Steelhips

Michelle Murray - steampunk artist

Michelle took the long way to arrive at this creative destination. But serendipity required she have all the seemingly disparate skills, experience, creative discipline (and a spare room) needed for this demanding genre. Like many "steampunk" artists, Michelle discovered the label after many years of making "steampunk" objects, sculpture and jewellery. She found it by accident, while trying to find another source of vintage brass clock gears - a staple in the steampunk aesthetic.

While working in website design, Michelle needed something to unwind after wrangling pixels and HTML code all day. So she starting making beaded pins and selling them on Ebay. The pins made way to cluster pendants followed by unique charm bracelets. Ten years later, all her pieces now sell on Ebay mostly to clients in the US and Europe. Many members of her loyal clientele have bought several pieces. Now she tends to favour necklace/pendants and small, intricate sculpture pieces. Galleries in the US and the UK have also purchased her art pieces for resale.

Completely self taught, it was with trepidation that Michelle entered her first art competition in early 2010. Competing against professional and amateur artists in Western Australia she thought it would just be a new experience. To her amazement, she won the Sculpture Division with a $1000 prize. The Melville City Council, who runs the annual art competition, also purchased the piece for their "permanent on-display" collection.

Her business name, "steelhip design", was coined after having her first hip replacement in 1996 at 28 years old. Due to a severe, degenerative, life long arthritic condition, Michelle has had both hips replaced, both knees replaced and her right wrist permanently fused. It was this condition and subsequent disability that made her realise she had to work for herself and around the unpredictability of her disease. There will be shoulder surgery in 2011. Many of her art pieces mix stylised body parts - hearts, eyes, skulls and brains with mechanical and industrial embellishment. Just like her own body, bio-mechanics is a theme that lends itself to the steampunk style.

Using almost exclusively vintage and antique components, Michelle likes to mix high shine copper, brass and antique silver tone metals with dark wood and glass. The only taboo? Plastic! Her designs often use items that are rarely considered for use in jewellery design such as glass fuses, vintage compasses, watch parts, industrial springs and scrap metal off cuts.

In the future she hopes to match her popularity in the US and Europe in her local market Australia, and have an exhibition in home town, Perth. She would also love to experience a major US steampunk event in the coming year.

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