A good shop assistant is both a) extremely hard to find, and b) severely underrated.
Think about it. For half an hour they’ll be better than your best friend. They’ll run around the store grabbing anywhere from a size 8-14 while you decide just how oversized you want that shirt to be. They’ll compliment your manicure so sincerely that you’ll want to wear OPI Malaga Wine for the rest of your life. They’ll indulge you while you toss up between the pale blue or black while you complain that all your wardrobe is black and you really need to branch out. Then they’ll totally not judge as you transfer money, pull out two cards and hand over some cash to buy that top you can’t afford. In black.
Yep, they’re pretty much angels on earth. So we wanted to introduce you to a few. Meet Melanie Katsalidis, director and founder of Pieces of Eight Gallery.
FJ: How did you begin Pieces of Eight Gallery ?
Melanie: I started out as a jeweller and have been very passionate about making jewellery for a long time. A few years after I graduated from RMIT, I set up a group studio in North Fitzroy. The building had a shopfront so I decided to open up a gallery. It was sort of unplanned but I knew I wanted to create a platform for my peers and other creative jewellers.
How would you describe your personal style?
I guess I have quite an eclectic style, it depends on my mood on the day. I tend to wear a lot of Australian designers, particularly Melbourne designers. I love Kuwaii, Verner and P.A.M, and I will always buy a piece from the Romance was Born collection.
What is your favourite item of jewellery in your current collection?
That is a hard one, but I would have to say there is a ring I've made that I'm really excited about. It is a rose gold ring in a new style which I have developed, called the Elevate style. I think it’s the perfect minimal ring design to really accentuate the stone. It has a rich, gorgeous, rare garnet stone in amazing oranges and reds.
Who or what would you say is your inspiration?
It is mostly geometry. A lot of my work is looking at the three fundamental forms being square, circle and triangle, which I use in all my collections. I am inspired by a minimal, clean aesthetic which is really about purity of form.
What made you decide to pursue a career in jewellery design?
I grew up in a creative household and I've always wanted to do creative things. I have an art history background which is what I studied first, but I missed making things and wanted to be hands on. This business also allows me to do a lot of curatorship, which is great because I love working with other creative people. I believe jewellery is such a special vehicle for commemorating important life events, so it's really nice to connect with people on that very personal level. You create something you know will be treasured, loved and adored and can passed on through generations.
Would you say you like to set trends or adopt trends?
Definitely set trends! All the pieces we have here are one-off original pieces. We are interested in original voices and expressions, and new languages in terms of aesthetics and design ideas. However, of course we are always aware of responding to what our clients like.
Where would you like go next with Pieces of Eight?
Well it will be 10 years in December of this store being open. I am looking forward to making more of my own work, developing some additional pieces and having really great strong collections going forward. I have a great team here, so I can have more time in my own studio which I am really excited about.
Do you see Pieces of Eight as more of a shop or a gallery?
I have always talked about it as more of a gallery. We do have pieces that are ready for sale and we of course have our online store. I talk about it as a gallery because I really want to elevate the work outside of the fashion jewellery realm and show the art jewellery. I think jewellery is a term which most people understand. But these pieces have been handcrafted by artists and by people that have various creative backgrounds, whether it be fine art training, graphic design or interior design. Our jewellers have a really broad set of skill and their pieces are not just about designing seasonal collections, they are about creating one-off pieces.
What do you think are the current trends in your collection?
There has been a real trend with organic looks. There has been a great interest in raw stones and really handmade pieces. Our clients are responding to fine delicate pieces and stacking rings have been hugely popular.
Is there any advice you would give to other creatives wanting to be a part of the jewellery industry?
Be really aware of what's happening in contemporary jewellery as well as fine jewellery, and try to find your own niche within that. Be aware of what's happening internationally as well as locally, and also be inspired by other things not just jewellery. Our jewellers are broadly thinking about multiple things such as art and architecture and draw inspiration from many sources. I think you need to find your own path, instead of adapting to current trends. Try to find your unique voice which will help you to create unique pieces.
Pieces of Eight Gallery
28 Russell Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000