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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New Designers 2014

Nearly forgot to share this blog post I wrote for the Designer Jewellers Group about our visit to New Designers 2014 and the wonderful new makers we selected to join us at the Barbican Centre this winter! Looking forward to exhibiting with Mirka Janeckova, Sheila Roussel, Jelka Quintelier, Harriet Knight, Mireia Rossel, and Esme Parsons.

But rather than just leaving it there: a mention for some of the other great artists and makers we found.

I loved these stitched images of kitchen equipment, by textile artist Cathy MacTaggart. Each was machine embroidered onto a series of jam pot covers, in memory of her mother.

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Top Jupp made covetable ceramics: I particularly loved his porcelain lampshades.

This year we visited the Royal College of Art’s graduation show as well as New Designers. An Alleweireldt and I had fun with Youjin Nam‘s series of pieces ‘Mirror Mirror on the Wall’. We progressed from selfies, to taking photos of each other, to taking photos of each other wearing the same piece at the same time! Great fun, but unfortunately not quite right for our cabinets at the Barbican!

 

Collect 2014

Yesterday I visited Collect 2014, the International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects run by the Crafts Council at the Saatchi Gallery. Visiting Collect was a priority for me this year: now that I live in the country it’s easy to feel out of touch with the cutting edge, and Collect surely represents that as far as contemporary craft goes.

I wasn’t disappointed. Right inside the door was the Bishopsland stand, and it was great to immediately see the work of two of our Designer Jewellers Group New Designers: Nan Nan Liu and Kathryn Hinton. I was also wowed by the amazing gold jewellery by Jacqueline Mina, which was simply stunning.

The Dutch jewellery galleries always have great work, and what caught my eye this time was the way that Iris Bodema had displayed a series of brooches. Each was mounted on a piece of white painted hardboard with – I guess you’d call it mark making rather than drawings – on it. Apparently purchasers get a pair of boards with each brooch: they really are works of art. I was persuaded to try on a brooch, which was actually very nice on: cotton and semi-precious stones. As one of the things I like best about Collect is the people watching I rather liked this picture showing the lively crowds!

In the next room ceramics by Pippin Drysdale sung out: it was luminous. I also loved the wooden jewellery by Flora Vagi. Several jewellers used wood but Flora’s was a bit different and beautifully crafted.

The Design Flanders stand had some great work, especially by An Alleweireldt, one of my colleagues in the Designer Jewellers Group. Her stand was particularly busy, and customers were obviously drawn to a gold ring which the Crafts Council had featured on their website. I also loved the fluid gold necklaces by Jeanne Opgenhaffen and ceramic wall pieces by Ria Lins.

Kazumi Nagano

Kazumi Nagano

Another piece I found totally captivating was this bangle by Kazumi Nagano. It was woven from fine gold wires and nylon threads. Amazingly light, flexible and shimmering in the light: it really was quite wonderful.

A couple of laser cut pieces caught my eye: some steel jewellery that was just like insects wings and incredibly beautiful and delicate, and also a vessel of laser cut metal that had been gold-leafed and hand-raised. Unfortunately it was displayed on wood and so the photo cannot do it justice, and I realised later that the maker’s name doesn’t appear anywhere, hence the name of the gallery only.

Another DJG New Designer, Mariko Sumioka, and DJG guest exhibitor Jessica Turrell were also exhibiting their new work, which was great to see.

As I love lines, I was drawn to the very graphic work of Armel Barraud, who used traditional lace-making techniques to create wire pictures. Virginie Rochetti’s computer aided embroidery was fascinating in many ways. Her hand drawn sketches are either taken into the computer or drawn directly on the computer, and then the embroidery is stitched by machine. I didn’t know it was possible: not on this scale anyway. Quite incredible.

