Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meet Your Maker: Anji Noor

One of the lovely things about Stockroom is that it’s a space that really encourages interaction between its makers and the public. Meaning, you get the opportunity to actually meet the people who make the work you buy..

Gone are the days where things are made invisibly, churned out in some anonymous factory ‘somewhere’.. Stockroom very much embraces the idea of ‘meeting your maker’ – literally!

Above, metal artist Anji Noor at Stockroom

Which is also very much part of the decision to include artist studios at the Art Complex. Where possible, Stockroom stocks the work of those who rent studios More often than not these artists are on the premises working, so you can either talk to them about commissions, work on display and for sale, or just get some insight into their processes – ie how they do the things that they do.

One such artist and maker is Anji Noor. Anji is a dedicated gold and silversmith, who makes beautifully handcrafted objets, jewellery and metal art at her Studio Anoor now based at Stockroom. She’s fairly new to Kyneton, and part of her motivation to moving her whole life and business to the regional town, was to take her career by the horns and deepen her commitment to her art/works.

Anji is a very easy person to meet and speak to. She has a big smile, a huge talent and loves to meet her clients and those interested in her beautiful pieces. She makes large and small scale works, loves to take commissions, and clearly loves what she does. She’s given a great interview about her work.

Above right, Anji's workshop at Stockroom.

Stockroom: Please tell us about your artist background - bit of a bio? Where you studied etc etc? And how you came to be a jeweller?

Anji Noor: I first started my creative studies back in 1984 at what was then Chisholm Institute of Technology (now Monash University, Caulfield), where I did the Ceramic Design course. They also offered studies in cold glass (lead light), warm glass (kiln slumped glass) and hot glass (glass blowing).

My background with these materials and processes is still a large part of what I am currently doing in my gold/silversmithing and jewellery practice. I especially think of mixing up and incorporating elements of glass and clay when I am planning a silversmithed project.

Silversmithing basically describes the process of raising a form or vessel like object from a flat sheet of metal, whether it is fine silver, copper or gilding metal. The process involves heating or annealing the metal to a workable state and then hammering it gradually, using a variety of stakes and hammers, into a desired shape to eventually become a hollow form object. The object is often referred to as a piece of hollowware.

I also studied Interior Design at RMIT during the 1990s and this is where I was introduced to the idea of making small-scale (jewellery) items. At this time I used Australian hardwoods, typically red gum and acrylic to demonstrate and explore ideas of small scale interiors and architectural forms.

This particular series of work is a special reminder to me of how my journey towards jewellery making began.

After completing ID I took some time out to have my son Jasper and reconsider what my practice was all about.

I completed a six-month short course at the CAE with Gary Swift in Melbourne while I was pregnant, to get the jewellery process happening, and it was there that I learned how to get seriously into jewellery engineering.

It now feels like a natural evolutionary progression for me where I have been exposed to and developed a specific design language, specialist engineering skills and a material methodology, whereby I am able to manufacture a specific type of handcrafted piece.

SR: How would you describe the work you make?

AN: I began formal jewellery training at NMIT, Fairfield, in 2007. During this two year course I obtained an Advanced Diploma of Jewellery Engineering. I developed a particular style or way of working with metal in this time. I love to hit metal with a hammer. I love the ancient processes of heating and working metal into a desirable outcome. The work I make is usually hammer marked carrying in it a fusion of an ancient time with contemporary designed, current themes and form and function.

I am not confined to using particular materials in my work, although I love to use gold and precious gems, I am also very comfortable with copper, enamelling and gilding metals.

I call myself a gold & silversmith which actually refers to using traditional materials most particular to jewellery making.

SR: What kind of skills in particular do you need to be a good jeweller?

AN: There are very specific skills required to make good jewellery. The first skill is the adjustment one must make to scale, this is necessary to handle tiny components. Good eyesight, a steady hand, precision, great tools, a big love of hand tools and equipment, and then how to use them. Also a fair understanding of the nature of metal is also a skilful requirement. Metal has a specific workability and it is very interesting to discover the boundaries and its limitations as a workable material and then how to get the best result from it.

Above right, Anji's much-loved workbench at Studio Anoor, Stockroom.

During my training I learned that there are particular rules with which to work with metal. To obtain a particular result means that there is always a set of steps or particular process to go through. This process usually changes from piece to piece so there are always new rules to make up, a new process to work out.

SR: Who usually buys your work? Do you have any celebrity clients?! (optional!!)

AN: I find the people that buy my work usually seem to have a natural affinity with it - that it ‘talks to them’ in some way. I think people find the balance of rough etiquette appealing, like some feeling of old soul in new skin that has an element of comfort and familiarity although not seen or experienced before.

