Melbourne is home to many artists and creatives across a range of different fields. The fundamental criteria linking them, is that they each require specific tools and space to produce an end product. As an up and coming, independent designer, this isn’t always straightforward, especially when you work in an industry where these tools can be very large and expensive.
I was surprised to learn that there is a thriving jewellery community in Melbourne, varying in a range of design styles and techniques, some straight from Uni and others who have been refining their skills for a long time. Deriving from the idea of connecting these artists together, Northcity4 is a workspace for jewellery makers, set in a large warehouse in Brunswick.
Anna Davern and Ali Limb came up with the idea to create a space where jewellers could network, but continue to work independently at the same time. Exchanging knowledge and learning new techniques from each other, to then put towards their own projects. It makes more logical sense for a group to share a variety of different tools and larger equipment.
Anna was originally working in the city, paying high rent where “tiny, small spaces will have 6 or 7 jewellers working their traditional jewellery with 1 bench and that’s it. The idea of having a more communal space evolved from there.”
Northcity4 have been in this Brunswick warehouse since 2011, “It started out as 7 or 8 people working in the front studio and the back area was a school where we used to run workshops. The school closed at the end of last year as we decided to now focus our energy on providing professional development for jewellers rather than the general public. It’s just much more rewarding for us and means we’ve got more time to spend on our own pieces.”
The large open planned workspace is broken into smaller work stations for 13 resident artists who each have their own studio space. In the centre of the room are the communal tools and machinery.
There is a private front room to consult with clients and a kitchen/lounge area, where they have family style lunches. "We really wanted it to be open planned, there are no walls and people keep their things low. The individual work spaces are all different sizes and can be adjusted for different people, it depends on the type of jeweller. One of the main differences between contemporary and traditional jewellers is they use different types of machinery and have different storage needs."
"We all share skills and ideas, it’s a dynamic way of doing things, you don’t have to be here full time. We are very much larger than our community here - it’s about supporting the jewellery community as a whole."
The great thing about Northcity4 is the versatility of what they do – as well as the longer term artists with more permanent studios, there is also the option of renting out a ‘project space’ for 3 or 6 months. Perfect for artists needing to prepare for an exhibition or complete the final touches on a range. You can even rent an ‘access space’ desk for just a half day or day if you need to use a machine you may be lacking to finish a piece.
Anna is excited for the prospect this has for the next generation coming through: “It’s a good opportunity for young people straight out of Uni, they can come here and learn from their peers how to set up a small independent business, because there’s a lot involved. We all share skills and ideas, it’s a dynamic way of doing things, you don’t have to be here full time. We are very much larger than our community here - it’s about supporting the jewellery community as a whole”.
Generosity and sharing are the key elements to make it work at Northcity4, and any new artists wanting to rent a space must fit into that ethos to become part of the family.
I was surprised to see so many plants on display, hanging in baskets, planted in large boxes, leaves and greenery in a place where people are working with hard stones and metals all day long.
This is not just for aesthetics, Anna tells me that ex-resident artist Inari Kiuru set up the “Indoor Forest, as a sustainable, air-purifying instillation. She wanted to do some research to see if plants can help make the atmosphere in the studio healthier. Because of what we do, there are a lot of elements that are quite toxic. As well as looking nice these plants could potentially be helping our health” by the end of the year they will have their first set of results.
Every year Northcity4 opens the roller door for a day market and fun activities, usually in December.
For more information visit: http://northcity4.com/
61 Weston Street, Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
Words by Netta Justice & photography by Sarah Caust