Watching Phoebe Porter work is a lesson in pure precision, attention to detail and humility. In any other hands, the tools she uses – a saw, files, drills and a lathe – would do little to achieve the same refined, elegant results of Phoebe’s work. Since 1998, she has been developing her intimate knowledge of materials, often working with titanium, stainless steel and aluminium, which she combines with gold, silver and other precious elements.
These industrial materials are difficult to work with as they are less malleable than silver and gold – their hardness makes them time-consuming and particularly brutal on tools. “Their strength allows me to make pieces that are very fine yet very robust. I exploit the properties of each material in the function of my pieces,” Phoebe explains. “For instance the use of spring-hard stainless steel for my earring wires allows them to keep their shape over many years of wear.”
Phoebe’s work is strongly influenced by the Bauhaus and Constructivist movements, striving for order and balance and seeking to reduce each piece to its necessary elements, often using a mechanism as a starting point, which then becomes integral to the design.
Phoebe’s technical understanding and refined hand skills are the result of over twenty years of practice, research and development. Graduating from a Bachelor of Arts (Gold and Silversmithing) at ANU School of Art in 2001 – under the tutelage of German-born Silversmith, Johannes Kuhnen – she went on to undertake a mentorship with one of Australia’s leading contemporary jewellers, Blanche Tilden.
Phoebe’s work has since been acquired for a number of public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia and the Powerhouse Museum. She has exhibited work across Australia, including solo shows at Craft ACT, Craft Victoria and e.g.etal, Melbourne. She has also been included in group exhibitions in Japan, Germany, the UK and USA. Phoebe has received a number of awards including a Canberra Critics’ Circle Award (2015) and a Victorian Premier’s Design Mark (2008) as well as grants from the Australia Council, Arts Victoria and Arts ACT.
Still a young talent, Phoebe’s work, spanning over two decades, demonstrates a consistency and evolution of form that promises a long career, and a permanent place in Australia’s jewellery and design landscape.