Meghana Rao and Sze Chim Lam
Meet the Aboriginal indie jewellery designer, Kristy Dickinson, who delivers messages with her feminist and political jewellery to a world of fashionable activists.
Surrounded by excited murmurs and sweaty bodies, engulfed by deep purple smoke that covers the base of the stage, Kristy Dickinson’s heart is racing in unison with 20,000 plus fans that are starting to crowd the Sidney Myer Music Bowl stadium. The rhythmic bass and drums echoes through the crowd, starting to grow louder and louder, matching the now, nearly deafening screams of ecstatic fans. Her voice bellows through the crowd, melodically singing ‘You know how I feel’, the Ms. Lauryn Hill. Kristy stares up at her idol in awe, mesmerised to see her handmade creation, a custom pair of white, abstract statement earrings, hanging off Hill’s earlobes, in front of a sold-out stadium.
Growing up in the inner-west suburbs of Sydney, in a bustling family, Kristy says, “Growing up, I never really had a voice.”. Now, at the age of 36, after a continuity of struggle, Dickinson finally feels the creative wild side flourishing, expressed through her bustling jewellery label, “Haus of Dizzy”.
After working for other people in the industry, Kristy immediately realised she wanted to create something original by herself. Disrespect and shunning from others is a big no for the self-proclaimed “Queen of Bling”. Completely fed up and frustrated with societal disassociation of Indigenous creative designers, Kristy says, “I just want to do my own thing, I always want to make it on my own,”. This outburst of passion, from the ripe-old age of 16, led Kristy to venture from small, hippie scenes of Bondi and Glebe Markets all the way to 20,000 fans staring at her work on the adorned hip-hop legend Lauryn Hill.
Her jewellery label “Haus of Dizzy” is heavily inspired by Sophia Amoruso’s book ‘Girl Boss’, the founder of “Nasty Gal”, unlocking a gate of creative waves to flow through her veins. However, it’s never easy to build a career from scratch, not to mention creating a one-woman brand in a small studio apartment in Melbourne, Kristy has no choice but work her way up, one earring at a time, under the dim lights that illuminated her makeshift workshop, her dining table. Working from sunrise till midnight, with soul and love in every piece she creates, Kristy pushes just to finish all the orders to reach her growing customer base, just in time.
Receiving more recognition in the industry, invitation for collaborating with other talents are flying into Kristy’s mailbox. Today, “Haus of Dizzy” is loud and hustling all over Australia, with over 15 stores stocking her items. Participating in the ongoing exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, Fashion Redux and being exhibited in the Contemporary Museum of Art in Sydney, Kristy is extremely happy with her progress. Collaborating with the iconic 80s designer Jenny Bannister, Kristy says, “I’m thrilled to work with her.” However, not all partnerships turn out harmoniously when exposed to her bizarre designs being stolen by copy-cat artists. No artists feel comfortable with their pieces copied without authorisation, “You can be inspired by other people, but just stay true with your heart and your art form,” she says, sincerely hoping to see every artist pay respect to their work. The support from her partner backing her during her times of darkness, helping her to break through the discouragement and setbacks, and pushing her to follow her dream, “If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably be out on the streets,” Kristy genuinely thanks the other half.
Everyone has been through dips of uneasiness in their life, Kristy too, happens to have experienced tougher times during her teenage years. Growing up in an Aboriginal family during the early 90s, it was dark times in Kristy’s eyes. At school, she endured constant dehumanisation and humiliation in a predominantly white school. Always in the midst of racial murmurs during school hours, she wasn’t subject to any relief at home where she witnessed her mother being beaten up by father, “I never really had a voice,” Kristy says. Feeling suppressed and uncomfortable as a young girl in the indigenous community, chained to a social hierarchy with no channel to express her boxed feelings, “Sometimes I found it strange to be Aboriginal,” she says. Kristy utilised this negative energy that consumed her childhood to break out of a vicious cycle and is now using her experiences to fuel progress in political and feminist spheres around the world through her beautiful handmade “Haus of Dizzy” jewellery. ”I’m of value, I have a lot to say and I can finally say it and if I can put that on earrings, put it out to the world, that’s definitely what I want to do,” she enthusiastically says.
Working with the community is another accomplishment that Kristy prides herself in. She is a close partner of Westmead Children’s Hospital, where she organises workshop for ill children, teaching them with ultimate love and passion, hand to hand, how to make simple jewellery. When the kids proudly hold their masterpieces and showcase them in front of her with their angelic smiles, it delighted her. “I love to see people shine,” she says. The kids are not the only ones shining, so is Kristy, who is bringing back positive energy to the children suffering with illness.
From sitting with little children in Westmead Hospital, Kristy’s bold jewellery reaches the other side of the spectrum to bold political affairs. Her stunning bold designs caught the eyes of the #StopAdani Campaign founders, who reached out to her for collaboration for the #StopAdani March in Sydney, 2018.The self-proclaimed “Queen of Bling” utilises her artistic power and creativity to slowly create change in a disturbed world, allowing her customers to “stylishly wear the message”. So, without much hesitation, she joined the team and started creating bulk orders of her famous #StopAdani earrings. From head to toe, she fully devoted herself in producing earrings for the campaign, working on every piece with her bare hands, “One day, we just made 500 pairs, and like 1000 pieces to put together,” Kristy says. She made 2000 pairs of #StopAdani earrings, all single handed-ly crafted, sold within one week.
Much to Kristy’s surprise, the generation loving her boldly designed jewellery are not limited to young and stylish hipsters. Kristy still often goes to markets to showcase her pieces, and sometimes faces interesting encounters, When an old lady picked up and studied Kristy’s sold out ‘cunt’ earrings, her heart sank and started to imagine all kinds of orthodox and cliché questions that seem to be brewing in this lady’s mind, “Oh god, here we go,” she began to worry. The next second, the granny picks up another fancy pieces and says, “Oh my god, I’m going to buy this, I’m going to wear this to bingo!”
Seeing older generation in love with the brazen pieces is not the only thing that surprised her, what’s crazier is being appreciated by celebrities that she has been looked up since she was an adolescent. Actor Miranda Tapsell is one of the high-profile fans of her brand, deeply impressed by Kristy’s unique designs. Back in the days when Kristy just started the brand, she could never think of her pieces being featured in Lauryn Hill’s, shows. When Lauryn’s publisher reached out to Kristy, she thought it was a prank, “It didn’t seem real”, she says.
Grabbing the opportunity, she says, “I grew up with Lauryn Hill music and she was my idol in my teenage youth.” In the front row seats of Lauryn’s sold-out show at Melbourne, Kristy shares the highlight of her career so far, her experience of meeting and dining Lauryn Hill. Enjoying the mesmerising tunes that helped carry Kristy through dark times, she finally sighs with relief and accomplishment, thinking of how she finally, has a voice.