Carlier Makigawa

Carlier's jewellery; the theatrical balance between her constructions and the body in a dialogue of reciprocal definition.
Helen Britton

Carlier Makigawa is one of Australia's most respected metalsmiths, and had a pivotal role in putting Australia on the contemporary jewellery world map in the early 1980s. Working with silver, gold, monel and more recently, niobium, Carlier creates meticulously crafted jewellery and objects.

For decades, her work was identifiable for its clear language of structural wire frameworks. In her early career, they held precious objects; lacquer, wood, stone. Later they emptied, their emptiness a potent carrier of absence - no less precious. These fine wire structures contain varied and complex evocations: the delicacy and intricacy of botanical specimens, the monumentality of rock formations, the microscopic wonder of crystal structures, even the planes and angles of modern architecture. On the body, they have a cool reserve and a paradoxical, peculiar generosity; their scale and wearability revealing an instinctive understanding of human form.

In 2019, Carlier's work underwent a major shift for the exhibition 'Linked', in which pieces were made from hundreds of individually made jump rings in darkened silver, monel and glistening blue niobium. Each work formed an intricate, sinuous mesh, like chain mail with its roots in armour and protection. Helen Britton said "the works have become flexible frames for the figure in motion, no longer poised balance but fluid play between the human form and shifting shapes. Previous works with their structural tenacity, frames delineated and vibrating with exactitude have now collapsed. There is still structure, but it is a loosened and flowing system." 

In Carlier's most recent work, these two distinct trajectories meet, with wire frameworks draped by, or holding thickets of, mesh.

Carlier Makigawa's pieces have a clear sense of having grown, rather than having been designed. As she works intuitively, sketching with wire and solder as well as on paper, Carlier allows each piece to follow its own trajectory, a dynamic process which often belies the formal poise of the resulting works. One work leads into another, and in each body of work we see a family of works, like a border planted of a single species of tree, each sharing the same genetic code but unique in its individual response to its micro-environment.