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Krista McRae

Studio Visit

10th January, 2014
Lucy Feagins
Friday 10th January 2014

Engagement and wedding rings by Melbourne jewellery Krista McRae.  Photos Courtesy Pieces of Eight.

The workbench of Melbourne jeweller Krista McRae.  Photo - Eve Wilson.

Krista's home studio. Photo - Eve Wilson.

Krista at work.  Photo - Eve Wilson.

Krista outside her new home / studio in North Warrandyte.  Photo - Eve Wilson.

I have admired the work of Melbourne jewellery Krista McRae for a long time and I can't believe I've never featured her work before now!  I first spotted her work many years ago at Pieces of Eight (when it was still in North Fitzroy - it's now in the CBD), and it really has stuck in my mind ever since then.  There's something so unique about her work - somehow robust yet delicate, all at once.  Her distinctive faceted surfaces give each piece a striking, graphic quality, often softened with a sprinkle of tiny precious stones.  And with their brushed surfaces and irregular shapes, there's no mistaking the handmade nature of this work - like most custom made jewellery, no two pieces are ever quite the same.

Krista specialises in handcrafted engagement rings and wedding rings for both men and women.  She also makes exquisite earrings, brooches and other pieces, but like many local jewellers, it's made to order wedding commissions that are at the core of her practice.  These commissions enable her to work closely with her clients, creating highly personal pieces that hold special meaning for the wearer.  She enjoys the interaction with her clients and the bespoke nature of this work, and takes great pride in creating for the wearer a 'treasure that no-one else has'.

Krista came to jewellery in a slightly roundabout way, having originally studied printmaking and then ceramics at the VCA.  After graduating, a year spent travelling across Australia helped to clarify her creative direction, and it was during this year that she committed to making jewellery. After returning to Melbourne, she completed an Advanced Diploma in Engineering of Gold and Silver Smithing at NMIT, and in 2007 joined the Pieces of Eight workshop, run by Melanie Katsalidis (then in North Fitzroy).  Melanie is an inspiring business woman and talented jeweller in her own right, and has been incredibly supportive of Krista's practice over the years, having hosted many exhibitions of her work.

Aside from creating her exquisite jewellery, Krista has also recently launched a collaborative side project with her sister Anna, called Faraway House. Under this name Krista creates oversized faceted Woodens Gems which can be used as stools or side tables.  They are available at Edition X.

Krista has recently moved from inner Melbourne to North Warrandyte (it sounds further than it is actually, its just about 30 mins away!), where she works from a brand new home studio.  Her jewellery can be found in Melbourne at Pieces of Eight and e.g.etal.

Tell us a little bit about your background – what path led you to what you're doing now?

I grew up in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne when they were the idyllic playground for free roaming kids, surrounded by orchards and farms. I attended Melbourne Rudolf Steiner School, with a potter/painter/photographer father and otherwise all round ‘creative’ parents. I suppose I was bound to find myself working in some creative field.

You originally came to jewellery design after training as a printmaker at the VCA, how did this come about, and in the early days, how did you learn and perfect your new found craft?

After printmaking I moved into ceramics, however, I found that I was mainly spending my time in the foundry of the sculpture department. My ceramics were sculptural and abstract forms. Following graduation from the VCA, I travelled Australia for a year. In retrospect, this was quite a transformative period for my creative art. While travelling I yearned to continue making and creating. It was during this year, that I committed to making jewellery. It satisfied my need to make pieces of art, whilst being transient and easily transportable on my journeys.

Upon my return to Melbourne I joined a studio space called Found Project Space, with other multi-disciplined artists. Later I refined my skills by completing an Advanced Diploma in Engineering of Gold and Silver Smithing at NMIT. I was then introduced to Pieces of Eight workshop run by Melanie Katsalidis in North Fitzroy, where I joined the studio from 2007 until late 2012. Mel has been an amazing support over the years, as well as a jeweller herself - I absolutely LOVE her new 5 pearl Golden Triangle earrings.

How would you best describe your creative aesthetic?

Timeless, romantic, organic, asymmetrical, whimsical and playful. I often think of my pieces as hidden treasures, or night skies, which evoke sentimentality and emotion.

