From the snowy cultural hotspot of Munich to the spacious energy city of Perth: internationally respected jewellers Helen Britton and David Bielander have transplanted their Munich workshop to the historic Midland Railway Workshops for three months, as part of a Creative Residency Program at Midland Atelier.
Britton and Bielander are in Western Australia as guests of Perth-based creative development body FORM. Britton originally trained in Western Australia at both Edith Cowan University and Curtin Institute of Technology and Swiss–born Bielander completed his goldsmith’s apprenticeship in Basel, Switzerland. Both jewellers then studied at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts with Professor Otto Künzli, before establishing their own studio and workshop in Munich where they have worked since 2002.
As part of their Creative Residency the duo will explore new artistic pathways, ultimately creating new work which is inspired by their altered environmental and cultural landscapes, as well as the effects of their cross-continental transplantation. As a Western Australian expat Britton says she has long been inspired by the local environment. Yet both jewellers are excited at the prospect of working in a more direct Western Australian context; exploring the intimacies and intricacies of what ‘Western Australia’ means and comprises.
Britton and Bielander’s creative work is represented worldwide and they are successful examples of sustainable artistic practice. Relocating to Midland Atelier therefore offers a unique chance to examine the differences between the creative sectors in Australia and Europe, and the opportunities and challenges inherent in both.
Research published by FORM shows that Western Australia loses more creative professionals than it attracts, and many West Australian creatives believe their practices are less likely to ‘survive’ in this state. However Britton and Bielander argue that the sustainability of a creative practice has less to do with location and more to do with commitment, connectivity and hard work:
‘We are interested in finding points of connection with other practitioners and considering ways to open conduits so that West Australian practitioners can connect with the international scene and that interested practitioners from other countries can find points of connection in WA through FORM’s program,’ they say.
Managed by FORM, Midland Atelier is Western Australia’s first creative and design industry hub. Midland Atelier seeks to prompt transdisciplinary creativity and innovation through the melding of skills, ideas, knowledges and industry opportunities.
Located in the inspiring surrounds of the historic Midland Railway Workshops, Midland Atelier celebrated a ‘soft’ launch early 2010 with the opening of the wood and furniture design studios in the original Pattern Shop building, and small jewellery studios in the refurbished Nursing Post.
The full Atelier is expected to be completed within five years. It will encompass digital media, jewellery, metal, public art and large scale production facilities as well as a gallery, retail and Indigenous arts development studios.
Britton and Bielander will liaise with FORM regarding long-term planning for the development of the Midland Atelier jewellery and metal studios, to be housed in the original Foundry building.
The Creative Residency Program is central to Midland Atelier. It connects emerging designers with eminent international designers and creative thinkers via mentoring, collaboration and leadership. In addition to their other Residency objectives Britton and Bielander will mentor Atelier resident and jeweller Bethamy Linton.
The Creative Residency Program was launched in 2010: previous visiting Residents have included New Zealand-based designer David Trubridge and Melbourne public artist Matthew Harding.
Image credits: Necklace (2010) by Helen Britton, silver, gold, plastics, paint Photograph by Simon Beilander; banana (2010) by David Bielander, silver, leather, limited edition of 12. Photograph by David Bielander.