Case Study - Aubin Stewart

Established Craft Maker Bursary 

Contemporary Jeweller Aubin Stewart applied for a VACMA to carry out professional development to explore new materials and processes. 

You can check out more of Aubin's work via her website or Instagram page

Aubin creates contemporary vibrant jewellery collections with a strong focus on colour and the use of alternative materials. Designs are often inspired from natural or structural forms found in her everyday surroundings which are reduced to the simplest of shapes and patterns.

Using traditional jewellery making methods and hand skills she creates one-off designs and small collections often with limited or off cut materials. She describes her process as playful and makes work in an intuitive way, finding that the challenge of combining unexpected materials together harmoniously, such as leather with pearls or Perspex is the most exciting part of her creative process. 

Aubin applied for the VACMA bursary as she wanted to be more ambitious with her work and develop her creative skills – “I would love to step out of my discipline and try something else.”

When applying, Aubin was starting to think about what other materials could be introduced into her work that wasn’t Perspex, but would still bring colour into work, and didn’t involve digital processes. “I wanted to explore new materials and how I could manipulate them.”

Aubin applied for funding to do a block printing course with an expert fabric block printer so she could learn a new analogue process. One thing that attracted her was that this technique used low tech equipment. “If I enjoyed it, I could learn how to print onto leather, then work that into jewellery components. It wasn’t necessarily going to be the outcome, but it was something to explore.” In block printing she could also have the freedom to mix her own colours and choose colour palettes specific to her, rather than having to search for materials in colours she liked.   

Aubin says, “Doing a project where you dedicate time to it; having the funding forces you to actually sit down and do the work. Before these ideas were tumbling around in my head, and probably would have taken a lot longer to make happen. The funding gives you the freedom away from your income driven work to get on and explore, and it gives a goal focus so makes you knuckle down and do it. “

She says of the funding, “The VACMA funding has really helped motivate me to develop my skills and my practice. I found that dedicating time to simply play and experiment without the pressure of results has been really liberating and exciting. It has given me confidence to try new skills that are outside my discipline and that my creative practice can perhaps extend outside jewellery making. It has challenged me to think about the materials I use and connected me with other makers.”

“The impact has been that I’m still printing – I’m still on the journey!” 

Since this project Aubin then applied for further Creative Funding which allowed her to take on a second leg of her VACMA project:

“I’m moving on from block printing onto leather, but since I really enjoyed the textile element, I decided to try other new textile techniques without it being outcome led. So now I’m exploring screen printing onto fabric, and I don’t quite know where it’s going to lead, but I’m into my second year of the journey and don’t know where it’s going to end, but that’s what’s exciting about it!”

Although Aubin sees it as being separate from her jewellery practice, she can see a possibility of it crossing over.  She says, “It’s a case of giving it some time to percolate. I’ve been doing stitch classes alongside the textile printing, and although it wasn’t my initial intention, I can see things naturally evolving. It isn’t needing to generate income, instead I’m allowing it as time for professional development and not forcing outcomes. It’s so beneficial to allow yourself that time.”

“Just do it! Apply for VACMA funding as you never know where it will take you!”

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