JamFactory – 40 Fruitful Years of Craft and Design

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design. Founded in Adelaide JamFactory has ensured some of Australia’s most talented craft and design practitioners have realised their full creative potential. On any given day the quality and diversity of practitioners working within JamFactory’s walls are a reflection of its contribution over such a long period of time.

It’s Monday and I decide to visit JamFactory Studios to see who is at work.

Natalie Gock working at her bench within JamFactory’s Metal Design Studio, Adelaide.

Natalie hand sawing copper sheet into test forms.

Natalie’s previous work – Black Cockatoo Neck piece. Image Courtesy of JamFactory.

At the Metal Design Studio, I find Natalie Gock hand sawing copper sheet into fine petal like test forms. She is working on an exhibition piece for Maker/Wearer/Matchmaker – part of Art Month Sydney 2013. The necklace will be made in silver for one of the Directors of Nine Galleries (at 2 Dank St) to wear and be displayed at Studio 20/17 from 26th until the 28th March 2013. Natalie is an Alumna Resident having completed the Associate training programme in 2012.

Nadja Maher working on a new collection in JamFactory’s Metal Design Studio.

Nadja works the prototypes on JamFactory's anvil.

Nadja works her small earring prototypes on JamFactory’s anvil.

Nadja's previous work - Overnight Earrings.

Nadja’s previous work – Overnight Earrings. Image Courtesy of JamFactory.

Jeweller Nadja Maher (a 2nd Year JamFactory Associate) is working on a new collection. Nadja, having cut and annealed her little silver earrings prototypes, is now gently working them on the JamFactory’s prize anvil. The JamFactory structures the Associate’s week by engaging them to work with staff in the making of Studio pieces for wholesale and retail sale and contributing to public program’s via workshops, exhibitions and talks, while also enabling them to work on their personal practice and commissions.

Kate Sutherland making finishing touches to a commission.

Kate Sutherland, is finishing a special commission.

Kate’s bench within Jam Factory’s Metal Design Studio.

Kate's Previous work. Image Courtesy of JamFactory.

Kate’s previous work. Image Courtesy of JamFactory.

Diversity in material and form is encouraged in the Studios. Second year Associate, Kate Sutherland, is finishing a special commission. Kate’s fluid forms draw on the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods as well as the relationship between metal elements and the human body.

Alice Potter and Christian Hall (the Metal Design Studio’s Project Manager and Creative Director, respectively), are running errands the day I do my rounds. Luckily I sat down with Christian Hall a few days earlier and discussed the history of JamFactory.

“JamFactory is very much like building an aeroplane while it is in flight…you can’t stop the plane, it has to keep going and is always in a state of incremental change…it has been built little by little over time. To start something like JamFactory today would be such a massive undertaking… it would be near impossible.” Christian affirms, “JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design is in a unique position.”

What may have started 40 years ago to support craftspeople and change the manufacturing production industry has evolved into a place that bridges tertiary study and practice. Through the large-scale commissions the JamFactory wins, Associate’s are exposed to different scales of working – often working in teams and combining many of the Studios (Glass, Metal, Furniture and Ceramics) together in one project. Associates and Staff also attend special master classes given by National and International visiting artists-in-residence.

Eddie Ferguson in Studio 3 – sourcing materials.

Window Jug and Tumblers by Andrew Ferguson.

Window Jug and Tumblers by Eddie Ferguson. Image Courtesy of Eddie Ferguson.

Down stairs in Studio 3 is Eddie Ferguson (2nd Year Associate) who spent the day before in the Glass Studio blowing his elegant Window Vase for stockists around Australia. When I call in he is sourcing materials and designing work that embraces the limitations of the glass blowing process.

Jeweller Regine Schwarzer sets a ring with a stone.

Jewellers Regine Schwarzer and Jessamy Pollock are hard at work in Studio 5. With a passion for the rocks and minerals of Australia, Regine is setting a ring with a stone as we speak. She trained in jewellery making and metalwork at the Zeichenakademie Hanau, Germany, moved to Australia in 1993 and has exhibited in countless exhibitions nationally and internationally.

Jessamy Pollock making paper and aluminium tests in Studio 5.

One of Jessamy's previous works.

One of Jessamy’s previous works Fold Brooch in anodized aluminium from her recent exhibition Shrink and Explore – a beautiful collection of wearable and unwearable sculptures.

Jessamy Pollock (Alumna in Residence) invites us to shrink within our imagination and explore her work at an architectural scale”. Jessamy has just embarked on designing a new wearable range of brooches and neck pieces and is in the process of testing her ideas in paper and aluminum. It’s great to see Regine and Jessamy working side by side on their individual work.

