After spending the past twenty years living and working in Melbourne, Australia, renowned jeweler and taxidermist Julia deVille decided to make a change and move back home to New Zealand. Known for her ethical practices, the artist seamlessly integrates her taxidermy and jewelry making practices, creating hauntingly sensitive pieces which serve as a gentle reminder that in order to appreciate life, we must first accept death.
The move to New Zealand brought about many new changes for the artist, including a brand new studio. Located in Melbourne, the studio is an absolutely magical and romantic Victorian wonderland, filled with lush plants, curiosities, taxidermy and jewels.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Julia deVille about her work and showroom (complete with a resident ghost!), and hope you enjoy our exclusive interview with Julia deVille!
What inspired you to move to your showroom?
I have moved back to New Zealand after living in Australia for twenty years. I sold my warehouse, which is where my old studio and showroom were located. The office and showroom in Melbourne will remain open, and I’ll fly over every month or so to clear the backlog of custom orders. Eventually I’ll set up a showroom in Wellington, NZ too.
Tell us a bit about the new space. What can we find there? Are there any pieces on view in particular that hold a special meaning to you?
After 10 years of being located in Collingwood, I have relocated my showroom to a beautiful heritage building on the cusp of the Melbourne CBD. The showroom is by appointment only; we take appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
When a client visits, they are shown a selection of hundreds of styles of wedding and engagement rings in every colour, size and shape you can imagine. My consultants will help them to establish the style of ring(s) they want, the metal, finish and gemstones as well as suggesting things like hand engraving and secret gems hidden inside the band. Options start with ordering an off-the-shelf item, moving into basic customization like changing the metal colour and/or gemstones and the ultimate is a completely bespoke ring. I also do a lot of work remodeling client’s heirloom jewelry. This could mean reusing some heirloom metal and gems in a new design or sometimes even building on top of a sentimental ring. We also do Skype/email consultations for our international clients.
I have a lot of my taxidermy work on display in the showroom too; my lovely white Rocking Alpaca, a silver raven skeleton, a bejeweled taxidermy raven and a rocking fox. I also have a vast collection of curiosities and antiques, such has human skulls and Victorian furniture… and have a resident ghost, Edith, who was murdered in the building by her partner in Victorian times!
Edith certainly sounds interesting! Have you had many encounters with her?
Not personally as she was murdered in a different part of the building but others have encountered her at night. I would love to meet her one day though as I have always wanted my own ghost!
Now that your new showroom is up and running in Melbourne, what are you most looking forward upon your return home to New Zealand?
I’ve been back in New Zealand since September but have been traveling back and forth to Melbourne almost every month to make my custom orders. I love the mix of being based in Wellington but getting to visit Melbourne regularly. Wellington is relaxed and its lovely to be around friends and family. Melbourne is busy (and sometimes a bit stressful) but I do love it too. I’m not showing my work in New Zealand yet but I aim to have an exhibition here in the next couple of years and should have a little showroom set up within that time-frame too.
I noticed you have a lovely pink Adam Wallacavage pink chandelier in your space. Are there any other artists work on view as well? How do you select what pieces work well in the same environment as your own?
Adam made this piece for my last solo exhibition, Wholeness and the Implicit Order at Linden New Art in 2018. I ended up keeping three of the chandeliers for myself (because they’re just so bloody beautiful!). I also have a lot of sculpture made by Aly Aitken in my showroom and my home (one featured is the little calico fawn on a pink children’s chair). Most of my collection is made up of antiques and my own work though. I only really buy art from artists that make things that look old (as I do with my work).
Let’s chat a bit about your jewelry. Do you have a favorite type of piece you enjoy working on?
My focus now is wedding and engagement rings. I love making these pieces because they are generally custom jobs (which keeps it interesting for me). I get to work with exquisite rare and precious gemstones and most importantly the pieces become family heirlooms that are cherished for generations.
It’s a rare privilege to become a part of so many people’s family history. Do you have a piece or project that comes to mind that holds an especially fond memory to you?
I recently made wedding rings for a couple where the groom had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. They did not have much time so I made the rings very quickly for them. About a year later, the bride came to me after he passed to get a mourning ring made. This was a heartbreaking commission but also a great honour to be trusted with the creation of such meaningful rings.
Images courtesy of Helene Athanasiadis.