Installation view of Claire McArdle’s series <em>Small Tools for Change</em> 2018–20 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.    Image: Tom Ross

Claire McArdle

Claire McArdle
(b. 1988, Ballarat, Victoria. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Claire McArdle is a jewellery and object maker with an interest in tools, performance and the making process. Her concept-led practice is grounded in materiality and technique. She carefully selects mediums that reflect her ideas and, where necessary, researches the appropriate skills to bring them into being.

For Melbourne Now, McArdle presents several pieces from her 2020 collection Small Tools for Change, a group of neckpieces that draw attention to the plight of endangered native animals and insects, including the regent honeyeater, Leadbeater’s possum, south-eastern red-tailed black cockatoo, Bornemissza’s stag beetle and swift parrot. Threaded on leather are small metal trowels, made from old car exhausts, with totemic handles carved from the wood of trees associated with the animal they depict, all of which are in danger of becoming extinct through the degradation of their habitats from human intervention and climate change. Together, the two halves of these neckpieces form shovels, which can be worn around the neck to start conversations, or used to plant a tree. ‘Every conversation or tree planted is a small act of change’, the artist explains.

McArdle has held numerous solo exhibitions in Australia and Europe, and featured in group shows across Asia, Europe and United States. She won the Itami Award at the International Jewellery Exhibition at the Museum of Arts & Crafts Itami, Japan (2019); first prize at both the National Contemporary Jewellery Award, Griffith Regional Art Gallery (2016), and Contemporary Wearables ’13, Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery (2013); and received the Excellence Award at the Victorian Craft Awards (2017). In 2018 her work was collected by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. She was also a co-founder of Radiant Pavilion: Melbourne Contemporary Jewellery and Object Biennial. McArdle teaches in the gold and silversmithing department at RMIT University, where she is currently undertaking a PhD, and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Gold and Silversmithing) from the same institution. During her undergraduate studies, McArdle undertook an exchange at the Estonian Academy of Arts.