Most artists dream about having their work on exhibition at a top American gallery and few are invited to do so, without having to sell their artistic souls. For an artist to be asked, out of the blue, with no self-spruiking involved, mostly only happens in dreams.
Not so for contemporary jewellery artist Zoe Brand, who lives and works on Yuin country, in the small community of Majors Creek, near Braidwood.
The artist was recently invited to exhibit 20 pieces of her unique work at Sienna Patti, in the United States, one of the most important design galleries in the world. The gallery features one-off pieces by contemporary designers, with works exhibited, then offered for sale.
It’s not surprising Zoe was invited to show her work in the gallery. It is like no other. She uses words, everyday words she hears on the radio, reads in a book or overhears in coversation, to fashion her pieces. The jewellery is strong, elegant and there almost always seems to be an element of humour not too far removed.
Her work might be on the end of a chord, a pin, a sign – anything that comes to her artistic mind at the time. She works with a variety of mediums, from silver to powder-coated aluminium, but her work all seems driven by its chosen text. One of her favourite sources is something her mother-in-law gave her – “it’s a wonderful book called 15,000 Useful Phrases, dated 1917″.
“As a long, long, long time admirer of Sienna and her gallery, I was particularly thrilled when she contacted me to see if I was keen to send her some work,” Zoe said. With such a short turaround to send the work to the US, Zoe sent work she had already made as well as a few new pieces, including a work called better, an engraved acrylic piece, clearly designed to bring out the best in its wearer.
“I nearly lost my mind when she sent me a message saying she wanted to show my work. I thought, ‘you know me’?
“But she got it. She got what I did.”
Although having her work on show overseas is a huge boon for her career, Zoe said it had taken her about 10 years to get to this point.
Born in Brisbane, Zoe, 38, completed her Bachelor of Visual Arts majoring in gold and silversmithing at the Australian National University in Canberra in 2014, finishing her degree with first class honours also at the ANU the following year.
She has since exhibited throughout the world, including France, Germany, Thailand, New Zealand and Australia.
Zoe, her partner Keith and their two children, Mae, 3, and Kit, 15 months, moved to Majors Creek about four years ago. Keith’s family had lived at nearby Reidsdale for about 30 years, so it was like coming home.
Zoe said there were special qualities about where she lived that often inspired her work. She said although it was the most beautiful of places to live in, nature did not always drive what she did creatively.
“But what I love about this place is that it’s just the best to bring up your children – there’s just so much space,” she said.
“It lets me do anything I want to do, although I almost always have a child attached to my hip when I’m doing it.”
The artist said she preferred her work to speak for her.
“That’s why I don’t approach galleries myself,” she said.
“If they want something, they’ll approach me.
“For me, art has always been about connection. If you make great art, that’s how you get noticed.
“I’m constantly making pieces, but I make them for me. Everything I do always seems to have had a personal bent.”