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    Shifting Forms: An interview with Underground Sundae founder Annemieke Ytsma

    Given the similarities in process and product between the two art forms, jewellery-making often appeals to notions of beauty derived from traditional sculpture. Any given piece of jewellery, then, is made to be a revered art object, cherished in the final form as determined by its maker. Few jewellery labels challenge this assumption quite like Underground Sundae. Founded by Annemieke Ytsma in Dunedin, Aotearoa/New Zealand shortly after she graduated from art school, since moving to Naarm/Melbourne, Underground Sundae’s gleefully maximalist collections have made it one of the most beloved jewellery labels based in Australia. Often working with recycled materials, Ytsma’s designs give new life to discarded metals in designs that reference the chaos of an older relative’s jewellery box as much as internet aesthetics. But it is the modularity of US pieces that make the label stand out, encouraging their wearer to modify them as often as desired. With Underground Sundae now available for the first time at Double Double, Annemieke spoke to us about tainted star-sign readings, the past lives of precious metals, and building something that eclipses its creator.

    What’s the first thing you do when thinking about the designs for a new collection?

    Designs for new pieces and collections can happen quickly and quite often they evolve over time. My recent collection, US by US, evolved from an idea I had from my very first collection over 10 years ago. I love making larger art-based pieces, usually from found objects and jewellery, giving them another chance. These pieces usually feed into other styles and smaller charms.

    Your recent collection, entitled “Rising Stars,” explored astrology and horoscope readings. What is your relationship to astrology?

    I grew up with my mum being into astrology so it’s always been around. I’m now obsessed with reading my co-star daily. The poet Hera Lindsay Bird who I worked with on the Zodiac pendants was interested in how we often relate more to the negative aspects of our star sign. I’m a Cancer and I really relate to the ‘Hurt Feelings’ saying she used ha!

    Can you tell us a bit about your concept of an “earring earring”? 

    I’m interested in the functionality of objects and the individuality of jewellery. I wanted to make something that could be transformed and personalised with each wearer, adding their own personal touches to it.

    A lot of Underground Sundae pieces push back against what seems to have become a dominant trend among small jewellery makers: clean lines and minimalist aesthetics. From where do you draw your inspiration for your more extravagant earring earrings and the joyous maximalism that they express?

    My inspiration comes from what I notice around me day to day, objects I find or am given, childhood memories—it’s more a feeling I get than looking towards a trend or an aesthetic.

    Your recent collections seem to point to a wide range of visual influences, particularly internet aesthetics and past futures. How do you go about making a physical, three-dimensional piece working from such visual cues? 

    I’ll often find an object that relates to a story or an image. A lot of my pieces are made from found objects that I recycle or remake into a precious metal. Most of my jewellery has had a past life already.

    Who are some of your favourite artists at the moment in any medium?

    I recently acquired a large canvas work by Melbourne-based artist Abella D’Adamo that I love. We have also just collaborated on a t-shirt in response to the US by US collection.

    You’ve said in interview previously that you started using the Underground Sundae name in part to create separation between the work you were producing under your own name for exhibition and that designed for sale as wearable pieces. Do you still engage in the former practice?

    Underground Sundae has really come into its own as an entity separate from me as a solo artist. It’s not just about me; US is for everyone that feels a connection to it. Collaborations are also very important to the brand and I like the idea that it could even exist without me.

    How has Underground Sundae changed since you started it in 2010 after graduating from art school in Dunedin? 

    It’s still the same 🙂

    Do you have any advice for aspiring jewellery makers? 

    A fellow artist and best friend of mine, Philip James Frost, once gave me the best advice that I always go back to—just keep making!

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