TAFE SA Chief Executive Jeff Gunningham didn’t have to look far this year when searching for a unique Christmas gift for his wife. After seeing firsthand the skills of TAFE SA students, he commissioned a one-off locket to be made by current Bachelor of Visual Art and Design student, Geoff Mitchell.
‘When I was approached about making a piece for Jeff, I thought, great, here is a chance to really do something special. I like to stretch myself each time I make a piece of jewellery and this was a chance to take my work further than I had before, incorporating many of the jeweller’s disciplines: silver smithing, box making, mechanisms, gem setting and enamelling.’
The locket, made entirely of handmade stirling silver and offset with blue enamel and a stunning bright aquamarine gemstone, was a challenging piece for Geoff. ‘I showed Jeff some of my previous work, among which was a 'Secret Keeper' - a lover's chatelaine with a secret note inside. Jeff was instantly attracted to this rather sentimental idea. Starting with this concept I distilled a detailed design on paper out of the many sketches and ideas that had come out of my research. This design was then transformed: the designs transferred and laboriously pierced out with a hand saw, each part carefully measured, cut, polished, assembled and polished again.'
With over 50 hours of work, from initial design concept to completion, Geoff is extremely proud of the finished product, ‘It was a pleasure to design and while the piece was very challenging, making it was both an intense and most enjoyable experience.’
And what does Jeff’s wife think of the finished product? We’ll have to wait until Christmas to find out, but with Jeff Gunningham’s seal of approval, there’s little doubt it will be a gift she will never forget. ‘It’s simply stunning’ Jeff said, ‘the amount of work that has gone into this locket and being closely involved in the whole process makes it so very special’.