Bridget Kennedy is a Lane Cove Local who is also a talented contemporary jewellery designer. She runs a contemporary gallery in North Sydney called Bridget Kennedy Project Space. We asked Bridget to tell us a little bit about her gallery which is an exhibition space, a workshop space and a communtiy meeting place. The North Sydney Council supports local artists by funding this space as part of an artist in residency programme.
How long have you been running a contemporary gallery?
I’ve been running a contemporary jewellery gallery since 2008, originally in Waterloo, and now closer to home in North Sydney.
I originally studied painting at art school but was excited by the possibilities of jewellery as an art form. Contemporary jewellery can be so different from traditional ideas of jewellery and I just love how it can have a sense of surprise, experimentation and ingenuity.
It can also be highly conceptual, exploring ideas of value and preciousness. Wearing contemporary jewellery could be seen as a bit like wearing small handmade sculptures on your body. It’s an expression of both of the wearer, who’s willing to step outside the boundaries of traditional or mass market jewellery, and the artist, whose work expresses their inspiration and embodies their personal creative journey. You’re connecting to individuals in a community rather than the faceless consumption of generic items. Alongside the exhibition program at the gallery, there’s a retail area showcasing original work by other professional Australian jewellery artists, as well as my workshop.
Tell us about some of the exhibitions you have held?
Over the last 10 years, the gallery’s supported over 320 artists and held more than 100 exhibitions! These have included fun group shows like ‘Mixquisite’ where artists were all involved in making each piece of jewellery. One artist would start the work, then pass it on to the next artist to add to, and so forth, a bit like the paper drawing game ‘Exquisite Corpse’. The resulting works were an amazing collection of creativity!
More recently, ‘Thresholds’, held last year, showed work by two Australian artists engaging in aspects of the urban environment and representing them as wearable objects. We’ve also shown jewellery made from paper, repurposed plastics, steel, enamel and even food, as well as the more traditional gold, silver and gemstones. I also program in free community events each month that relate back to the exhibition that’s currently on. Last month we had a really popular free ‘Red Jewellery Making’ workshop where participants could make new jewellery from old broken bits of costume jewellery.
What exhibitions are coming up?
This year I’m working with the exhibition program theme ‘beyond the body’. The series of exhibitions explore ideas of how jewellery can navigate between the personal space of the body and the wider, public space. The artists exhibitions will explore these ideas through installation art, videos, large scale ‘wearables’ and much more.
Our next show ‘Interruptible States’ by Judith Torzillo, uses the edges of objects to continue her investigation of memory, function and identity. The artist will also be holding a free community collaborative drawing workshop. You can book online at www.bridgetkennedy.com.au/events.
Tell us about private jewellery lessons you hold?
I occasionally hold small workshops teaching specific jewellery making skills, like casting a silver ring from carved wax, or making silver pendants and earrings. These are publicised primarily through my mailing list. I also hold private one on one classes for people who’d like to learn how to make jewellery or focus on improving specific skills. I’ve also had couples come in to make their own wedding rings and recently had someone come in who had some old bits of gold and they wanted to learn how to melt it down and make a simple bangle. It’s heaps of fun and people get a real buzz experiencing the transformation of their ideas into reality. It’s also really cool watching metal melt!
Tell us how you transform broken, inherited or unloved gold jewellery?
One of the things I do is transform old, broken, inherited or unloved gold jewellery into new designs. It’s surprising how many people have bits of broken jewellery that they don’t know what to do with. Jewellery can be embedded with so much meaning and memories. It can be very economical to transform the gold into a new contemporary heirloom. I really enjoy doing this sort of work as it really fits into my values of sustainable and ethical living by reusing existing resources, and the customer has a lovely bespoke piece of jewellery that they love.
Could a Lane Cove artist hold an exhibition in your gallery?
Certainly! I’m always on the lookout for professional contemporary jewellery artists who would be a good fit for the space. However, my exhibition program is full for this year. Artists can get in touch with me through my website.
Tell us about your Year of Time Art Project?
This is an ongoing art project of mine that involves the exchange of time rather than money for artworks. It’s become a pretty big project and probably needs a whole other article! One recent ‘time’ exchange was someone who was singing for me in exchange for one of my artworks. I created a private ‘Sing and Soul’ event to raise money for OzHarvest and ended up raising more than $1500 which I was pretty chuffed about. I love how art can change people’s lives in so many ways!
You can find out more about it at bridgetkennedy.com.au/a-year-of-time/ and details of some of the exchanges on my Instagram account @bkandco. At the end of the year, I’ll be holding another exhibition of all the exchanges that have taken place. There are also still a few vessels available if any Lane Cove Residents would like to be involved.
What would you like to see in Lane Cove to assist artists?
I have SO many ideas but not nearly enough time and money to make them happen (well not this year anyway)! I believe creativity is essential to the texture and vitality of a community. It helps us think up creative solutions to problems that can seem to be insurmountable. And the planet and humanity sure seems to have a few of those at the moment! My vision is for a creative, connected community and art can be a conduit to make this happen.
I’d love to bring the visual arts to the heart of Lane Cove by creating an annual event working with local businesses, where artists create artworks for display in their shopfront windows, with awards given to the most creative or innovate displays. I believe it could be a great way to energise local businesses and community.
Another idea could be to utilize some of the empty shops in Lane Cove, to activate these spaces for artists, either by allowing artists to put artworks/art installations in the spaces free of charge, or providing rental subsidies for studio space (in a similar manner to the ‘Renew Newcastle’ project)….or even by putting large canvases hanging from the front of the shops, and creating murals.
Another idea could be for the council to hold creative workshops run by artists that are free for the local community. These could be implemented in a similar manner to the wonderful Creative Wellbeing program of art classes taught by local artists and run by North Sydney Council which allows participants to discover their creativity and socialize in a supportive environment. It can be especially beneficial for people who feel socially isolated or living with mental illness.
It would also be great to create a Lane Cove Art Trail, similar to the Greenwich Art Trail. Or how about a sculpture walk in our wonderful bushland, or some public art sculptures in the mall……or free short art workshops held by local artists in the Lloyd Rees Bandstand, to foster creativity for all the gorgeous little kids (and older ones!) in our area.
I realise all these ideas would need financial support from council, and/or private philanthropy. I do appreciate there ’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make these sort of events a reality. Sadly, arts projects are often one of the first things that get cut from funding, yet there is strong evidence of the measured health benefits that participating in the arts brings.
You’re also involved in Repair Café – how did you get involved?
I’m one of the founding members of the Repair Café Sydney North, now based in the Lane Cove Living and Learning Centre. It was set up by our local group from Permaculture Sydney North and has now expanded to have more than 20 volunteers that donate their time on the first and second Sundays of the month helping to fix things and keep resources out of landfill. I donate my time fixing costume jewellery on the 1st Sunday of the month and also created the website for the group where you can find more info.
If you are looking for some unique contemporary jewellery then head on over to the Project Space at 53 Ridge Street North Sydney.
Not only is Bridget a wonderful contemporary jewellery artist she is also a talented gardener who gives back to the community with her famous verge garden located in Seville Street Lane Cove. You can find out more here about this garden.
Talent runs in the family with Bridget’s husband, Luke, last year winning the Lane Cove Captured Photography Exhibition. Luke also runs a business where he scouts for film and TV locations and has used quite a few home and streets in Lane Cove. You can read more about Luke here.
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