Women’s Work

Mornington Peninsula artist, Jacqueline Archer, designs and creates. She makes jewellery, miniature sculpture and accoutrements that some might call craft or decorative and they would be right, but there is so much more to her art than meets the eye. Intriguing societal, literary and artistic references are embedded in much of her work. 

Art has story and context; it is not simply pretty or utilitarian as with many crafted objects. Historically, women’s creative work was intended for usefulness in the home. Crocheting, embroidery, sewing, tatting and weaving, were all deemed decorative or purely practical, but there can be no denying the artistry in these crafts. Archer’s own work tips her hat to that painstaking dedication commenting on women’s work, place and value in society.

Examining fairytales, she referenced the female archetypes found within creating a series of elaborate metal hair combs that incorporated text and images with reverence and humour. One comb asks, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?” Its castle shaped crown is adorned with miniatures of the Madonna, Snow White, The Wicked Queen/Stepmother, Eve with the Serpent and Rapunzel whose long blond lock hangs down the centre of the comb.

In another series she created one of a kind aluminium hand fans – each individual leaf hand pierced and meticulously carved. She chose fans because of their unique link to women’s history. Over centuries past the hand fan was both a symbol of femininity and a means of communication. When freedom of speech for women was absolutely restricted, the language of the fan could communicate everything the lady could not actually say aloud particularly where affairs of the heart were concerned.

Women have communicated through art since the beginning of time, but interestingly, much of this communication took place without their actual voices being heard. Women’s work was largely underappreciated outside the home. Telling women’s stories in her own handcrafted work and talking about their history is a double pleasure for the artist.

Motherhood inevitably changed Archer’s practice. She has fewer hours to work so intensely on a single piece, but years of experience as a gold and silversmith have fine-tuned her considerable skills. She now creates exquisite contemporary jewellery that often reflects her own life story.

Cog rings remember her previous urban residences, intricate filigree earrings resemble the lost art of tatting, but everything she makes recognizes women’s work.

After studying at Sydney College of the Arts (Bachelor of Visual Arts: Jewellery) and having her own jewellery studios in London, Sydney and Melbourne, Archer is quite happy being based on the Mornington Peninsula where her influences are the vastness of the bays and skies, the play of light on the water and her growing passion for gardening. See her inspired jewellery at The Cook Street Collective in Flinders or view it online at www.cookstreetcollective.co.au. To contact her about commission work or to find out more about her art, view her artist profile at www.edgearts.com.au.