and materiality. Her objects mark time and celebrate the periphery in Luttin’s distinctively skilful way.


For Katrina Tyler, it is all a matter of shifting perspectives. In continuing her explorations of material, scale and the potential of shapes, Tyler is fuelled by a familiar industrial landscape and cycles of life and time. Balance, movement and a sense of physical uncertainty are evident in this new series of playful and coloured copper and enamel wall piece, titled Industrial poise and a series of oxidised sterling silver and enamel brooches under the series title, Altered plane brooches. This new series references corrugated iron, a quintessential sign of the Australia landscape, and Tyler plays with scale and palette to personalise and reinterpret this industrialised story.


Living and working in Melbourne’s inner west, Tyler observes first-hand the simultaneous beauty and necessity of busy shipping and freight train yards. An evidenced technical and industrial poise indicates a sense of play and confidence in both materials and composition. By interrogating her evolving relationship to industry and commerce, Tyler has developed a visceral response to her landscape stating, “The abundance and repetition of shipping containers, all with evidence of a life of use and purpose with knocks, scrapes, repairs, a patchwork of paint…completed by a multitude of invisible hands.”[6]


Materials, place and scale are key considerations for any object maker. Understanding Tyler also produces large (metalwork) public sculptural works, that are often activated, provides a layer of intrigue for her audience as she continues to push new limits. Known for her exceptional technical skills, Tyler deftly combines her unique understanding of human scale and interaction to simultaneously generate larger sculptural works, while continuing to construct her intimate jewellery works, as evidenced in Full Circle.


For each of these diverse artists, what resonates is their subtle ability to bring to light the hidden life of things and forces that often go unnoticed. Hughes, Luttin and Tyler steadfastly explore the markings of time and the life cycles of objects affected by human interactions. These artists have firmly marked their occasion. Widely acknowledged for significant individual and collective impacts made to Australia’s contemporary jewellery scene, Hughes, Luttin and Tyler have come full circle in honouring both their craft and friendships. I can now only imagine their singular full circles spirally off and taking each to even greater heights.

Written by Dr Jessica Neath, 2017

Designed by Liz Cox,


To read – to see, to understand – is to interpret one’s time. To write. There is no reading that is not technological.
— Bernard Stiegler, 2009.


Stiegler’s concept of reading is based on the reciprocity between reader and author formed through the shared technical competency of writing. Reading comes from knowledge of how to write, and the ability to show what was understood by writing in turn. The philosopher argues that humans have always existed with and through technologies but when the speed of technological development confounds social organisation a state of disorientation ensues. In the current intensification of digital and informatic technologies, the “participative aesthetic” between creator and audience is severed because “encoding and decoding operations are delegated in(to) machines.” We receive the outputs of these technologies without memory of how they were created.


Do the artists included in this exhibition occlude this “participative aesthetic” by using digital technology to “encode” their content? The atmospheric qualities of Kirrily Hammond’s paintings, and the dimensions of Sim Luttin’s photographs, indicate the use of a camera phone. Both artists have sought to capture those illustrious moments of the suburban everyday by routinely taking quick snapshots. The phone becomes a mnemonic device, in the artists’ words, holding those “quiet moments… before busy takes over.” Yet both artists produce discrete, non-digital, objects from this process that defy the continuous information flows of digital life. Hammond paints detailed fragments of these images in oil pigment on small copper plates. In Luttin’s works the photographic images are both mounted in small picture frames and encased in oxidised sterling silver. The artists call these objects keepsakes. Luttin’s jewellery pieces are to be treasured, keeping the image close to the body. However, these objects are not made in memory of a special person but of a passing moment: a stopgap against the ravenous frenzy of time devouring space and itself. 


In these painted and photographic images, many will recognise the back laneways of Northcote, the conglomerate of electricity poles and overgrown creek tracks distinctive of Brunswick, and the miner’s cottages of Carlton. Both artists also picture places further afield, suburbs I do not know the names of, in Germany, Belgium, and the United States. These are the moments glimpsed at twilight on the way home from work, peering out the window of a moving car or train, or walking to the local park. For all the stasis of these images, the rectangular buildings and vertical power poles, there is a sense of mobility, of passing through. Hammond’s most abstract image renders the flat land seen from the car window at the edge of Melbourne in horizontal bands of blue, pink, and Payne’s grey. The sweeping brushstrokes are translucent allowing the copper to shine through, leaving a reflective surface. 


The works of both artists bear the marks of their creation. Due to the ubiquitous use of camera phones many viewers will read these works in Steigler’s terms, and feel reciprocity with the artists. Perhaps this understanding will be shown with an embrace of their own quiet moments and reclamation of time. 


From 'Keepsake' two-person exhibition, Kirrily Hammond & Sim Luttin, Bundoora Homestead Art Centre as part of Radiant Pavilion, Melbourne.


