COMBING THE COSMOS... This is a tale as much about technique and material, as it is about motif and theme. In the late 'eighties, Phill began playing with differentially colouring titanium, and with setting gems into it, commencing with combs as a form.



This 'Comb for a Contemporary Constellation' was the paradigm of the series. It exhibited in the National Craft Award Exhibition at Darwin in 1991, and was selected by judge Grace Cochrane to be acquired by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

The range of colouring runs the full gamut which flame-coloured titanium displays, from straw to ice-blue.



One of the 'Solar Panel' brooches, with citrine and yellow inset colouring representing the sun; moonstone and ploished grey titanium inset representing a sturn; star diopside and purple/blue inset colouring representing a star; and garnet and red inset colouring representing a meteorite.. These were about 70 - 80 mm long, including the titanium wire inserts in the sterling silver chenier pediment. Rivetted with 22k gold. 



The 'Galactic Gorget' carried the theme and technique to a penultimate stage.

This was a centrepiece in Phill's solo exhibition 'Space Unhinged', at Beaver Galleries in Canberra, in 1994.



Initially, the combs were treated much as 'samplers', to work out the technique of colouring the titanium only in the insets. The rest of the titanium is left the natural grey colour. The recesses in the comb above are predominantly one colour only, in order to simplify mastering the process. As this was acheived, the range of colours was broadened, as in the pieces below.


The 'Star Combs', above,  were also the testing ground for setting two stones into the titanium, table to table, in such a way that an 'upset' stone presented on each side of the piece; hence there is no 'back' to the works, which have the same appearance in colour and stone either side.


Eventually, the combs evolved into brooches, with a larger diversity of set stones than just citrines representing the sun. Moonstones, garnets, etc., were used in conjunction with suitably shaped and coloured insets, to represent saturns, comets, and so forth.


Ultimately, the combination of technique and material were incorporated into the greater body of Phill's work in a more normalised manner. The brooch above, 'Squaring Space', part of the solo exhibition 'Squaring the Circle', which Phill had at Makers Mark Gallery, Melbourne, in 199 , shows a more spare and restrained execution, with the catseye chysoberyl and the star diopside perfectly matched by the forms they are inset into.