Werribee’s Will Francis has spent his life crafting bespoke pieces of jewellery.
The 64-year-old jeweller and goldsmith by trade is now branching out into 3D printing, and tells Charlene Macaulay about experimenting with the new medium.

How did you come to be a Werribee resident?

I was living in the east and decided to go west. I had a friend that lived out here and she said: “You should come to Werribee.” I thought: “Why would I want to live in Werribee?” [Then] I bought a house here.

I’m involved in the arts community here now, which is growing and developing. I like Werribee because of it’s multicultural nature. I think we do multiculture pretty well out here. We have our issues, but we’re working through them. I feel sometimes, in some shops, like I’m in a foreign country and I love it.

You’re a jeweller and goldsmith by trade. What interested you in these crafts?

I was very lucky to get an apprenticeship with Pellegrini and Co, then I won a scholarship to go to RMIT and I studied fine art. I didn’t know a great deal about it, but [I liked] making things.

Tell me about your business.

I just work under my own name and work from home. It’s all custom-made pieces. What I like about making pieces is telling stories – that’s one of the roles that all artists have.

Do you have a favourite piece?

A young German guy was out here on a work secondment and he was looking for a goldsmith to make an engagement ring for his girlfriend. I needed to get some kind of idea about what she was going to like, so he told me that they’d both done orienteering together and showed me all these maps and things. So I started thinking about the contours of maps and the rivers and things like that. I got an Australian argyle diamond … the ring has the contours of where the river is, it’s all been inlaid into the gold. Then there are these tiny little diamonds that represents where their houses are. It was a nice story, a very personal thing. And that’s the thing about jewellery generally. I think when you get something handmade and bespoke, they tell that really human and important story.

Tell me about your foray into 3D printing.

It started out with me drinking soda water. I was going through a few bottles of soda water a day and I got embarrassed by the amount of plastic that was building up. I thought there must be something I could do with it. I was on the net and stumbled across a Dutch guy who had built this plastics recycling machine out of recycled objects. That struck a chord with me. I thought I could do a 3D printing workshop – but I know nothing of 3D printing!

I’ve been experimenting. In essence, it’s really simple, but there’s still a lot to learn and get your head around. I got to make a Christmas tree decoration for Government House. Each council in Victoria was asked to contribute a tree decoration and I was asked to do it. It’s a bit like a jelly bean – faceted and translucent. I installed all these LED lights inside it that very slowly pulse into different colours.

Will Francis will hold 3D printing workshops at the Wyndham Arts Incubator in March. Email will@willfrancis.com.au to register your interest.