Coral Persistence, 2020

Coral Persistence 2020 by Toni-Maree Savage

Coral Persistence 2020 by Toni-Maree Savage

Toni-Maree Savage
Rings and choker: Coral Persistence, 2020
Choker diameter: 17 cm
Ring diameter: 8 cm

Artist Statement

Coral Persistence, 2020 is a set of wearable art jewellery pieces that explore the theme of repetition from a visual, repeated use of technique and process, and psychosocial perspectives.

In terms of visual repetition, Coral Persistence is inspired by micro-repetition in coral cellular structures. My primary interest in nature-based repetition is founded in the presence of variation. I feel that this irregularity creates a more interesting visual display as compared to more consistent human-made repetition. In particular, like Australian jeweller Julie Blyfield, I would like to include something of my personal connection to Australia’s natural environment in my work.[1]  Coral is particularly relevant to me as I have a special interest in the protection of coral reefs. This relationship will allow me to create a more personally meaningful work of art. And, like jeweller Helen Britton, I will be able to infuse my work with the narrative of its creation.[2]

Coral Persistence also addresses repetition in terms of practice, or the repeated use of technique and process. I have created many smaller pieces in the process of designing and making my project. I see these smaller pieces as essential components of my art practice as they have allowed me to acquire the essential skills I needed to complete Coral Persistence. In addition, as my proficiency increased, my concept for Coral Persistence evolved. I wanted to challenge myself such that a single ring became a set of three pieces - two rings and a choker.  This expansion of ideas is directly related to the repeated use of technique and process that provided me with the confidence to strive for an expanded goal.

From the beginning of my project, I had a vision that I could use Coral Persistence to spread a valuable message about coral protection to the public. I found author and jewellery curator Kevin Murray’s statement about jewellery being a mechanism to create social connections and calls for action highly stimulating. In particular, Murray spoke about the “power” of jewellery in his article The Change We Can Wear. He said, “Once attached to a human host, jewelry has great potential power”.[3] I aligned to this message immediately and wanted my project to function in this capacity.

After much research and thought, I decided the way forward for my project in order to meet my psychosocial goals was to add a participatory component. This would function as a repeated reminder to the wearer and the public that we are the temporary caretakers of coral reefs during our lifetimes just as we might be the temporary caretaker for an object. Hence, one of the rings from the Coral Persistence set would be freely bestowed on a series of temporary caretakers who would wear the ring according to a set of caretaker guidelines.

This concept is significantly inspired by jeweller Vicki Mason’s Broaching Change project.[4] In Mason’s project, a temporary owner would care for a brooch that was imbued with messaging about national independence. The temporary owner was required to visit a website within two weeks of receiving the brooch and write about their experience. In addition, the temporary owner agreed that if someone else expressed interest in the brooch and agreed to the covenants of ownership, they would freely give the brooch to that person who would become the new owner. Similarly, temporary caretakers in the Coral Persistence participatory project would have access to a website with full details of the project and caretaker guidelines. They would also need to pass on the ring to the next temporary caretaker who agrees to abide by the caretaker guidelines.

The idea of giving away an object that a visitor expresses interest in has a foundation in several cultures. For example, Kevin Murray identified a custom of hospitality in Papua New Guinea called “hamal” that requires the homeowner to give a visitor an object that they express interest in.[5] This concept of giving away our possessions is unfamiliar in contemporary Western society. However, as jeweller Bridget Kennedy reminds us, we need to change our way of thinking to create a more sustainable community. This transformation is key to the success of the messaging being delivered by the Coral Persistence project.

Kennedy is involved in many participatory projects, but one in particular I feel is highly relevant to Coral Persistence. Kennedy offers a pop-up jewellery repair café in her home town of Sydney.[6] This is a free service that involves the participation of a jeweller and owner to repair a piece of jewellery or small object. The project addresses the modern “throw-away” ethos where objects are discarded even if there is very little wrong with them. Kennedy points out that repairing an object allows us to use it for longer and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing the need for the manufacture of replacement objects. The participatory component of Kennedy’s model aligns with my goals of using jewellery as a communication vessel for environmental action and social change.

Other contemporary jewellers who are employing jewellery as a communication tool to develop a relationship between the wearer and a social, environmental or political message have emerged over the last decade. For example, local jeweller Clare Poppi created a series of “growing jewellery” during her Home Residency Program at the Museum of Brisbane.[7] Clare’s jewellery which combines a living plant in a wearable object requires the wearer to care for the plant and encourages a greater connection with nature. Relatedly, jeweller Roseanne Bartley also uses jewellery to promote environmental awareness. Specifically, Bartley conducts urban explorations with groups of participants in search of discarded materials for jewellery making. Participants are also invited to join a jewellery making session using their found objects. Bartley enjoys sharing her jewellery making skills in this environmentally conscious manner and believes that “jewellery can be a way to make change in the world, one step at a time.”[8]

Coral Persistence is created from copper -  a pinkish-orange coloured metal that reminds me of the colour of some corals. The process of creation involved saw piercing coupled with drilling, metal forming, disc cutting, soldering, sanding and polishing. With each piece, my familiarity with the metal and its attributes has increased. Having overcome several stumbling blocks as I progressed towards my vision, I am feeling more confident as a metalsmith, and I am now at a stage where the challenge of manipulating this sometimes temperamental material to my desired outcome is highly enjoyable.

I look forward to continuing my jewellery journey and adding to my skills set and understanding of the conceptual aspects of jewellery design and making, particularly in regards to participatory possibilities.


[1] Susan Cummins, “Julie Blyfield: Second Nature,” Art Jewelry Forum, accessed April 4, 2020,

[2] Andrea Dinoto, “Helen Britton: Narratives of Creation,” Metalsmith 34, no. 3 (2014): 44-51.

[3] Kevin Murray, “The Change We Can Wear,” Art Jewellery Forum, accessed April 4, 2020,

[4] Vicki Mason, “Broaching Change Project,” accessed 5 August, 2020,

[5] Kevin Murray, “Every Brooch has a Catch,” Craft Unbound, accessed 6 August, 2020,

[6] Bridget Kennedy, “Pop Up Jewellery Repair Café, “ accessed 6 August, 2020,

[7] Museum of Brisbane, “MoB Artists @ Home Residency Program,” accessed 6 August, 2020,

[8] Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, “‘Found out - floral brooches’ brooch by Roseanne Bartley,” accessed 8 August, 2020,

 ⭐This artwork is available for sale. For further information please contact me