KES Harper lives a gleaned life. She collects, re-uses and creates from what is thrown away.
It's a conscious decision.
She lives in Wollombi where there is no rubbish collection, in a house run completely on solar-power, tank water and bottled gas for cooking. With her partner, Declan, she built the house 20 years ago from wooden scrap planks and windows. So it was only a matter of time that her upcycled jewellery business found the name Gleaned.
Gleaned refers to the famous Jean-Francois Millet painting The Gleaners of 1857, which shows three peasant woman gleaning in a field after the harvest. Unlike Millet gleaners, Harper does not glean out of poverty, she is what is now called a 'contemporary gleaner', who gleans out of consciousness and desire to reduce. The French documentary film maker, Agnes Varda, touches on this type of gleaner The Gleaners and I.
Harper's signature Gleaned jewellery first appeared in 2010 and was originally made from the colourful olive oil tins that cannot be domestically recycled. Harper was looking to add an environmentally aware range to her already sterling-silver jewellery line. It also had to be affordable to make and to buy.
The tins she uses are made from steel tin plate and can be cut, molded, filed and shaped into delicate earrings, brooches and pendants.
Other types of tins are now used, including biscuit, tuna, chocolate and lolly tins that can be folded, joined and collaged. Her tins are sourced from friends, family and cafes.
In April this year, Harper opened Studio Gleaned on the main street of Wollombi in the old corrugated iron barn opposite the general store. Perfectly suited to the Gleaned jewellery range, the studio acts as both a retail outlet and a place to create. Open Friday, Saturday, Sundays and public holiday Mondays from 10am to 3pm.
Inside you'll find Harper either cutting tin at her work/sales desk or making small sculpture. You'll also find beautifully sculptured hair-pins, propagated succulents and gift tags.
Gleaned jewellery can never be replicated. Each piece is unique, determined by the history of the material. It is one of the reasons why Harper's jewellery has taken on a life of its own.
She now supplies several regional galleries in Australia with her Gleaned range, including Maitland Regional Art Gallery. As part of its commitment to supporting local artists, the gallery recently commissioned Harper to create an installation to be suspended over the gallery shop.
BirdMurmuration was installed into the gallery last week. It is made from 100 olive oil tin bird shapes that glisten silver, blue, red and white while moving gently in the air. The stylised birds vary in size and shape and are inspired by the French artist George Braque.
For her installation, Harper borrowed a technique called 'fragmentation' which Braque used to help establish space and movement. She says "when you look up to see them (birds) fly - dipping and diving as a group in unison. Flying free, because they can."
See the installation until August 26.
Meet Kes Harper at Maitland Regional Art Gallery on August 25 as part of the Meet the Maker series. Visit Studio Gleaned on Wollombi Road, Wollombi, where "everything is gleaned....as it should be" as Harper remarks.
Follow @studiogleaned on Instagram.
This Saturday Maitland Regional Art Gallery opensStories from Wonnarua Country,which consists of artworks created by students from seven Maitland schools about what it means to them to be living on Wonnarua Country today. Each school's response has been led by students from their Junior Aboriginal Education Consultative Group as they explored ideas in workshops at school, Maitland Regional Art Gallery and at other special places on Wonnarua Country. The schools involved are Francis Greenway High, Hunter Valley Grammar, Maitland High, Metford Public, Tarro Public, Telarah Public, and Woodberry Public. Until October 13.