Art works to be worn

Robin McHugh

Book illustrator Terry Whidborne has helped Sydney jewellery-makers Polli create gift pins for authors and volunteers at this year’s Sydney Writers Festival. The wooden artworks are like tiny paintings.

Tess Lloyd, co-founder of planet-friendly Polli, described the limited run of 160 brooches as a series of “sweet and mystical, gentle characters, based on Australian animals” such as a fruit bat, a platypus, a koala and a pink cockatoo.

The Polli studio, in an old ginger beer factory, usually has a fan whirring on warm days (instead of air conditioning) and the double-height front door stands open to let in sunlight. The business has been accredited by the Carbon Reduction Institute which takes into consideration recycling, energy use, transport and more. “A lot of our designs are about nature so it makes sense that we try to protect it as much as possible,” Tess says.


Polli’s co-designers, Tess and Maja Rose, have made jewellery together from industrial materials like stainless steel and plywood for more than 10 years. Tess says that when they started, one of their goals was to make things they could wear and afford. Their intention for the Festival was to create uniquely Australian mementos.

Terry Whidborne illustrated the Word Hunters children’s series. He says his advertising background honed his collaborative art skills. Terry is Queensland-based and he and Polli worked via email. He says that when drawing the brooches, he keeps the words ‘dream, create, indulge’ in mind.

Victorian-era drawings and early 1900s illustrations inspired him when he worked on Word Hunters. His designs for Polli evoke a nostalgic feeling too, with characters in dress-ups.

Polli brooches: designs with sweet and mystical characters

Polli brooches: designs with sweet and mystical characters

One brooch was specifically designed for long-term volunteers. Tess says she is happy her company could play a part in rewarding some of the extraordinary people who are “so passionate about, and so loyal to the Festival”. Polli and Terry donated time, materials and talent to this venture.

The brooches were manufactured locally from Australian plantation pine. Tess says Terry’s watercolour pictures were printed on timber sheets in Marrickville, then laser cut and branded in St Peters, and finished with varnish at Stanmore.

Terry Whidborne appears in The Big Top For Little People, Event 243, Pier 2/3, Sunday, 26 May.