The JamFactory’s studio model is unique and sees experienced professional practitioners working alongside Associates in a studio environment. The program equips them with business knowledge, sustainable practice guidelines as well as all of the OHS of the technology they have grown up with. Alumni often stay on and work from rented share studio tenancies. They contribute to the depth of knowledge and strength of the JamFactory programmes.

Andrew Bartlett in Studio 6.

Furniture Designer/Maker – Andrew Bartlett greets me in Studio 6.

Andrew applying finishing coat.

Andrew applying finishing coat to a commission before final assembly.

In Studio 6 is furniture designer/maker Andrew Bartlett (Alumnus) applying finishing coats to a furniture commission. After installing the WOOD: art design architecture exhibition Andrew is content to be in the studio. We discuss his great respect for clients in the commissioning process and the importance of collaboration on such projects as the Penfold’s Ampoule Project. John Quan (Furniture Designer Alumnus) shares Studio 6 with Andrew but is out sourcing electrical supplies for his new lamp design when I visit.

Meeting in the Furniture Studio.

A meeting in session within JamFactory’s Furniture Studio.

Furniture Maker – Daniel Guest having a break from the workshop. Admin is a necessary part of any business.

Next-door a meeting in the Furniture Design Studio headquarters is in session. Furniture Maker Daniel Guest (2nd Year Associate who also assisted on the WOOD: art design architecture install) is quietly working away on a computer. Daniel moved to Adelaide to become a JamFactory Associate and sharpen his skills after completing fine furniture design and construction at the Australian School of Fine Wood in Western Australia. Like Daniel many practitioners are prepared to move cities and live in Adelaide to attend JamFactory.

Associates today differ from those attending the JamFactory 40 years ago. Then the practitioners were generally older with a diverse wealth of life experience and travel under their belt – as well as their own sense of identity and practice. Today’s Associates are more likely to be in that process while completing their JamFactory Associate training programme.

I sit down with Karen Cunningham (Glass Studio Creative Director) as the other glass practitioners including Tom Moore (Production Manager) stop for the day to enjoy frozen cordial and time away from the hot furnaces.

The resources that go into glass making are costly and finite. The Glass Studio’s Program emphasizes training through production while supporting the distinct parts of practice (experimental exhibition work and highly resolved production pieces). It encourages practitioners to think of glass in new ways such as through computer-based technology and sustainable practice.

The practitioners work together to form the Tumbler with tools.

Step by step – the practitioners work together to form the piece.

At times there have been up to 50 independent glass artists who regularly hire the hot glass studio. Making glass objects is a creative pursuit that needs to be undertaken with someone to assist throughout the process.

The glass form goes into the furnace again.

The glass form goes back into the furnace.


Further forming – the process is repeated until the glass tumbler form is perfect.

The process is mesmerizing to watch. I particularly enjoy the movement of the practitioners working together as they glide around each other to transfer the glass back and forth from furnace to forming area. On this day Liam Fleming is completing the Tumbler Exercise with Katie–Ann Houghton assisting, as George Agius prepares coloured glass with Alex Valero.

Glass Studio - Liam Fleming completing the Tumbler Exercise with Katie–Ann Houghton assisting.

View to Glass Studio from the Observation Deck – Liam Fleming completing the Tumbler Exercise with Katie–Ann Houghton assisting.

As I make my way from the Glass Studio to the JamFactory Office I pass members of the public enjoying the glass process from a special observation deck. They have just come from JamFactory Store which stocks the objects made on site. JamFactory successfully connects people to the power and energy of making.

In the JamFactory Office its late afternoon and Claudine Young (Executive Assistant) and Anne Fenech (Administration Assistant) are holding the fort. With the exhibition launch and public programmes for WOOD: art design architecture held the previous week, many staff have gone home a little early today.

I caught up with Brian Parkes CEO, after the WOOD: art design architecture exhibition opening and discussed how he sees his role in the organisation.

“JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design has a strong and meaningful history and an ever-growing community of esteemed Alumni. I see my primary role as spreading the word about JamFactory’s uniqueness, contribution and longevity with a wider audience”.

Brian Parkes sharing.

Brian Parkes opening the WOOD: art design architecture exhibition at JamFactory.

This is apt, because the day I visit, Brian is doing just that – spreading the word at an interstate presentation. I have to agree with Brian – there is no other place in Australia like JamFactory. The diverse practitioners I met working on this one day within JamFactory’s 40-year history are the true testimony to this.

A special exhibition entitled Designing Craft/Crafting Design: 40 Years of JamFactory opens on 19 April 2013 at JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design, Adelaide.

MARMALADE – JamFactory’s annual publication with designer profiles, special features and reviews has just been launched.

For all details including information about JamFactory’s Studios, Associates and Staff, Store and upcoming events visit JamFactory’s Website.

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