Linda Hughes at her studio in Macleod.

Linda Hughes at her studio in Macleod. Photo: Roger Cummins

WE ARE looking at a photograph of an unremarkable street in Birmingham and Linda Hughes is pointing out the crooked marker post amid a row of perfectly straight ones. She can speak at length about this picture - what might have happened to the bent post, the colours of its stripes.

She's got hundreds of snaps of similar scenes and even yesterday stopped her car to jump out and photograph road works. It was about eight years ago, she says, that she ''discovered'' her subject was street signage.

She had been to art school in Britain years earlier, dropped out when she fell in love, had children and then moved to Australia in the early 1980s. After a stint studying sculpture with Matcham Skipper at Montsalvat in the mid-'90s, Hughes began a sculpture course at RMIT before transferring to gold and silversmithing.

So it's been quite a journey to get to this language-of-the-street stage. She has got a few street signs in her studio - a small and tidy room at the front of her Macleod home - but there is a poetry to her jewellery that is quite removed from the signs.

Working in laminate, Hughes pieces her brooches and necklaces together like parquetry flooring. She saws, files and polishes the edges as if she were working in a precious metal, and achieves an eye-catching three-dimensional quality, no matter that the pieces - largely in red, black and white - are essentially flat.

Quiet and homely though Hughes's studio feels, and modest as she is, she has acquired quite a following. Her jewellery has been collected by the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Powerhouse Museum and France's Museum of Decorative Arts. A New York gallery has been selling her work for five years.

A couple of years ago she tentatively approached the avant-garde Galerie Ra in Amsterdam. The director Paul Derrez not only immediately agreed to represent her but acquired one of her necklaces for his personal collection.

Hughes had a serious car accident 18 months ago, with a resulting back injury forcing her to slow down in the studio. But she is still relishing transferring the signs and language of the street on to the body.

''I am trying to make a statement with an economy of material and motifs,'' she says. ''If I go into a cafe wearing one of my brooches I get the attention that the signage does on the street. You have to be quite a confident wearer.''

Linda Hughes's Metonymy - Look Both Ways runs until June 12 at Craft Victoria, 31 Flinders Lane, city.