Written by Ramona Barry, 2015

Designed by Liz Cox,


Artist and object maker Sim Luttin plots a course across time. Examining notions of ritual, personal authenticity, and materiality, she inserts meaning at each point on a highly personal internal map. Her practice is grounded in daily ritual and the first charted position is her gaze. A still or moving image is taken, uploaded, printed, and then distilled. A brief pause allows ideas, motifs and shapes to emerge that may then be translated into objects. 


This pause also allows Luttin to consider what these moments are presenting, searching for meaning in the often mundane, constantly reaching for a connection between instinct (image) and intellect (object). The silver tones of her photographs are translated into the burnished silver of jewellery. The most fleeting of moments become anchored by objects, transformed into historical markers, building up layers of both memory and meaning.


Luttin has made time stand still. This form of time travelling, looking for meaning in the fleeting moments of past, present and future, taps into the artist as vigilant observer. She understands that we can’t function without reflection and that we need time to rest and contemplate before being swept into the next moment and the endless permutations time offers. The objects she has created act as a form of punctuation.


Social media provides us all with a momentary sense of control. We choose where our attention lands, both inward and outward. We curate our lives as a series of status updates and filtered images that speak to not just who we are but whom we claim to be. A constant scroll of visual possibilities. We present it to our ‘audience’ and in doing so we say ‘this is important, this is the moment, this is what I bear witness to. By showing you this I make you complicit in its meaning. If you ‘like’ it all the better, if you ‘comment’ on it an extra layer of meaning is added’. The moment now has documentation. 


Time pushes and pulls, from the fleeting to the glacial, both universal and personal. Luttin creates work that can anchor us to both time and place. As the objects move from studio to gallery to collector, she creates an idiosyncratic map extends out and makes new connections and diversions. Time can play havoc with memory and we have almost no control as to what retains meaning and what gets sifted away. 

Think about time too deeply and you may experience vertigo. The rotation of the earth and the gravitational forces that pin us here are the only things keeping us from losing our grip on the passage of time. Luttin understands that what may have seemed insignificant at the time, upon reflection is perhaps the point where everything turned and changed. If we can find some authenticity through image or object perhaps all is not lost.

From 'It's Always Darkest Just Before Dawn' solo exhibition, Gray Street Workshop, Adelaide, and Radiant Pavilion, Melbourne.


Written by Prof. Randy Long & Dr Nicole Jacquard

Designed by Simone Capgreco


Sim Luttin has always found her inspiration in nature, objects of the every- day, and the work of the artists whose work she admires. Luttin's pieces in the exhibition The Temporary Nature of Things at Pieces of Eight Gallery represents a snapshot of the body of work she created while working on an MFA degree at Indiana University in the USA. Her distinctive aesthetic expresses her love of sterling silver and oxidized sterling silver, with the carefully considered additions of other materials, such as graphite, porcelain, hematite, garnet and plastic plant parts.


There is a sense of calm and sophistication in her work. Luttin's Paper Cups are the only hollowware objects in the exhibition but they can easily be identified with Luttin's jewellery because of the delicacy of the forms, the consideration to detail, and her signature silver and black colour scheme. Luttin's neckpiece The Small Things is an interpretation of the everyday in nature. It is quiet, understated, and easily overlooked. The dandelion pendant Just Dandy represents promises of hope, flight and fancy. In its simplest form, it’s about casting a wish off into the winds. The delicate neckpiece Forest Whispers invites close inspection of the beautiful roller printed plant images inspired by observations Luttin made while wandering through a forest-dwelling in Maine.


For her thesis project at IU, Luttin was inspired to create a piece a day for one year. Through her research, she was motivated by Twyla Tharp's work ethic outlined in her book "The Creative Habit", and the film titled "The Five Obstructions" by Danish director Lars Von Trier. Similarly to the parameters set forth in the movie, Luttin challenged her self-created paradigms through physically making, therefore recording her daily experience and environment, which allowed her to reflect on the on aspects of the human condition. Each day she transformed materials into works that are creative, poetic and extremely sensitive. Accompanying each of the pieces are small books that hold a watercolor or sketch and a Haiku that captured some glimpse or memory of that particular day. 


The body of work produced was a personal expression and admission that she lived a life with constant nostalgia and melancholy. As observers, it was invigorating to watch Luttin as she created her small wonders that delved into nuances of the everyday and that are conceptually engaging and beautiful. The thesis exhibition The Temporary Nature of Things, totalling 366 pieces, made an extensive installation out of refined miniature jewellery and objects. The selected works for the exhibition at Piece of Eight give a glimpse of the entire project and the rich picture assembled through the talent of Luttin.


Sim Luttin has the inspiration, creativity, and intelligence to make work that will excite collectors and keep pace with the creative dynamics in the art world. Her work will quickly establish her as a leader in the contemporary art jewellery and metalsmithing field as she continues to question, challenge, and seek the unexpected.

From 'The Temporary Nature of Things' solo exhibition, Pieces of Eight Gallery, Melbourne.

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