Sydney jewellery maker Cinnamon Lee is currently exhibiting her latest rings at Bilk Gallery in Manuka. Photo: Graham Tidy
Promises. Works by Cinnamon Lee. Bilk Gallery for Contemporary Metal and Glass, Manuka. Until September 20.
Wedding rings, a special form of jewellery, are the subject of this exhibition. Hopefully they are made to last a lifetime or, perhaps in the parlance of today, the lifetime of a relationship. Wedding rings are usually chosen with care and today both partners are usually involved their choice. As a craftsman, jeweller Cinnamon Lee is very well aware of the symbolism of wedding rings and takes a romantic view of their significance. She writes ''making a ring for someone's wedding is always different to making an ordinary ring. Forever, echoes through my thoughts throughout the making process.''
Historically wedding rings were not the outward sign of a romantic relationship they are today, but more prosaically a symbol of an economic partnership between two families. However, even today wedding rings can reflect the status and wealth of the partners concerned. Lee's rings also reflect something about the people who choose them because they are people who do not wish to be outwardly ostentatious but obviously delight in private concealed messages. These messages are in the form of secrets that are only shared between them and the ring's designer. They have, in the artist's words, the allure of concealment and take the form of hidden gemstones, inscriptions and special design details within the rings.
Some of Cinnamon Lee's work.
Lee graduated from the Gold and Silversmithing workshop at the ANU Canberra School of Art in 2010 with a masters degree in visual arts. She had previously been a lecturer in gold and silversmithing at various universities including the ANU Canberra School of Art. She now has a studio in Sydney and concentrates more on her art practice. Lee has exhibited previously at Bilk Gallery but this is her first solo show there.
Lee's practice is driven by her interest in metal and its special characteristics. She uses sophisticated digital technology such as 3D computer modelling to design and cast her rings in conjunction with traditional gold and silversmithing techniques. Processes are important to this artist especially the intersection between the machine-made process and the handmade process. Each ring is highly engineered with very precise geometric detailing. But for the artist they are emotive objects establishing relationships between the artist and client and, in the case of the wedding rings in this exhibition, between each of the partners in the relationship.
The rings in the Promise me, Promise me series are in softly brushed silver. Inside the hollow band of these rings are hidden small hand-cut black diamonds. In Keep It Dark, the stones are hidden inside the row of small spheres while, in Trust me and Ulterior 1, the single spherical dome hides the stones. In Blood Oath, the ring in silver and white gold has, as befitting its title, hidden rubies that take the place of the black diamonds.
In the two rings that fit together called Unto Death, Lee has followed an old tradition of poesy or keepsake rings that have a personal inscription engraved inside them. She has also incorporated the tradition of the Gimmel ring. Gimmel rings were popular in Europe in the 16th century and were a form of puzzle ring. They were two interlocking bands worn separately during a betrothal then reconnected for the bride to wear after the wedding. The Mizpah medallion, fitting together but worn separately, is similar.
Lee's Unto Death ring has these words engraved in Latin inside one half of the ring. The other half of the ring slides across it so that the inscription becomes hidden. Lee uses this idea of two halves destined to be together as one entity in a more direct way in the two rings called (Stay). These rings each have a spherical setting on the front of the band that is magnetised so that the two rings are pulled together by a magnetic force. This represents a rather charming illustration of the sometimes inexplicable attraction between lovers.
Some of the other rings are plain bands that are pierced with fretwork of stylised hearts; others are inlaid with tiny spinal stones.
Lee has not completely abandoned the more traditional form of a solitaire diamond. However, her series of rings called Solitare have beautiful chunky settings like petals that frame black spinal gemstones from the Central Queensland gold fields. These dark stones with their flat table settings surrounded by gold or silver settings are eye-catching not only because of their inky darkness but because they are so unusual.
Lee's work may not be for those who like to wear their heart (or their bling) on their sleeve.
But for certain others who prefer a more discreet sign of their relationship with the added bonus of a secret element, these rings are for you.