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Harnessing the healing power of the sea 

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Katie Johnson

In her art and in her life, Wirangu artist Aunty Beverly Meldrum has always stayed close to the sea. 

Inspired by her upbringing on the South Australian coast and her current home on the Mornington Peninsula, she wanted to showcase the healing properties of the ocean through her work. 

So, when she was accepted into the Koorie Heritage Trust’s Blak Jewellery Program, Ms Meldrum knew what to do. 

“The design for all of my pieces come from kelp which I love working with because it’s like a healing for me,” Ms Meldrum said. 

“I love the smell of it, the texture of it, sometimes it’s thick and durable and other times it’s thin almost like ribbons – it’s always a surprise to work with and it’s always different.” 

Using kelp, fishing net, metals and gold, Ms Meldrum created her Found Treasures jewellery collection which includes a necklace and a breastplate. 

All of the materials were personally collected from Mushroom Reef in Flinders, with the intention to bring their beauty back to life through art. Ms Meldrum said that working with kelp meant that the final product was dictated by the sea. 

“When I collect kelp I just walk until something catches my eye, almost like the kelp is saying ‘pick me!’ and then I put it in a shopping bag and bring it home,” Ms Meldrum said. 

“When you’re working with metal, you can plan how it’s going to come out, but with kelp each piece is different and has a life of its own.”

“I don’t force my jewellery pieces into something the kelp doesn’t want to be.” 

Ms Meldrum said that the jewellery, which will be showcased until February 27 at the Koorie Heritage Trust building, was inspired by the grounding and mediative power of the sea. 

“I love the texture of the water, the sound of the waves, breathing in the sea air – it’s all healing from within,” Ms Meldrum said. 

“Even when you sit on the beach, watching the force of the waves go in and out is like Mother Nature is breathing.” 

As the first of its kind in Australia, the Blak Design program was created to provide a platform for nurturing sustainable, indigenous-led design businesses.

Ms Meldrum, along with 10 other artists, took part in six weeks of hands-on jewellery design and making workshops under the guidance of jewellers Blanche Tilden and Laura Deakin, as well as small business skills tutorials.

The works are currently on display in a virtual exhibition on the KHT website, with hopes in-person visitors will be able to attend after lockdown. 

Ms Meldrum said the Blak Design program had been “mind-blowing” and she was keen to learn more skills. 

“Never in a million years would I have thought that at my age, I would be doing anything of that calibre, and to think it has led me here,” Ms Meldrum said. 

“It was an intense year of learning and re-thinking, and using the tools of the trade in the RMIT silver smithing department where I learnt about metals and the tools associated with them.”

“I would love to learn even more.”  

As for her future plans, Ms Meldrum said she was brimming with new jewellery concept ideas. 

“Do you know when you go to the pokies and the machine goes off, that’s my head at the moment with all these jewellery ideas,” Ms Meldrum said.  “It’s crazy, it’s very exciting.”

To view the virtual exhibit, visit koorieheritagetrust.com.au or Aunty Meldrum’s Instagram @bevonline56 •

For more information: koorieheritagetrust.com.au

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