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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Victoria Walker: inspired by movement and nature

We actually spotted (and loved) Victoria Walker‘s work at New Designers 2009, and so we were delighted to find her again in the ‘One Year On’ section in this year’s show. There was no doubt in our minds that she’d make a great exhibitor at the Barbican this year.

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This photo of Victoria exhibiting at Hidden Art in Cornwall this summer show how exceptionally mature her work is for someone who graduated so recently: just like her fantastic stand, her work is amazing, with incredible attention to detail.

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Fascinated by movement and natural forms, Victoria’s jewellery often has moving parts, as you can see in this beautiful sterling silver and 18ct gold Daisy Locket.

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This ‘Fly Away’ pendant illustrates her idea that ‘sometimes the most beautiful or precious elements are hidden beneath the surface’: a diamond is nestled between the wings.

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Having already exhibited at the Contemporary Craft Fair at Bovey Tracey and won a bursary from The Goldsmiths’ Company for her mechanical locket designs, Victoria is already clearly having great success in her career.

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But to really appreciate the quality of her work you do need to see it and handle it, which you can do now at the DJG pop-up shop Barbican, London every day until 23rd December, and then again from 27th December – 5th January.

Hiroshi Suzuki: silver waves

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I’ve never seen so many beautiful silver vessels in one place as in Goldsmiths’ Hall this evening. I’ve always loved Hiroshi Suzuki’s flowing, fluid style, and it was fascinating to learn a bit more about it.

Hearing Hiroshi talk was a real treat too. What I hadn’t twigged was that the ‘Aqua Posey’ range which I have long admired is inspired by water, but there are also other pots based on fire, earth, and air.

Knowing their origins, these other vessels now make visual sense, and it helps to see ‘Aqua Posey’ in context as a snapshot in the development and range of a major artist talent.

Quite amazing. The exhibition is free, and continues till 6th March.