Friday, 27 August 2010

Autumn/Winter 2010 Jewellery Fair Guide

With only a week to go before set-up day at IJL (International Jewellery London, a big trade fair I do each year at Earl’s Court), I am reminded that this marks the beginning of every jewellery designer’s busiest time of year. It’s nose to the grindstone from now until December.

Yes, it’s exhibition season again! If you’re a jewellery aficianado you’ll be gearing up for it now, planning who you’re going to see where, ogling the postcards you picked up at last year’s shows.

To help you on your way I've compiled a show listing. It’s only a short list of eleven fairs at the moment but the plan is for it to grow into a more comprehensive guide, so feel free to send in your suggestions. These are all selling exhibitions and are open to the public; some show exclusively jewellery and some encompass a wider range of crafts. Most are UK-based but I’ve included a couple of important ones not too far from our shores.

I’d advise checking websites for for further information such as admission prices and opening hours. I would also recommend bringing your chequebook along, as not everyone accepts credit cards!

Any suggestions or reviews would be greatly appreciated...

23 - 29 September 2010
Origin: The London Craft Fair
Old Spitalfields Market
London E1 6EW
(Contemporary craft)

Goldsmiths' Fair, London
27 September – 3 October, and
5 October – 10 October 2010
Goldsmiths’ Fair
Goldsmiths’ Hall
Foster Lane
London EC2
(Jewellery and silversmithing)

22 - 24 October 2010
Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair
Pavilion in Spinningfields
Hardman Boulevard
off Deansgate
Manchester M3 3AQ
(Contemporary craft)

4 - 7 November 2010
WesterGasfabriek, Amsterdam
(Jewellery and silversmithing)

6 November 2010 - 11 January 2011
Dazzle (London)
Olivier Foyer
National Theatre
South bank
London SE1 9PX

21 November 2010 - 2 January 2011
Dazzle (Manchester)
Manchester Town Hall
2 Albert Square
Manchester M60 2JT

26 - 28 November 2010
Cockpit Arts Open Studios (Holborn)
Cockpit Yard
Northington Street
London WC1N 2NP
(Contemporary craft)

26 - 28 November 2010
Winchester Guildhall
SO23 9GH
(Jewellery and silversmithing)

26 - 28 November 2010
Place Vendôme

26 - 28 November
Made In Clerkenwell
Craft Central
33-35 St John’s Square
London EC1M 4DS
21 Clerkenwell Green
London EC1R 0DX
(Contemporary craft)

3 - 5 December 2010
Cockpit Arts Open Studios (Deptford)
18-22 Creekside
London SE8 3DZ
(Contemporary craft)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Designers' Favourites

My favourite piece of jewellery that I own is a beautiful pair of oxidised silver earrings by the Norwegian artist Tone Vigeland. I love them because they’ve got everything that makes Vigeland’s jewellery so sublime: Movement, texture, sound, the satisfaction of one tiny element repeated dozens of times. I’d admired Vigeland’s work for years before buying these from Electrum Gallery, where I was working at the time, and had had the privilege of handling and ogling them for months before taking the plunge. When I finally did, I found it hard to believe that I now owned a piece by my favourite jewellery artist and biggest source of inspiration.

What about other jewellery designers? I asked a few what their favourite pieces of jewellery were and why. Their answers reveal an intriguing mixture of individual expression and sentimentality.

Tine de Ruysser chose a necklace (pictured), given to her by an uncle who’d bought it in Africa. “It already looked old and worn when I got it. (The bare patch of twine was smaller, but there were beads missing even then.) The beads are made from silver and have a wonderful patina. It is the only genuine object I was ever given by those family members that live in Cape Town. Even though it is old, and made from thin silver beads, it looks both contemporary and classical. (It makes me think of twenties pearl necklaces because it is fairly long.) And because of all of this, I actually wear it. Which is more than I can say of most of the jewellery I own.”

Barbara Clamp also favourited a necklace received as a gift, chosen by her husband for their anniversary. “It makes me feel special,” she says. “I wear it all the time as it reminds me of special times.”

Some chose pieces of their own making. Alexandra Simpson picked her engagement ring because “it is sentimental to me and I designed it, so it is an extension of me and my creativity. I also like the sparkle!” Sally Lees says of her own Etched Roses ring, “It was one of the first pieces of silver I etched and is my favourite as it is easy to wear and goes with everything!”

