Julie Blyfield is a jewellery, object and vessel maker based in South Australia. She has presented at numerous jewellers' conferences, led workshops and mentored to jewellery graduates. Julie has exhibited widely in Australia and overseas and is represented in many public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Julie Blyfield, silversmith and jeweller, was born in Melbourne in 1957. Her English-born parents had arrived in Adelaide in 1965, after migrating to Australia from England early in the 1950s. Blyfield began her career as an art teacher, graduating from Torrens College of Advanced Education with a Diploma in Teaching (Secondary Fine Art) in 1978. For 13 years following her graduation, Blyfield taught primary and secondary school art through the Education Department of South Australia. From 1984-87, she undertook an Associate Diploma of Jewellery Making and Silversmithing at the South Australian College of the Arts and Education, joining Gray Street Workshop as an access member in her final year of study. Following night classes, studio practice and workshops at various times throughout this teaching period, Blyfield made the switch to pursuing her art practice in 1994, ceasing her career as a school teacher.
Some of Blyfield’s early tuition in jewellery making at the South Australian College of the Arts and Education was under lecturer Carole-Anne Fooks. During her time studying jewellery making and silversmithing she was directed by Bob King. Since 1990, Blyfield has attended numerous conferences and workshops and in 2002, she received an Arts SA funded mentorship with master metal-worker Frank Bauer, a German trained expert in metalraising.
There are several areas that inform Blyfield’s work, at times overlapping or running concurrently through a project. These include but are not limited to: language, texture, emotion, memory, organic matter, man-made objects, relics and fragments, Indigenous appreciation and botanicals. Broader areas contribute also, such as archaeology, collecting practices and museums exhibits.
Blyfield’s series Mementos, 1989-90, incorporates objects collected during her travels through remote northern South Australia. Natural and man-made objects such as rock and mineral, wire and shaped metal, were found, kept and transformed into ‘hand objects’; jewellery items that are held rather than worn. Stratigraphy of Chance, 1992, illustrates Blyfield’s continuing interest in found items. This series comprises three neckpieces, each containing tiny replicas of the artist’s discoveries whilst volunteering at an archaeological dig in Adelaide’s East End earlier in the same year. The collecting and cataloguing of fragments once belonging to a time, place and person is as much the impetus behind this body of work as the fragments themselves.
Combining her awareness of the performative aspects of jewellery with an interest in Victorian aesthetics, Blyfield produced Mourn, 1993, a development of her hand objects, conceived of as symbols or material representations of sentimentality. Her interest in aspects of emotion continued, when in 1997 Blyfield embarked on a study tour to London, where she visited various museums in order to investigate ‘mourning’ jewellery further. Personal aspects engendered in Blyfield’s work are that of memory and relationships. In the exhibition ‘Traces of a Shared Memory’, 2001, the artist employs patterns reminiscent of her grandmother’s embroidery to create 24 highly textured brooches that are intrically punched from the reverse in order to present raised motifs on the surface of 18 carat gold and sterling silver.
Another major subject Blyfield deals with in her jewellery is organic matter, namely flora, botanicals and seeds. The series Florescence, 2002, considers Australian and introduced specimens, where she has worked silver into an assortment of leaves and seeds and then transformed these into neckpieces. She continued in this interest area with the series Pressed Desert Plant,2005, creating replica brooches of pressed botanical specimens.
In addition to the multitude of commissions, lecturing, mentoring, workshops and residencies Blyfield has undertaken, she has been recognised for her contribution to jewellery, winning: the ‘Open Inquiry Award’, City of Perth Craft Award, Craftwest Western Australia, 2002; the ‘Non Precious Award’, Third National Contemporary Jewellery Award, Griffith, New South Wales, 1996; and First Prize for ‘Neckworks’, Fremantle Art Centre, Perth, 1992. Since her switch to full-time art, Blyfield has exhibited prolifically. In 2006 her work was exhibited with galerie ra at ‘Kunst Rai’, an international art fair in Amsterdam. In 2005, she participated in ‘Transformations: The Language of Craft’ at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and in 2002 she exhibited ‘Traces’ at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, UK.
Julie Blyfield’s work is represented in numerous Australian public collections including: Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs; Art Gallery of South Australia; Art Gallery of Western Australia; Griffith Regional Gallery; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory; National Gallery of Australia; Queensland Art Gallery; and Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery. International collections include: Aberdeen Art Gallery, Scotland; Musee Des Arts Decoratifs, France; National Museum of Scotland; Turnov Collection, Czech Republic; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.