A keen bushwalker and passionate Top-Ender with an early interest in chemistry and geology – Eric is a celebrated Darwin-based jeweller who came to silversmithing via a very circuitous route, having worked as a research chemist in universities and industry before coming to Darwin in 1980.
“I loved chemistry” says Eric from his Darwin studio, “but was also fascinated by geology, so I joined a local lapidary club to learn basic stone-cutting skills. I was instantly hooked.”
However, Eric was not interested in cutting stones into ‘standard shapes’ as most lapidaries do, instead he was drawn to working in much more creative ways, which created some problems. “I wanted to do things differently, but then my finished stones didn’t suit any of the standard gem settings! I needed to make my own settings, so I taught myself silversmithing” says Eric, reflecting on his unique resume.
Skilled in both stone cutting and the creation of bespoke precious metal settings, Eric is able to create completely unique jewellery pieces, much to the delight of his many admirers.
What challenges you?
“I am largely self-taught and I’ve invested many hundreds of hours in perfecting my skills and techniques. My background gives me the confidence to experiment - definitely a challenge, but also a blessing. I do things differently to other gem cutters and silversmiths and making things that no one else has thought of is extremely rewarding.”
What does ‘Australiana’ mean to you?
“For me, this means anything inspired by the Australian natural environment – our landscapes, materials, shapes and textures. My love of bushwalking developed into an appreciation of the natural world more broadly, and I like to express that in the jewellery I create.”
What technique or skill are you most proud of?
“Most silversmiths don’t cut stones, and most lapidaries don’t do silversmithing. I do both, and it’s combining both skills that enables me to make truly unique jewellery pieces that no one else has dreamt of, which is pretty satisfying.”
How has your art changed over time?
“I’m tending to use more exotic materials – such as cat’s eyes (which are related to pearls) and Carpentaria Palm wood. I also create unique pieces inspired by iconic Australian scenery.”
What material do you love and why?
“Carpentaria Palm wood is very satisfying. The palm trees are common in Darwin gardens (and Top End rainforests) but extremely few people realise how interesting the wood is and no one else uses it. Andrea (from Stylish Australiana) came across my display at a recent Darwin craft fair and was completely blown away by my Carpentaria Palm earrings. It’s the surprise factor that makes it fun.”
What memorable comments have you had about your creations?
“How on Earth does he make these things?” - overheard at an exhibition.
What is your dream project?
“I’m actually pretty satisfied doing what I’m doing now. I dream about new designs – then make them!”
What is your favourite thing about where you live?
“Whenever I leave Darwin, I remember how lucky I am to live somewhere that has the amenities of a capital city but is surrounded by the most extraordinary natural environment. We have a national park 18 minutes from the CBD, and global treasures like Kakadu just a hop, skip and a jump from Darwin, which is pretty special.”
What tool / item couldn’t you do without?
“Good eyes and steady hands” 😊
What piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
“Keep doing what you’re doing, never fear.”