Amanda Doughty’s self-made wedding ring still bears the scars of its creation: “Although I made it myself, I especially asked a few of my jeweller friends to work on it for me to make it more meaningful.” There were a few technical hitches along the way, but, “That’s what makes it so special. To this day I can still see the tiny solder join!”

Lin Cheung chose a small badge made with 24ct gold leaf by Rory Hooper. “It's simple, pure, utilitarian and luxurious at the same time, unmistakably gold and was only £5 (at the time), just a perfect thing.”

The utilitarian luxury aesthetic is shared by Amanda Mansell: “There are two rings which I never take off. One is silver the other 18ct yellow gold. About 1.5mm wide with a texture. They are very simple, not very expensive, easy to wear, and don't get in the way which is important for me as someone who works with her hands!”

As soon as a piece of jewellery leaves the shop, gallery, or market stall, it takes on a life of its own, and will mean different things to different people. At its best, a piece can speak to one’s head and heart simultaneously. It can be a reminder of people, places, or times, while also speaking volumes about one’s personal aesthetic values and style. Probably the most successful pieces, though, are the ones that connect with a person on so many levels – individuality, sentimentality, practicality – that they are worn every day. These lucky pieces have found a soul mate in the person who wears them.

Friday, 6 August 2010

"Where do you get your ideas from?"

If I only had a dime for every time I’d answered this question (and a nickel for every time I found myself unable to give a satisfactory answer!)

For many contemporary jewellery designers, the inspiration is clearly defined: Nature, geometry, colour, irony... For me, I often don’t know what the inspiration is until I’ve finished making a piece.

I work best when I’m not looking for the next Big Idea. My best ideas have been those last-minute, seemingly arbitrary decisions that come after a hard day’s scribbling and soldering. In the run-up to my MA degree show at the Royal College of Art (way back in ‘01) I thought I’d discovered the most exciting new concept ever, a range of jewellery which was both geometric and organic. I’d taken the five Platonic Solids (my favourite being the dodecahedron) and recreated them in chain. In other words, I took these hard, geometric shapes and, by drawing their straight lines in a flexible chain, made them soft and organic. I was fascinated by the way they draped on the body, creating new and surprising shapes and curves. But after I’d made all my mock-ups using industrial chain from B&Q, it came time to make the final pieces out of gold.

But what should the chain itself look like? With only weeks to go, I grabbed whatever tools I could find – a disc cutter, some textured paper, a rolling mill, and spent perhaps two days playing with a few ideas, settling on a series of slightly wobbly-looking discs in different sizes and different colours of gold. (Admittedly, I had spent a lot of time the term before experimenting with gold alloys.) I connected the discs together to make the chain, and voila - the Angie Boothroyd style was born!

My graduation show work, and all my jewellery to follow in that precarious first year, was made up of these discs. I soon realised that it was something about these flattened pebble shapes, with their subtle texture and variations of colour, that really appealed to people. There’s not a huge demand for dodecahedral body pieces, but as simple necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, the disc system was a success!

Everything I’ve created since then has been an extension of this idea. I’ve varied the shapes and sizes, added curves here and there, and experimented with bringing colour into the mix by adding semiprecious stones. Essentially, though, the foundation for my career was laid in those hasty couple of days. (On a personal note, I might add that my life was in turmoil at the time and I was effectively homeless! Not the most conducive atmosphere to creative breakthroughs – or is it?)

With the benefit of hindsight, only now do I understand my inspiration. A graphic designer friend once said to me, “All good design has an element of contrast.” An art history teacher of mine put it another way, calling it “tension”. Not tension as in something that’s about to break, but something that causes the eye or the mind to bounce around a bit. At least that’s how I understood it.

In my jewellery, there are a couple of tensions. First, there is the contrast between order and randomness (always a favourite)! It always follows strict, symmetrical patterns, yet each individual component has slight variations which are not immediately detectible but nevertheless add a bit of humanity. The second tension is that of 2D vs 3D. I use very flat components, but these are then rounded or folded to add a third dimension, and when put on the body they really take shape – you could even say the 4th dimension of time then gets involved, with movement being a key feature to everything I do.

Now perhaps it is clear why I can never formulate a concise response to “Where do you get your ideas from?” Inspiration is something that is constantly bubbling away under the surface. I work hard to keep those creative juices on the boil, but I never know when the kettle’s going to blow its little whistle.

On that note, time for a cuppa. Thanks for reading, and do let me know if there are any topics you’d like to see covered in this blog!