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Linda van Niekerk

Alice Blackwood catches up with Linda van Niekerk, winner of the 2010
Tasmanian Design Award, to talk about her practice and place within the
Tasmanian bushland.

Her first career was in advertising and marketing and, after having worked in such a cutthroat industry, “you would have thought I’d know better”, says designer and maker Linda van Niekerk.

No longer a highflying Sydney-sider van Niekerk now devotes her skills and attention to jewellery making, fabulous one-off wearable pieces, and the occasional “repeatable”.



The “world of adornment” drives van Niekerk’s work which features silver as the main material. “It’s a beautiful metal and can have many guises. It can be black and shiny, you can matte it down and make it elegant, you can oxidise it in various shades.”


The adornment part of her work comes down to wearability and “how it feels when you wear it”.

“I’ve failed if I make a piece that you put on the body and it doesn’t work at all.”

There’s her silver scarf knitted from fine silver wire – which she showed in one of her first exhibitions. “I don’t know how everyone else uses it, but I bought a big spool and knitted it.”


There’s also the Silk Dew Drop necklace which moves away from van Niekerk one-off work to connect with the more mainstream consumer, and has earned her the 2010 Tasmanian Design Award Overall Winner prize.


A chemistry exists between van Niekerk’s work and its wearers, and as she says, the work comes to life when worn. “If you look at it, you wouldn’t know what each piece was for. When people put it on it takes on a new dimension.”

She’s been living in Tasmania since 2005 and the influence it has had on some (if not all!) of her pieces is quite remarkable. Her Forest rings are the most expressive: perfect spheres formed from Huon Pine, myrtle and other woods. “They represent the purity of the Tasmanian forest, and the trees which have been growing for hundreds of years.”


Van Niekerk torched one to a beautiful black charcoal, to reflect the degradation of the local forests for woodchips, paper and pulp. And as with all her work, it isn’t until you don the ring that you tap in to the unique language of that particular piece.

Linda van Nierkerk is the Overall Winner of the 2010 Tasmanian Design Award.


Linda van Niekerk

Photography by Peter Whyte Photography aliasX Photography