Earrings by Melbourne jewellery Krista McRae.  Photos Courtesy Pieces of Eight.
Can you give us a little insight into your process – when commencing a new commission for example, what is the process and how long does one piece usually take to complete?

As much of my work is commissioned, it means that I am able to create a piece with one person in mind. My intention is to create jewellery that tells a story. This may be of the history of an individual or capture a memory or significant event for them. For this reason, I take the time to listen to my clients. This is so important, I cannot emphasise it enough, because I believe that the end piece needs to reflect real meaning for the wearer.

The whole process generally takes between 3-4 weeks.

Stacked rings by Krista McRae.  Photos Courtesy Pieces of Eight.
Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving right now?

Carla Fletcher is an amazing artist and dear friend of mine. I am inspired by her playful use of colour and design. I recently attended her exhibition Grey at Tinning Street Gallery, and couldn’t help buying one of her exquisite Eastern Grey Kangaroo drawings for my new home/studio in North Warrandyte.

Greg Wood, a talented painter of moody landscapes. His work is also very romantic and I have a number of his paintings, as does my sister, which we love on a daily basis.

Carmel Seymour is a Melbourne-based painter and illustrator. I adore her detailed pencil sketches with vivid water colours, one of which hangs in my studio and is admired by many of my visitors.

Siri Hayes, a photographer who I met at Steiner and have treasured moments with at VCA and ever since. Siri’s recent show Future Primitive at Heide Museum of Modern Art was one of the most beautiful I have seen.

Can you list for us resources across any media you turn when in need of a bolt of creative inspiration when beginning a new piece or collection?

I am inspired greatly by the character of people, as seen in photographs on sites such as The Sartorialist.

I also love to trawl through old National Geographic magazines sourced from op shops.

At the moment I am loving looking at the photographs of Finnish blogger, Hannna, at In Manteli, which ties together my Steiner roots and the simple design elements of everyday life.

Instagram is also a favorite at the moment, it is so accessible for inspiration on the go.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Sometimes it starts with a walk and a coffee with Carla, or otherwise a coffee around my kitchen table while checking emails. I then launch into the necessary paper work that comes with running my own business. A few times a week I do a city run to visit suppliers. The creative part of my day usually starts after that, and can run into the evening.

I love to listen to audio books while I work, which transports me into the ‘theatre of the mind’. I have recently moved my studio into my new home in North Warrandyte, which enables me to work anytime of the day at my convenience. After having lived for many years in inner Melbourne, I am now really appreciating a return to nature. My lunch break often consists of soaking up some sun, or a brief walk to the letterbox down the street.

Krista at work in her home studio with the work of Melbourne-based artist Naomi Schwartz 'Correction Tape on Handmade Nepalese Paper' (2008) behind her. Photo - Eve Wilson.
What would be your dream creative project?

A project with unlimited resources and travel involved!  Isn’t that everyone’s dream project? I also look forward to spending more time on the collaborative project I have started with my sister Anna, which is Faraway House. Our Woodens Gems are available at Edition X.

I am currently designing a piece for Louella Tuckey, which has been really fun working with another creative mind. I have also recently designed a piece for Missy Higgins.

What are you looking forward to?

Heading back over to Lao with my partner Hans on his next work trip, I plan on visiting Luang Prabang in the North again (World Heritage site), as I fell in love with its French architecture and amazing food.

Krista's workbench.  Photo - Eve Wilson.

Melbourne Questions

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

It’s pretty hard to beat Abbotsford ; close to the city, yet close to the Yarra, and has all the quirks of old Collingwood. It’s also where my parents live.

Your favourite fossicking spots in Melbourne for jewellery supplies/tools of your trade?

I’m a bit of a tool fanatic, and love going to Melbourne Jewellery Supplies (AJS). Everyone is really helpful there. I have also always loved Camberwell Market and garage sales.

What and where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

I had a late night ‘lock in’ dinner (great wine and yummy food) with a group of friends at Carolina Café Bar at 11 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Out in my garden having a cup of tea with my partner Hans and our cat Duska, contemplating our tree planting. As we have just moved into our new place, there is much to be done.

Melbourne's best kept secret?

The secret swimming spots along the Yarra River for a picnic and to catch some shade on a hot summer’s day.

Studio details.   Photo - Eve Wilson.

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