Manifest: celebrating 40 years of the Designer Jewellers Group

Incredible as it seems, the Designer Jewellers Group (DJG) which I belong to is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year! Originating as an offshoot of the Society of Designer Craftsmen, which was itself founded by William Morris (amongst others) in 1887, the DJG has great heritage.

I’m told that in 1975 when it started there were few outlets for contemporary jewellery. The DJG set out to change this, promoting the best of studio jewellery to the public. The group’s first exhibition was in Goldsmiths’ Hall in 1977. We’ve continued to have strong links with the Goldsmiths’ Company as many of us have exhibited at Goldsmiths’ Fair, and in 1994 the group held a retrospective exhibition at The Hall. In addition the group has exhibited at venues including the Design Centre, Liberty, Harvey Nichols, a number of galleries, shops, fairs and public arts centres across the country, as well as in Japan, Dubai and the USA.

We’ve been exhibiting at the Barbican Centre in London since 1984, and now exhibit there twice a year. Each year (since 1996) we visit the New Designers exhibition to select six of the best new graduates to join us for our winter show. This scheme aims to give the chosen designers not just an opportunity to exhibit and sell their work in a top venue, but also to gain skills and contacts through participating in the running of the show, alongside regular members.

I was selected as a New Designer in 2007 through this scheme, and like many other New Designers went on to become a full member of the group. What I like about it – apart from the obvious opportunity to exhibit at the Barbican, which I love – is that it’s great to be a member of a team. As craftspeople we so often work alone, and being a member of the group gives me colleagues and a peer group, as well as the chance to contribute towards making something better for all of us. We have no paid staff, and members of the group all have to take responsibility and pitch in to make things happen: that’s great.

So I’m glad to be joining the others in ‘Manifest‘, an exhibition to celebrate our fortieth anniversary. For this we were each invited to design and make one piece of jewellery for the hand. I chose to make a ring, others also chose bangles, cufflinks, bracelets, cuffs and a hand flower or Haathphool.

The resulting exhibition will be touring. It’s first venue is the Waterperry Gallery in Oxford. Other venues this year will include The New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham, and the Craft and Design Centre in Leeds.

I’ve included images of a few pieces from the exhibition in this blog post. You can see more of the pieces on the DJG website, and in due course I’ll also write more about my piece and how I designed it. But best of all would be to see the show and associated pieces of jewellery live:

Manifest will be open daily from 16th July – 16th August in the Gallery at Waterperry Gardens, Near Wheatley, Oxford OX33 1JZ.

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