Cutting-edge technology keeps the tradition of Indigenous jewellery alive
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Cutting-edge technology keeps the tradition of Indigenous jewellery alive

Each year Maree Clarke hits the highway for three to four days, scouring the country for road kill: echidna quills, kangaroo teeth and crow feathers for her highly collectable museum pieces. Her latest series of necklaces required a trip to New York. She won't be going though. A digital file is doing the travelling. For the first time the remnants of native road kill are being 3D printed in the US.

"I've always wanted to make [the necklaces] more affordable," she says, excitedly awaiting the arrival of her first foray into digital production. "And it's cheapest there."

Indigenous artist Maree Clark

Indigenous artist Maree Clark

Photo: Eugene Hyland

Ten necklaces have been designed in porcelain-like high-impact plastic and 18K gold-plated brass. With the help of jeweller Blanche Tilden (making the bespoke oxidised black sterling silver chains on which five of the 10 designs will hang), Clarke will assemble the pieces in Melbourne: from single crow feathers to a mix of organic quills and gold teeth. But even before she has seen the results, Clarke is already planning variations on it with half dipped gold.

Clarke, who is connected to the traditional lands of the Mutti Mutti, Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta and Boonwurrung peoples of Victoria, has been studying traditional Indigenous jewellery from 19th century photographs and museum collections and recreating it.

Maree Clarke uses cutting-edge technology with her ancient crafts.

Maree Clarke uses cutting-edge technology with her ancient crafts.

Photo: Eugene Hyland
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"It's about keeping the tradition alive," she says.

Until now, however, her own pieces were also the province of museums, both here and overseas.

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With the help of the NGV's Simone LeAmon (design curator) and Myles Russell-Cook (Indigenous art curator) Clarke has created the Thung-ung Coorang (kangaroo teeth necklace), range for the NGV Design Store that launches during Melbourne Design Week. Prices range from around $50.

Aside from price point, 3D printing allows Clarke to manipulate scale. Some printed echidna quills are 2½ times the length of an actual-sized spine. "You will never find echidna quills that size," says Clarke. "That supersizing makes them really powerful."

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