Contemporary jewellers stand #WithRefugees at Craft

Nicky Hepburn,  Seaweed Lei  2017. Dried seaweed, hemp thread. Photo: Terry McConvill

Nicky Hepburn, Seaweed Lei 2017. Dried seaweed, hemp thread. Photo: Terry McConvill


Friday 25 May 2018


15 contemporary jewellers respond to Australia’s current immigration and refugee policy with neckpieces inspired by the welcome garland found in many traditional island cultures in the exhibition Island Welcome at Craft 2 – 30 June 2018.

Curator Belinda Newick explains the idea arose from a family holiday in Fiji “I was struck by the open-heartedness, the sense of acknowledgement and ceremony to the moment of arrival.” she says. “My intention with Island Welcome was to give voice to the feelings and frustrations I feel as an Australian, living in a time of confronting political decisions that do not align with any of the values that Australia continues to falsely present.”

Newick invited artists – Jane Bowden, Jess Dare, Kath Inglis, Lauren Simeoni, Michelle Cangiano, Nicky Hepburn, and Vicki Mason – to create a welcome garland or lei of their own reflecting on these themes, first exhibited in 2017.

Craft Curator Chloë Powell approached Newick to expand the exhibition in 2018, with seven new artists – Alice Whish, Anna Davern, Liv Boyle, Manon van Kouswijk, Maree Clarke, Melinda Young, and Sim Luttin adding their voices to the conversation.

“For over a decade, people seeking asylum and refugees in Australia have demonised by politicians and the media. By creating a culture of fear, people feel unwelcome in Australia. Art is a powerful way to counter this and showcase that people are welcome. Island Welcomechallenges the current climate of fear and toxicity, powerfully showing refugees and people seeking asylum that they are a part of our community and they are welcome. Without leaders, we are the leaders and this exhibition leads the way in offering welcome and warmth.” states Jana Favero, Director - Advocacy and Campaigns at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Favero will open the exhibition at Craft on Thursday 7 June, 6 – 8pm.

South Australian jeweller Kath Inglis works in PVC, which she hand-dyes and carves into delicate, glass-like pieces. For this work, she turned her skills to the humble pair of thongs, a reference to the shoes commonly found around welcome mats in her hometown of Darwin. “While making this piece, I was also thinking about the old saying 'to walk a mile in another’s shoes,” she explains. “The thinking I have for this Lei is to welcome with empathy.”

“We have an intimate relationship with jewellery. It’s at once private, in holding our personal meaning and memory, and also public in its ability to signify our beliefs, connections, and place in the world,” says Powell.

Craft will mark World Refugee Day, Wednesday 20 June 2018, with two events:

#WithRefugees; Collaborative garland making workshop
Craft, 1 – 4pm
Facilitated by Anna Davern, Belinda Newick, Michelle Cangiano, and Nicky Hepburn.

Island Welcome Conversation Circle: community, collaboration, and welcome
Craft, 6 – 8pm
Speakers: Artist and former refugee Azizeh Astaneh, Jess Lilley, and textile artist Sara Lindsay.
An open conversation about making, collaboration, and crafts intersection with community building, identity, and politics.

Island Welcome will show at Craft from 2 – 30 June 2018
Opening: Thursday 7 June, 6 - 8pm.
The exhibition will be opened by Jana Favero, Director - Advocacy and Campaigns at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre


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Notes to Editors: The artist is available for interview. For further information and/or images please contact us on 03 9650 7775 or