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'Unmatched' by Melanie Rice

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A couple of weeks after the close of 'Unusual', we have new work bedecking our halls/walls - unique, hand-made earrings and necklaces by Melanie Rice. Melanie is an Australian jeweller who has been travelling for a few years now; she is currently based with her little family in Brussels (and is shortly bound to return). I think this is the first time we've established a show for Milly Sleeping over the seas! Instagram tells me that it all began on March 6th, when MR posted a pair of mismatched (or 'unmatched' earrings) and I thought - *those*. The development of the work, since, has been a personal process for Melanie, which she describes in her statement below. I'm very grateful to her for much hard work and care, and excited to be presenting such beautiful and meaningful jewellery.

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MR on 'Unmatched':

This range is about celebrating the strength and spirit of women over history and now. A nod to the wisdom and knowledge passed down and shared through so many generations, and the impressive juggling acts of women today. Then and now, women are unmatched in their fortitude, resilience and compassion in a playing field that is yet to be determined as being completely equal.

This summer, I spent time in Latvia to visit family and explore makers for a project I had in mind. Latvia is rich in folklore and is the home of many various national costumes – with detailed hand woven skirts and belts, woven and crocheted linen blouses, and (of course) the jewellery. National costumes are heavily adorned with large, bold, jingling jewels: crowns, brooches, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. Having worn one of these costumes during my childhood at many cultural festivals and folk dancing concerts, it is probably the earliest memory I have of a deep attraction to jewellery and adornment. During my visits, I was eager to find a maker of the traditional Latvian belts (prievītes), woven with cotton on a loom using ancient pagan motifs and designs dating as early as the 13th century. To me, prievītes are synonymous with Latvia so I was surprised to learn that so very few women are still making them. After quite a search, I found a woman in her eighties, Pukses Kundze ('Mrs Pukse') still making the belts. I asked if she would be willing to make me some and I was delighted that indeed, she wanted to. Each of the woven belts used in the necklaces in this collection have been woven by hand by one of few wise women who still have the knowledge and skills to make them. I hope to give them a different and new life in the pieces I have made to share with the women – makers and appreciators - in my community.

Upon returning home (which at the time was in Belgium) I was deeply inspired by Pukses Kundze, her wisdom and her clever hands. But I quickly felt overrun by the pressure and intensity of juggling the many facets of myself that make me who I am: the professional, the maker, the traveller, the parent, the partner, the friend. I couldn’t manage to carve out that little space that made me feel confident, passionate and curious. Too many rushed mornings and late nights without time for considering my ‘costume’, adornment, or even how I wanted to express myself in my appearance and how the absence of that simple creative expression over time made me feel. I yearned to step out with a bigger sound, in a brighter light, but felt so overwhelmed with the tasks at hand that my desire was easily silenced.

The earrings in this collection are a tribute to the other side of the story - the juggling woman. She is strong, smart, busy, creative, and impressive in her ability to manage and balance the work, demands and chaos in her life. No matter what state she runs out the door in, she can easily grab a quick, bold pick-me-up in these giant, bright, mis(un)matched earrings (the mismatching or the odd pair, an homage to the chaos).

I wanted these earrings to be bold and fun, not perfect or balanced, and give a boost to the juggling woman. Which, let’s face it, is all of us.

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'Unmatched' will be on display at Milly Sleeping between now and Christmas (or until sold out). All of the pieces are available to buy on the spot, and will shortly be made available online. Once packaged inside a drawstring pouch inside an embossed box, they will make a very treasurable gift.

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