And, I will be delighted one day when I have the opportunity to make work for celebrity clients!!!

SR: What do you love about working with metal? And making jewellery?

AN: I love how working with metal makes me feel. I feel completely spacious in my mind while I carry out this very real physical activity. I think that in this sense it is the most perfect process to make art. It has the ability to allow one to dream and invent while at the same time be very active about it and the process.

SR: How did you come to be living and working in Kyneton? And what do you like about living in the region?

AN: I grew up in Mount Evelyn, which is in the outer eastern surrounding hills of Melbourne. I have always had an affinity with living in the bush as it is where I have spent most of my life. My partner Mandy and I have lived both there and in the inner-city of Melbourne with our two children Brodie, 20, and Jasper, 4, for approximately 16 years. After Brodie completed Year 12 we felt compelled to leave the city and head off for a ‘tree change’ and to start a second chapter to our lives.

We have recently bought land in the Kyneton Bushland Resort and we are currently in the process of designing our new home.

Being a jeweller it was a semmingly easy decision to make to relocate from a temporary studio situation that was slowly winding up in Kensington. And for now, Mandy is happy to commute to her job that she absolutely loves, in Melbourne CBD.

SR: Is there more of a story behind you getting your studio at Stockroom that you can share with us? And what do you like about having a studio there?

AN: Earlier this year I applied to the Australia Council for an ArtStart grant for which I was successful. I have been awarded $10 000 to help assist me start my jewellery practice and business. I am still completely overwhelmed with joy about this incredible offer of assistance.

This was really the beginning of leaving a job I had had since graduating in 2008, and getting really serious about finding a suitable space to set up my workshop and jewellery practice.

One extremely wintery Saturday in July, Mandy and were out scoping Piper Street in Kyneton, as we loved the vibe and instinctively knew that there was something there for me!

We popped into No. 2 Sweetheart at 37a Piper Street and got chatting to the business owner Melinda. After describing the type of environment I was looking for she pulled out an invitation to Stockroom’s opening event and talked about a new venture just beginning at the ‘Old Butter Factory’, down the road a bit. She suggested I go down and chat as she understood there were studio spaces available and the beginning of what sounded like a whole new arts hub about to unfold...

Meeting Jason and Magali was a pretty exciting moment for me, like it was all starting to happen, all at once!

Above left, Anji and her son Jasper at Stockroom.

SR: What are your plans while you are at Stockroom?

AN: My plans are huge for my time at Stockroom; not only do I plan to establish a fully functioning, operational manufacturing workshop and business, it is also the beginning of a whole new life for me. We have met a most wonderful community of artists and others that have truly welcomed our migration north.

What I love most about working from Stockroom is the feeling of being connected and a fantastic opportunity to really engage with my clients and other like-minded individuals constantly wondering about. I have plans of being here for a while.

I guess right now I am simply working at being really productive and busy. I am also working on getting my work for sale in a jewellery store in Brooklyn USA, called st.kilda jewellery...

SR: Can you tell us a little bit about the work you've made that you are most proud of? Or excited by?

AN: My epic pieces so far are a couple of huge vessels I silversmithed while still at school, I think there are about 10 weeks’ worth of work in each. I am also very proud of a couple of mokume gane (Japanese wood grain) rings I also made at this time.

SR: What projects are you working on at the moment?

AN: I am currently working on a soon to be released new range of jewellery items.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to go to the Bahamas and New York with Mandy so there’s a bit of that travel experience inspiring the next thing I’m working on. There’s a pirate theme in there… some crowns, a cameo, crab claws and sea shells and antlers: neck pieces, brooches, earrings and cufflinks. Hopefully something for everyone – and all with gems!

SR: Do you have any plans for upcoming shows?

AN: I have been invited to participate in ‘Go West’, a now annual queer culture group exhibition held during midsummer, early 2011.

There’s also an opportunity here to launch my new range, and I am also aiming for a show at Stockroom mid-2011, and possibly another whole new range.

SR: What's the best way for people to see your work, and get in contact with you?

AN: My website is under construction so the best way to check me out is to come into Stockroom.

SR: In one sentence, tell us what you love most about life...

AN: I love everything about my life. I am in a constant wonderment and completely awe inspired by all that is going on around me. My favourite saying this year has been "time for a cool, cool change..."

Visit Studio Anoor on Facebook. And view more pics on the Stockroom Facebook.

Anji Noor @ studioAnoor can also be contacted on 0411 862 259.

Stockroom will be presenting a series of interviews with its makers and artists, so follow the blog to meet your maker!

Words & pics: Megan Spencer (Except above product photos from Studio Anoor.) Thanks to Anji Noor for the interview.