Robin Wells: acid-resist metalwork
In design, simplicity is often a complicated achievement. In the case of jewellery by Robin Wells, elegant simplicity is borne out of a sound knowledge of the medium. Wells studied metalsmithing, jewellery and three-dimensional design at Perth’s Curtin University followed by further studies in gemology.
Wells would like her work to encourage people to think about the environment, threatened plants, water shortages and urban sprawl. These issues have been concerns in her family for as long as she can remember. Her inspiration for this piece came from photo albums in which her mother had pressed leaves and flowers she gathered while travelling around Australia in the 1950s. These delicate relics had developed a beautiful lace-like translucence, which, for Wells, resonated with the tenuous existence of the endangered native plants of Western Australia.
Wells’ initially sketched her Flora Memento necklace on paper, working from photos of plants in her native garden. She then scanned her sketches and manipulated them with Adobe software, before printing the design on photographic paper. This was placed on sterling silver sheet, treated with a photosensitive resist. Where the resist is exposed to light it hardens, creating the pattern to etch. The unhardened resist is washed off, leaving the design marked on the silver. The silver is placed in a bath of ferric nitrate which etches the spaces into the areas of the pattern that are raw silver. Any areas that have not been removed successfully are etched out using a saw frame and fine blade, which is threaded through a hole in the silver and then attached to the handle for sawing. Finally the flowers are pressed and hammered into domes, voluptuous three-dimensional shapes that Wells solders together to create lace-like ‘beads’.