South Australian artists bring precious artefacts to life in a unique restoration project – cialisdfr
South Australian artists bring precious artefacts to life in a unique restoration project
South Australian artists bring precious artefacts to life in a unique restoration project

A cracked teapot from the early 20th century and a torn silk souvenir scarf from the 1956 Melbourne Olympics are among a collection of valuable items restored as part of an innovative art project illustrating the importance of reuse and repair.

More than a dozen designers, artists and artisans work to restore a collection of beloved objects, each treasured by their owners, who will witness the items undergo remarkable transformations.

The Transformative Repair project is led by University of South Australia Enterprise Fellow Dr Guy Keulemans and UNSW designer Dr Trent Jansen in partnership with craft and design institution JamFactory.

Dr Keulemans, a member of UniSA’s Center for People, Products and Places (CP3), specializes in sustainable craft and design, particularly new forms of repair and reuse as part of the wider circular economy field.

The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that involves reusing, repairing, refurbishing or recycling existing materials and products to promote long-term sustainability.

“Every year in Australia we produce about 70 megatonnes of waste – that’s the volume of almost 500 opera houses in Sydney, and household waste is a significant part of that,” Dr Kuelemans says.

“Transformative Repair responds to this waste crisis by seeking to find new ways designers can address repair and reuse in their practice, as a service, so that customers and clients have more opportunities to extend the life of their goods and belongings.

“We have all kinds of items ranging from antique 19th century teapots to mid 20th century furniture, jewelry and more. There are about 12 designers and artisans participating in the exhibition, and they tackle the transformative renovation in different ways. For some designers it is a challenging but simple repair process, and for other designers they really transform the object, perhaps giving it a new function, a completely new look or a new style.

Among the prized possessions is a well-loved Luis Vuitton bag, worn necklaces designed by local jewelry designer the late Alice Potter, a broken Khai Liew chair, a wooden knitting table, a cumulus lamp, an old hammer, damaged audio speakers and various ‘shack stuff’ “.

Some of the broken items belonged to broadcaster and author Paula Nagel AM, the first female reporter on the ABC’s current affairs program This day tonight in the 60s.

Nagel owns a handful of red glass shards that once made up a vase that she accidentally knocked off its stand onto the floor of her home. The former JamFactory board member is a collector of glass figurines and delicate artwork.

The broken pieces of glass, as well as two damaged perfume bottles, will be recreated in an entirely new work of art by glassblowing specialist Dr Tom Moore.

He has dedicated his life to the art of glass and in 2019 received a PhD at UniSA specializing in hot glass sculpture. Dr. Moore, who is known for his humorous and fantastical creations, will transform broken glass pieces and perfume bottles into a whimsical dog figurine.

“I think the value of this project is to make people think about objects and what they mean to people,” he says. “I wanted to do this project to do something funny. It’s absurd what I’m about to do. It makes no sense, and that’s its value. I think it will shed some light on what objects mean to people.

JamFactory chief executive Brian Parkes says the arts institution has enjoyed a long relationship with UniSA and appreciates the chance to be involved in projects with a research focus.

“Being able to have an exploratory view of some of these activities, engage in reflective learning and get feedback on how I can do things and improve in the future is a great privilege,” he says.

The revamped creations will be unveiled at Adelaide’s JamFactory in April. This is the second iteration of the Transformative Repair project, the first being in 2022 when a collection of old or damaged items, including a dented red fire engine Vespa scooter belonging to actor Yael Stone, were given new life and auctioned off at the Australian design center in sydney.

The project is funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage Projects Scheme.

Transformative Repair runs at JamFactory from April 5th to April 21st. Visit the website for more information.

Watch the video.



Media contact: Melissa Keogh, Communications Officer, UniSA M: +61 403 659 154 E: [email protected]

Contact the researcher: Dr Guy Keulemans, UniSA Enterprise Fellow M: +61 425 128 762 E: [email protected]

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