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!

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