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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Masons Studio Jewellers




...jewellers in the true sense of the word, who hand-fabricate one-of-a-kind pieces...



This logo is the maker's mark for Masons. It represents the hand and eye, which is the basis of making work. It is registered with the Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia.


The Masons
Phill is the father; Tyrus the son. In between laughing and entertaining each other, they work very well together side by side; like two peas in a pod.

Phill and Ty work before the public, separated from them by a pane of glass. Nothing is hidden; even their award-winning pieces are made with an audience. Some viewers stand for long periods of time, watching a piece being produced. On a few memorable occasions, the piece produced was purchased by the viewer, after hours of following its fabrication...


Because they work before the public, they must restrict their use of machinery, and largely confine their efforts to working by hand at the bench. Fortunately, this suits their interest, which is hand-fabrication, rather than mass production; so, very little use of machinery is called for, anyway.

With inspiration from the Cosmos – to the Tasmanian environment they live in – this father and son team exhibits a variety of styles. The cosmic feel of the “Saturna” collection, the poignant statements made by the “Three Blades” and “Art of Whaling” collections, to the classic jewelry designs of the modern jeweler...make Masons a company to watch!
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COMBING THE COSMOS... This is a tale as much about technique and material, as it is about motif and theme. In the late 'eighties, Phill began playing with differentially colouring titanium, and with setting gems into it, commencing with combs as a form.



Initially, the combs were treated much as 'samplers', to work out the technique of colouring the titanium only in the insets. The rest of the titanium is left the natural grey colour. The recesses in the comb above are predominantly one colour only, in order to simplify mastering the process. As this was acheived, the range of colours was broadened, as in this piece.

Eventually, the combs evolved into brooches, with a larger diversity of set stones than just citrines representing the sun. Moonstones, garnets, etc., were used in conjunction with suitably shaped and coloured insets, to represent saturns, comets, and so forth.




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Faceting the Stones
Phill facets all the major stones used in Masons studio jewellery. This is considered unusual for a goldsmith to do, and has several advantages, which give leverage to the pieces Masons make, compared to other makers.

Firstly, the scarcer gem rough can be sourced and imported directly from the mine. This allows Masons to sidestep the usual fare offered by wholesalers to jewellers. Phill travels overseas annually to maintain contacts, and then regularly imports such seldom seen stones as colour-change and green garnets, and blue tourmalines, or even more common stones of uncommon clarity, including facetable moonstone and opal.

The second advantage of Phill faceting the stones is that the larger sizes can more frequently be gleaned, and more economically, in the rough, than already cut.

20 carat green garnet rough, dopped ready for cutting
Thirdly, more satisfying cutting designs can be used. Even with the traditional cuts, the number of facets can be maximised, increasing scintillation; whereas many professional cutters cut only the minimum number of facets, and still consider the job done...


The 5.85 carat gem cut from the above rough, and set as a ring.
Moreover, new cutting styles can be employed, producing gems which, for instance, show the appearance of checkers in the stone, or other visual illusions.
And, best of all, stones can be cut in Masons own designs.



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Three Blades: the Pen.., the Sword..., the Ploughshare...'
The blades were linked by the two biblical quotes; that the pen is mightier than the sword; and that swords were to be beaten into ploughshares.



The blades were wrought from titanium. The handles were polished silver-oxidised bones: a bird leg for the pen; a dolphin vertebae for the sword; and a cow rib for the plough.

The case with display fronts was especially made for the 'Three Blades...', based on the expertise Phill gained after a workshop with Ms. Penny Carey-Wells, who taught at the University of Tasmania School of Art on all things to do with paper, bookbinding, etc.

In that International Year of Peace, Phill was awarded the 'Mobil (Australia) Award for Excellence in Craft, for this sculpture.
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The Lapidary
Both Phill and Ty have a deep and abiding fondness for stone. Perhaps it comes from bearing the name 'Mason'...

Phill first joined a lapidary club - the Parramatta Lapidary Club - in 1965, and has been a member of such a club ever since. He remembers in those early days of easy pickings, club members driving direct from Agate Creek, Far North Queensland, back down to Sydney towing a trailer overloaded with world-class agates, directly to the club rooms in time for the monthly meeting, just to awe everyone. And it was awesome in those days when fine stones could be picked from the surface of the earth without digging...Agate Creek has been visited by Phill and Ty since, but it now involves deep digging in the tropical heat.

Photo Above: Phill casting harsh shadows, deep digging at Agate Creek, Queensland, 2004

Petrifactions attract Ty more than agates. He collects the rare petrified manferns (Osmandacaulis) that occur in Southern Tasmania at Lune River. In contrast to the conditions at Agate Creek, digging manfern can be muddy, wet and cold.

Photo: Phill retrieves a chunk of petrified wood from Lune River, Tasmania.

Travelling overseas every year, Phill has seized opportunities to source interesting stone, and maintains a stockpile or rough which varies from opal to chrysoprase, and about a ton of his first lapidary love - agate.

Finessing the cutting of stone, and innovation in its setting, is a pursuit of Masons. Rather than simply cutting cabochons - smooth, round-topped shapes - Phill prefers tablets and columns; and Ty prefers stone-carving. Ty was awarded third prize in the international Opal Jewellery Design Awards, 2002, held at Lightning Ridge every two years, for an innovative opal carving and setting.
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The MaSON - Ty

Ty's enthusiasm for the sport of Skateboarding translated into avant garde motifs as he became a jeweller.

Tyrus won the Tasmanian Fine Craft Award, 1997, with this bangle, entitled 'Skating Rink', . The piece was acquired by the Burnie Regional Art Gallery.

The wonderful thing about the design was that the skateboard was held on to the bangle by the pavilions of the gemsetting, in such a way as to allow the board to be spun around the 'rink'. The accompanying ring was entitled 'Ramp Ring'. The finger is actually supported by the four boards resting in each corner.


Don't hesitate - GO - check out their website...this Father and Son team are originals!
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