To suggest that she is the new name to watch would be enough to make Peta Kruger blush. But it’s a fact the Adelaide-based emerging jewellery designer may just have to accept.
Curators have already started to include her in a number of group exhibitions and the JamFactoy recently selected her work for the cover of its 40-year commemorative catalogue. In a city long revered for its jewellery design, Kruger is one of the new designers turning heads. It’s almost too easy to forget that her jewellery is actually wearable because each piece is its own work of art. That her practice shifts effortlessly between craft, contemporary art and fashion design may also fuel the oversight. Being cross-disciplinary certainly adds to her appeal. Though it has to be said that the reason her jewellery garners so much attention is because it is so unabashedly drop-dead gorgeous. There’s something about the precise combination of colour and composition in all of Kruger’s pieces that makes for an alluring proposition. Her metal of choice for the past year has been brass and, although she’d used it in her first year of jewellery studies at Adelaide College of the Arts (AC Arts), she was motivated once again to start using it after returning from a recent museum tour of Germany. It’s a relative inexpensive material, which means that Kruger doesn’t have to be precious. “It was a real turning point using brass again because I can just fold it and hack it and not worry about having scraps,” she explains. “And it means I can be more inventive.” This deliciously hands-on approach is particularly evident in the collection she produced for the Designing Craft/Crafting Design: 40 Years of JamFactory exhibition. “I try to work in the moment, so I don’t make a model beforehand,” Kruger says. Her Geranium brooch boasts voluptuous cuts and folds to the point where the piece looks like it will topple over. This top-heavy appearance is deliberate as Kruger continued to extend and expand the brooch’s form to achieve its compelling sculptural properties. Geranium especially reveals her hand painting technique, achieved using water resistant paint that is baked on. All of the five pieces in the collection are based on different flowers or weeds that Kruger has come across on her walks through the city. She doesn’t photograph them though and prefers to create the pieces based on memory. “The colours are completely wrong, but it would be kind of boring if they were just an actual representation,” Kruger laughs. “I like the image in my mind of what it should look like.” This accounts for Geranium then, which is a multi-coloured explosion of fluorescent reds, pinks and yellows. It may not come as a surprise that prior to graduating from AC Arts in 2008 Kruger actually studied graphic design five years earlier at the University of South Australia. Her jewellery pieces have a strong graphic quality to them and many of them possess illustrative sensibilities not commonly associated with three-dimensional form. But its Kruger’s approach that has been particularly influenced by her graphic design background. “I’m not very good at just exploring openly,” she admits. “I need to solve the technical and practical problems and each piece has to fit the brief, so to speak.” In February of this year Kruger exhibited alongside Kath Inglis in Bloom and Blush at Canberra’s Bilk Gallery. After initial discussions the two designers went their separate ways and each produced a body of new work that responded loosely to a floral theme. Kruger’s neckpieces, brooches and earrings are based on the patterns, fabrics and glassware of her home. Each individual piece in the exhibition is a masterful assemblage of flat geometric or curved shapes. Some of the earrings and brooches are mosaic-like in appearance. While the small clusters of shapes in some of the neckpieces resemble the petals of a flower. Kruger’s influences are nowhere more clearly articulated than in her collection for Bloom and Blush. Her love of costume jewellery is reflected in the painting of each individual shape giving them the appearance of abstracted, flattened gemstones. It’s a love that was no doubt nurtured when in 2007 she worked in London for fashion jeweller Scott Wilson, whose clients at the time included fashion designer Matthew Williamson. An Art Deco influence is also clearly evident although Kruger maintains it’s not entirely deliberate. “These are just the shapes I really like and respond to,” she says. Triangular forms, stepped shapes and angular patterning are a definite nod to the era’s graphic motifs as is her colour palette, which is dominated by pinks and black. This Art Deco sensibility is what adds elegance to her otherwise youthful, fun aesthetic. The year ahead sees Kruger undertake further jewellery studies while maintaining her studio at the JamFactory, where she has been based since graduating from its two-year Associate Training Program in Metal Design in 2010. Considering her recent successes, Kruger is refreshingly modest for someone whose star is well and truly on the rise. “I’m always really chuffed when I see people wear my jewellery,” she smiles. “And I always glow bright red when people say they like it.” petakruger.com