While others might look at a spoon and think cereal, Greg Mann looks at one and thinks jewellery. For more than 20 years Greg has been fashioning jewellery from all sorts of culinary wares no one else wants. Cleaned and scrubbed free from things like leftover cereal, each piece is re-imagined, tweaked, bent and polished into rings, pendants, earrings, bracelets and cufflinks. He even does bespoke engagement and wedding rings. Come and meet Greg and his unique re-invented jewellery …
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background and how you’ve ended up where you are today.
My vocation in the arts began with a bridging course at TAFE and touching on various studio practices. I then studied ceramics, but still used a variety of material and did small scale workings.
I returned to jewellery full time through a Fine Arts degree course at RMIT in Melbourne and entered a world of rigorous discourse into wearables and materials. After travelling and living in other countries, doing various jobs, I considered trying to make a living from my skills. I was gratefully accepted to do a NEIS course in small business management and the ensuing support and time allowed me to plan and trial the kind of work I wanted to make. My initial scan through years of collected materials led me to begin experimenting with recycled resources and found objects.
As I had compiled a quantity of bone and ivory handled cutlery, reclaiming these handles left various metal remainders – the beginning of what is now my main work.
What’s the appeal of vintage cutlery? And why turn it into jewellery?
The appeal of vintage/souvenir cutlery and other culinary items is their history – their origin, purpose and past owners. As the completed jewels are viewed, the question of what they were comes to mind and how I came across them. I am often asked about the origin of the jewellery and the look on people’s faces is one of the rewards that drives me to continue.
Tell us about your creative process – how do you like to work, who or what inspires you?
My influences are self-driven and involve a study of the objects in order to envisage how they may be transformed into jewellery. The broad sense of being ‘green’ also keeps me on this path – the recycling/upcycling aspects and aim to have a minimal impact on the environment through my interactions with the planet and people.
Tell us about the importance of upcycling and sustainability for you – in your work and personal life?
I try to re/upcycle as many of my resources as possible. Objects found in the street, at opportunity shops or as discarded domestic materials all enter the area of scrutiny for use in my studio. And this begins with my desire to have a ‘light footed’ impact on the earth and raise awareness of this in others.
What is or has been the hardest or most challenging part of what you do and setting up and growing your business?
The impairments for my business have been in the area of perception and/or expectations. There is an assumption that products resourced from up/recycled materials are going to be inexpensive. People aren’t always aware of the skills involved in processing objects from a ‘raw’ state to one that is finished.
Tell us about the markets you do.
The market scene in Melbourne is very diverse and I have been involved in some that are high profile, like the Big Design Market, to those with a distinctively local feel such as those done in conjunction with the Scouts. My aim is to pull back from markets and to focus on retail outlets in order to spend more time in studio and on exhibition work.
I’m currently working on … setting stones, crystals and organic materials into 925 sterling silver spoons that have also been found through my collecting.
The best thing about living in Melbourne is … having access to so many world standard arts and cultural events.
It’s not very cool, but I really like … gardening.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Who’d have thought I would be involved in markets for such a long time?