Anyway, coming back down to earth – because a lot of the work in Collect is quite rarified – I could see Sasha Wardell’s simple, elegant ceramic lampshades in my home: they’re on the wish list. I loved the mixture of old and new architecture in the gallery itself: the shapes, colours, and light. And finally, with my senses heightened, even the steps in the tube station looked beautiful!

Link

This is the time of the year when we head off to New Designers to select six great new jewellers. We’ll be offering them the chance to exhibit with us in our show at the Barbican this winter… a great opportunity. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it for the Designer Jewellers Group website.

A particularly good thing about the timing of New Designers this year is that it co-incides with our summer show at the Barbican, so our chosen six can get along to check it out. Hope they like it!

And that’s my new ‘Deluge’ necklace on the summer show flier, by the way!

Filipa Oliveira

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It’s always good to see a new take on an old tradition, and that’s exactly what Filipa Oliveira does. I first came across her work in the New Designers exhibition in London last summer, when she’d just been awarded with the Goldsmiths’ Company’s award for jewellery: quite an honour.

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It was no wonder Filipa had such a crowd around her: this is unusual work, and a great updating of an age-old technique. During her studies Philipa explored the ancient technique of filigree, which is associated with different peoples and cultures at different times and in many countries. Having begun her career in her native Portugal, Filipa took her degree in Jewellery and Metal Design in Dundee.

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Making repeated tiny forms and often incorporating gemstones, Philipa constructs beautifully intricate cell-like patterns: her jewellery almost seems to unfold.

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You can see (and buy) more of Filipa’s work at the Barbican, open again now until 6th January, or on her website or facebook page.

Kathryn Hinton

Today I received the loveliest package: some jewellery by Kathryn Hinton. Unfortunately it’s not for me – I’m taking it in to the Barbican in London tomorrow, to supplement Kathryn’s fast dwindling collection there.

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This jewellery is amazing not just in the end result, but also in it’s method of production. You can see Kathryn in the picture above, and what she’s doing is using a digital hammer to form the shapes of her jewellery: you can see the piece she’s working on on the screen in front of her. 

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The result of this stage is a digital file, as you can see in the image of the ring above. I haven’t discussed the next stages with Kathryn, but I’m imaging the digital file is printed out in wax, which is then cast in metal.

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The end product is a silver version of the digital image, which Kathryn then finishes by hand. Pretty incredible really, and the end results are beautiful: facets which catch the light, glimmering gently. Subtle and understated, elegant and sophisticated. Deceptively simple: I love them!

See more of Kathryn’s jewellery and silversmithing on her website or pop along to the DJG pop-up shop in the Barbican now until 6th January to buy some. 

Kathryn developed her work at the Royal College of Art, and currently also has a piece in the Crafts Council’s Power of Making exhibition at the V&A.

Mariko Sumioka

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No contemporary jewellery lover can have failed to see this striking image of Mariko wearing one of her brooches: it’s been one of The images of the season. Born and educated in Japan, Mariko came to the UK in 2009 to study jewellery and silversmithing in Edinburgh. The photo was taken by Agnieszka Tarnowska, who also studied in Edinburgh, and is as stunning as Mariko’s jewellery.

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Anyone who has been to Japan will immediately recognise the source of Mariko’s inspiration for this collection. It instantly transports me back to Kyoto, with it’s bamboo, temples, and tiles. It’s definitely worth checking out Mariko’s website for some of her photos, sketches and collages – they’re just so evocative. 

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Mariko’s palette includes bamboo, textiles, and metal which she often enamels or patinates, creating a ‘wabi sabi’ aesthetic which I love. This jewellery is adventurous in form: catwalk necklaces, asymetrical earrings, and big brooches. All one-off pieces make this very collectable jewellery, but also very wearable. This is real creativity, and I look forward to seeing how Mariko’s work develops.

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I took this image of Mariko and some of her jewellery at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair this autumn – beautifully displayed – this is the art of placement! Right now Mariko’s work is available in the DJG pop-up shop in the Barbican, London. There’s more information about her processes on her blog, and her news on her facebook page.