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Jewellery Student Wins 2018 Cufflink Design Competition

Lord Coconut artwork
Jean-Nicolas Weryha's award winning cufflinks

A new honour adorns the artistic career of Melbourne Polytechnic jewellery student Jean-Nicolas Weryha – the Lord Coconut Melbourne Cufflink prize. Jean-Nicolas’s intricate piece of enamelling won the $500 acquisitive prize in the contest that’s part of the Melbourne Fringe and now in its sixth year.

This time Melbourne Polytechnic students submitted six of the 19 entries to the annual exhibition and prize – Jean-Nicolas, Sian Healy, Aden Green, Alison Raven and Sesh Prestas with two pairs.

The contest, run by Mark Boldiston at his city centre shop ‘Lord Coconut’, is for students from around Australia who are studying Diploma of Jewellery and Object-based Design and above.

At Melbourne’s only jewellery shop for men, Mark’s in his sixth year of offering the prize ‘to support next wave of contemporary jewellers coming through the industry and also to encourage them to make a male piece of jewellery’.

‘My shop’s all about male and masculine jewellery so I want to encourage them to think of that angle as well.’

Quintessential Adornment 

Mark says cufflinks are the ‘quintessential male piece of adornment, and it’s easy to compare like for like and also with the mechanism on the back so there’s a bit more creative opportunity.’

Jean-Nicolas, who is in his first year of the two-year Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design at Fairfield, says he enjoyed the challenge of making a piece of enamelling, a medium that can be used to translate paintings into jewellery

‘My teachers had a serious look at me and said ‘do you realise what you are going into? It’s a really, really complicated thing you are just about to do’, he says.

‘I wanted to try it out, I wanted to do something unexpected on this one and I went through a lot of troubles. You can’t enamel anything that is soldered as it will melt, so I had to use a specific solder.

Surreal Colours Coming Together 

‘I really like using my colours and I wanted to create something that fits what I already do painting-wise,’ he says, referencing ‘Surrealists, dream-related things and crazy colours all mashing together’.

Mark loved the enamelling work on the winning piece, which shows hints of opal colours– Jean-Nicolas’s current obsession.

He spent his term break in outback Queensland, hunting the mysterious gemstone, starting at Yowah, 800km west of Toowoomba, where he was escorted around by miners.

Before setting off, he said: ‘I will try to dig them out, I’ll ask miners if I can follow them on their journey.

‘One of the things I really want to do at least once in my life is dig out gemstones.’

Outback Queensland Gems

He says Yowah has boulder opals; not pure opals but veins of opal that shape the stone, ‘you can have really amazing shapes, something that Mother Nature has created’.

He says opals fit his philosophy around colours.

‘I have a triangle of aesthetic – colour, shape and dynamic and opal is a rare gemstone that actually fits this aesthetic.’

Jean-Nicolas, 27, says his jewellery course is an extension of his artistic knowledge.

He studied fine art in Metz, France, where he did drawing, painting, comic-making, how to tell stories in comics, cartoons, short films, stop-motion films, ‘sculpting my characters, bringing life to them’.

He first came to Australia on a working holiday to travel, then ‘everything started to bloom’.

‘I started to have so many ideas, I had a rush of inspiration, I felt I needed to get it down somehow.

‘I didn’t know much about jewellery, I thought it was just about making shiny stuff but after a while I just realised it’s a whole new medium and you can bring your whole experience to that.

Art Comes To Life 

‘One of my main philosophies of art is bringing something to life.’

So what’s his next adventure? ‘Maybe go to Nepal to see the ancestral way of doing jewellery’.

Or hunting emeralds or rubies or sapphires, ‘but for now I am focusing on the opals’.

If you would like to find out more about our Jewellery courses, find out more about Melbourne Polytechnic's jewellery courses.

More student work from the Lord Coconut Cufflink Competition