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Precious leaves go on display

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Carolyn Barker’s ‘Fallen Leaves’ window display at Queensland’s artisan gallery.

Queensland jeweller Carolyn Barker has created a stunning window display of precious metal leaves at the artisan gallery in FortitudeValley.

Barker, a silversmith whose work combines classical and Japanese jewellery-making techniques, crafted the leaves from shakudo (copper and gold) and shibuichi (copper and silver) as well as sterling silver and copper.

She then used “the time-consuming and age-old process called niage” to colour the shakudo leaves black, the shibuichi leaves grey, the sterling silver leaves white and the copper leaves red or brown.

“I have developed a particular interest in Japanese alloys and their traditional patina (colouring) processes,” said Barker.

“The methodical techniques used to create these colours require time and patience but their depth of beauty make the effort worthwhile.”

Barker said that when she was offered the opportunity to display her work in the  window of artisan (the peak body responsible for promoting Queensland craft and design) she decided to fill it with a grand array of her fallen leaves to celebrate the arrival of autumn.

“But there was a slight hitch,” she said. “There were only four weeks until the show and I had only four leaves in stock.”

She said making the leaves by the deadline was “no small undertaking” as each leaf had to be selected, cut out of metal, course-sanded, fine-sanded, scrubbed with grit, cleaned, soaked in radish juice, and boiled in a green organic solution (rukusho) for between 15 minutes and nine hours depending on the desired colours.

Barker therefore turned to crowd-funding to help market and fund the project.

“Crowd-funding was a fascinating experience,” she said.

“I was overwhelmed by people’s generosity, and also by their interest and participation.”

“Much of the work that I do is behind closed doors but more and more I am realising that many people are interested as much in the process as they are in the pieces.

“Crowd-funding made me very aware of talking people through the project from start to finish. I had previously imagined this would bore people, but the more information I provided, the more enthusiasm blossomed. I felt incredibly supported though the production.”

The 224 leaves on display in the window are now being transformed into brooches, pendants and earrings for sale in artisan and Barker’s online store.