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Louise Martin-Chew checks out a brooch exhibition in Brisbane that pairs together significant women in history and contemporary jewellers. 



The brooch has been in resurgence for years, and indeed there are very groovy items out there for the modern lapel. But for me, the word still takes me straight back to the traditional sort made from gems and 18 carat gold, stored in musty boxes in my grandmother’s dressing table. I still have one of those beautiful and traditional brooches in my jewellery box, and it never fails to remind me of the dimensions of her amazing life. 



This new exhibition at artisan gallery in Brisbane also takes me to that moment because it tells the personal and professional stories of 100 luminary Australian women, with contemporary brooches designed for the purpose by 100 of Australia’s most significant women jewellers. 

Titled ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor’ after the old chant, it projects the past, when women may only have dreamed of such professions, onto a present where anything is achievable by women – even Australia’s top job. Fittingly, it celebrates the 100th anniversary year of International Women’s Day.



Darani Lewer’s angular confection in silver and white stones is crowned by a modest red rock, in its striking form and humility evoking the ordinary beginnings from which Julia Gillard (born 1961) has risen to Australia’s top political post in 2010, aged only 49; Sheridan Kennedy’s tribute to Elizabeth MacArthur (1766-1850) notes her seminal role in the Australian wool industry, utilising silver to embroider the ram and amend the (now defunct) Australian two dollar note to picture Elizabeth and not her husband John; Julia deVille, jewellery/taxidermist, has honoured Jane Catharine Tost (c.1817-1889), the first Australian woman taxidermist to be employed in a museum, in a poignant furry brooch with a bejewelled head.



The good news for other Australian cities is that this exhibition, with stories of Australian women both well and little known, will tour. Artisan CEO Liana Heath suggested that audiences throughout the country would be captivated by “the brilliance and ingenuity of great Australian women” – both the inspirational role models from our history and the jewellery makers who reflect them. 


Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor
Artisan gallery, 381 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley
29 September to 12 November 2011