Anna Varendorff‘s striking angular brass sculptures first crossed my path in the window of my most favourite little florist shop, Cecilia Fox. I was in there earlier this year, having a meeting with amazing Mel Stapleton (Mel is the florist who owns Cecilia Fox, Cecilia Fox is not an actual person, I know slightly confusing) and brainstorming ideas for flowers and styling for our wedding. I spied Anna’s beautiful brass sculptures, which were on display in the shop at the time… and I knew in an instant that we had to incorporate them somehow! Mel ended up using a number of Anna’s geometric handcrafted brass pieces for the event, interwoven with soft foliage. It was spectacular.
I can’t believe I just spent the opening paragraph talking about our wedding (aghh!) but it’s relevant, because this was my first introduction to Anna’s creations. Delicate and understated, there is a quiet magic to her work.
Anna is both a jeweller and a sculptor. She studied fine art at Monash University, but was always drawn to the jewellery department, acquiring metalworking skills which she now uses to create both her jewellery and artwork. After gradating she started working for local jeweller Ari Athans, who became a friend and mentor, eventually inspiring Anna to pursue her own creative practice.
These days, Anna’s output varies greatly in scale, from jewellery commissions to sculpture and interactive installations. Inbetween, Anna also works on various experimental projects in metal, which don’t fall into either jewellery or sculpture, under her a.c.v studio project, such as her Plant Props, stocked at Mr Kitly.
Though the varied elements of Anna’s practice go hand in hand, on a day to day level they are quite separate vocations. From Monday to Thursday each week Anna can be found in her jewellery studio in the Nicholas Building in Melbourne’ CBD, forming, soldering and sanding her wearable pieces. Her larger brass sculptures are made elsewhere, in a bigger studio. These objects are exhibited en masse, and are usually created as a collection, with a specific installation or exhibition in mind.
Anna’s work can be purchased from various retailers and galleries across Melbourne including Kuwaii, Craft Victoria, Mr Kitly, Franque, Happy Valley, Cecilia Fox, William Topp in WA and Fio Contemporary and QAGOMA in Queensland, amongst others!
We’re also thrilled to welcome Anna to The Design Files Open House this year – we’ll be including a small selection of her brass sculptures within the lineup in Melbourne in 2 weeks time!
Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to becoming a sculptor/jeweller, what did you study, and to creating the style of work you are currently making?
I went to art school immediately after high school, and I was drawn to the construction and techniques of the jewellery department. I didn’t make a lot of work for a few years after I finished my undergraduate degree, but then I started to work for Ari Athans who became a close friend and mentor. From Ari I learnt about establishing a personal language of techniques and methods of working, and how to focus.
When I am making jewellery or making my brass sculptural objects I get to form materials, and to problem solve. I am interested in the outcome of these objects meeting a body – whether this is when the object is being worn, or when it is being encountered within a gallery, or in the life of the object beyond the gallery. The interaction which happens when someone wears jewellery is an act of deliberately combining an inanimate object with a body, and this combination is also considered in the interactive sculptural installations I compose.
I make objects because I enjoy making, and also because when an object is handmade, it has something singular about it.
How would you describe your work?
I describe the various areas of my work differently, and I do make distinctions between them.
My jewellery practice considers minimalist forms which can be worn.
My sculptural practice is concerned with creating opportunity for encounters between objects, space and observer, and perceptual outcomes of these combinations.
And I also have a lot of fun working on experimental projects in metal (mostly brass), which don’t fall into either jewellery or sculpture, under the a.c.v studio project, like my Plant Props for Mr Kitly.
Can you give us a little insight into your creative process? What materials do you use? Is each work pre-planned or created very intuitively? How do you go about creating your three dimensional sculptures?
I primarily work with silver, gold and brass in my jewellery making and brass, light, reflection and sound in my sculptural work. Making larger brass pieces, I borrow heavily from the construction methods of jewellery making. Hand forming, soldering and sanding are jewellery techniques that I use in making my larger brass objects.
I make both my jewellery and objects with an idea of the form I want, but without precise measuring. I have worked with metal daily for years, so I just get to it without a lot of planning. I do think a lot about how the object will be encountered, about the end result.
The brass objects I make are parts of larger installation works. These objects are exhibited en masse, and an audience encounters them as a field of 3D brass objects within a field of 2D shadows. These installations are always thought through to include lighting, space and object.
How do you transition from jewellery to sculpture, and split your time between both practices?
Currently I make my sculptural works in one studio, and my jewellery in another studio. I make myself available for appointments for jewellery commissions Monday to Thursday, and make my jewellery for the shops I stock around my appointments. And then I take blocks of time to make larger works. But I think/worry/plan a lot at the jewellery bench, because it is essentially slow and repetitive work. I would go crazy without Radio National to listen to – save the ABC!
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
I pretty much get up just so that I can have a coffee from one of my beautiful handmade cups by Tara Shackell or Leah Jackson.
Then I check emails, and after that there is no real order to my day – making jewellery, meeting clients, delivering work, installing exhibitions, going to my job, whatever.. until dinner time, and then hopefully not too much work after that. If I can go for a swim I do. And I write lists on whatever is near me.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?
1. Instagram is my current viewing habit.
2. Radio National keeps me from ruminating while I sit, sanding and filling for hours at a time.
3. Current Obsession is a journal of contemporary jewellery, available in hard copy from Gallery Funaki.
4. iView, because I don’t own a TV and I need to know about the news I don’t want to know about.
5. E flux journal.
Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Soooo many…Meredith Turnbull, Dylan Martorell, Haima Marriott, Tara Shackell, Cecilia Fox, Kristy Barber, Becky Suichen, Benjamin Portas, Kim Jaeger, and Sarah Trotter.
And so many others…
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
My exhibition at Craft Victoria in 2013 called Things to Play With, which was an interactive installation where visitors could totally re-arrange the space. My partner Haima Marriott designed a touch responsive sound component for the work, so that beautiful resonance could be experienced as people interacted with the objects.
And being included to exhibit and attend Collect at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2007, with the Australia Council and Adelaide’s Jam Factory was a totally overwhelming highlight.
What would be your dream project?
A large space and an appropriate budget to create an enormous follow up version of Things to Play With (2013).
What are you looking forward to?
Sleeping in, and my next trip to Japan.
Your favorite Melbourne neighborhood and why?
I love the part of East Brunswick where I live, near CERES and along the Merri Creek. And I think wistfully of living in North Melbourne – it’s like a country town in the middle of a city, and with such great produce markets.
Where and what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
Longplay, in North Fitzroy, has a small and awesome menu which I love to tuck into after one of their delicious drinks.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
I’m usually in the studio on Saturday mornings, before I head to Craft Victoria, where I am the shop girl on Fridays and Saturdays.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Is Beatrix a secret?? The most amazing cakes!