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Q&A: Maddison Bygrave

15 MARCH 2022

Maddison Bygrave is an emerging jeweller working on Dharumbal Country who is breaking the boundaries of wearable art. Maddison reflects on Dharug Country, her birthplace, through her work as she creates exquisite jewellery out of materials such as possum skin, sterling silver and freshwater pearls. Her work contributes to the reclamation of culture by using materiality to signify the survival and resistance of Indigenous peoples.

We caught up with Maddison to find out more about her practice and the inspiration for her latest collection, Fragmented Series found online at MoB Shop.

Can you tell us about the inspiration and motivation behind the creation of your collection, Fragmented Series?

The Fragmented Series was inspired by a connection to place and belonging, which for me originated from my own connection to the Ocean and its landscape through my ancestors. From this connection to place and belonging comes a responsibility for creating a sustainable future which is reflected in my practice and this collection.

How does your Indigenous heritage influence your designs?

My Indigenous heritage definitely influences my designs in some way or another, whether it is through storytelling, using traditional art techniques, discovering archival research, or connection to Country and ancestors. Since I discovered this part of my heritage and identity when I was in my teens, I am still learning and uncovering so much, that I find it is a common thread in most of my work.

Sneak peak of new collection by Maddison Byrgrave. Courtesy Maddison Bygrave.
What got you into this profession? What motivates you to create?

In 2020 I completed my Bachelor of Fine Art at QCA, Brisbane. This journey into the art world allowed me to explore various art forms, and it was at that time that I fell in love with metalsmithing. Motivation for me comes in many forms, however as of late it has been driven through finding comfort and somewhat answers about my heritage and identity, especially through research and experimentation.

Your possum skin brooches and rings are something we have never seen before at MoB Shop.  Is there a story of how you started creating jewellery out of this unusual material?

My possum skin brooches and rings are from the collection Ngarra Yilabara, which means ‘listen now,’ in Dharug language. It was during archival research and storytelling that I became aware of the dispossession of possum skin cloaks. Ngarra Yilabara, speaks of the history of possum skin cloaks during colonisation and how the reclamation of the materiality can signify healing for Aboriginal people.

Maddison Byrgrave working the the studio. Courtesy Maddison Bygrave.
What is your favourite type of jewellery to create and why?

Brooches are definitely my favourite type of jewellery to create and even wear. For me they provide a deeper connection to storytelling, especially between the wearer and object itself. I think it’s the placement of where the brooch sits which can make it a statement piece for the wearer and can be a spark for conversation.

We love the abundance of texture your Fragmented Series. Is this characteristic a core feature in your work?

Thank you! Yes definitely, the texture in this collection was done through using the lost wax casting method by taking impressions of shells and other ocean landscape objects to create the most realistic and unique jewellery.

What is your favourite part of the making process?

Definitely the experimental part, especially when ‘happy accidents’ occur during the making process. This typically creates a more organic and unusual outcome, allowing me to expand on ideas and collections. Another really exciting part of the making process, is the research aspect of yarning to mob and becoming inspired through conversation.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

Currently I am working on expanding the Ngarra Yilabara collection, where I am hoping to soon go back to Country (Dharug) to connect with culture and mob.


Image of jewellery by Maddison Byrgrave. Courtesy Maddison Bygrave.

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