Artist's Statements: Harvey Nichols and Nike to Daisy Lowe and Uma Thurman designers

| 25 November 2013

Artist's Statements: Seven of London's most exciting contemporary jewellery designers at the Museum of London

A photo of a male artist staring into the camera while holding a circular piece of silver
© Jordan Askill
Jordan Askill is an award-winning Sydney fashion designer with a passion for sculpture and a tendency to dabble in film. His work includes collections for Harvey Nichols in London and Colette in Paris...

“I’ve always collected small objects and jewellery and tried to alter the perception of what they were.

It was when I left Dior that I realised I wanted to create small personal sculptures that you take around with you. This led me to start my own label.

I always liked the idea of pieces connecting to the body. I was attracted to the idea of poetic reflection in fashion, but the idea of creating poetry that was a rigid 3D object was limited in clothing design. I found that it was an aspect I could use in my sculpture and jewellery.

I am inspired by the idea of movement and travelling towards a goal. It’s an idea – the idea that this could be infinite.

I find an object or an idea that resonates with me. Then I build up the sculpture and world from that. I then design the pieces of jewellery as though they were characters in this world.

My jewellery is influenced by the places and people I love. Also, the space and geography between Sydney and London influences my work."

A photo of a female artist sitting in a studio laughing in front of a bookshelf
© Museum of London
Imogen Belfield is a jewellery sculptor who has found favour with Georgia May Jagger, Uma Thurman, Cindy Crawford and Alexander McQueen. She was one of ten designers picked for the British Fashion Council’s Rock Vault next year...

“I was always interested in creating three-dimensional form on a big scale, whether it was carving plaster or moulding things out of wax and papier-mâché and other materials.

When I did my Foundation course, I was thinking about how I could turn sculptures into pieces for the body but still retain the sculptural element.

After doing silversmithing and jewellery courses in my village, I was sure that I wanted to do metalwork. Jewellery was the natural progression.

I was always surrounded by art and from a very young age I’d be drawing or making for hours. I grew up in the countryside, surrounded by nature and always having seaside holidays in Cornwall.

Going into Hatton Garden for the first time is really daunting. It is very traditional and you’re usually talking to the son of the great-grandfather who set up the business.

It takes a few visits for them to take you seriously – not because I’m a girl, but because they see you as a student. It is the best way to start building up relationships and I’m still using the same people that I was at university.

I absolutely love London; I can’t imagine living anywhere else right now. I feed off the buzz and the hecticness of everything.

I love where I grew up – idyllic countryside – but it’s now a place to relax, not to work. I’d feel too isolated there.

For me, it’s all about throwing yourself into the melting pot of madness.”

A photo of a female jewellery artist working on a small sculpted forest wearing gloves
© Museum of London
Rachel Boston graduated in Jewellery Design from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design and continued to study at the Gemological Institute of America in New York. Her signature aesthetic finds inspiration from nature, contemporary culture and high fashion...

“My dad’s a diamond broker so I was surrounded by jewellery books at home and we’d travel a lot because most of his work was in India – I love Indian jewellery.

In the holidays I’d work for him: I’d do little designs and ask him, ‘can you make something like this?’ Nothing ever got made, but I continued designing anyway.

Jewellery making hasn’t really changed. The only really modern things in jewellery are things like CAD [XYZ], which I don’t use, so everything I do incorporates the same techniques that have been used for centuries.

The main part of what I do is lost-wax casting, which goes back to the Aztecs. I’ve just always been drawn to the aesthetic of nature and to the reasons why animals do the things they do or why we respond to insects in the way that we do.

There is something talismanic about animals, especially the ones that I’m drawn to, which are always the ones that aren’t pretty; they have something more to them.

For me, it is an incredible honour to be included in the exhibition. I only graduated two years ago, so to be included with these accomplished and talented designers is an absolute privilege.

It's also very special to me because as a child my parents would take me so often to visit the Museum of London so to have my work displayed there is very surreal.”

A photo of a male artist with long hair and a beard working on jewellery in a workshop
© Museum of London
Duffy is an East London atelier with a first-class degree in silver and goldsmithing. She has collaborated with Carharrt and Nike – Erin O’Connor, Daisy Lowe and Dinos Chapman are fans.

“My grandmother was always immaculately presented with a set of pearls and a huge brooch. She wouldn’t leave the house without make-up or earrings. That carried through to my mum, who also wore a lot of jewellery.

In the beginning, when I was first working on commission, I did what I was told. I was providing a service. Until you’ve developed a body of work and a style that people will come to you for, they’ve just come to you as a jewellery craftsperson, to fulfil their requirement.

Gradually people came to me for my style and then part of the fun is with working with people. It’s always different, but sometimes it’s nice to have parameters.

When someone says, ‘do whatever you want,’ it’s almost impossible. It could be anything then and your mind goes crazy.

I tend to just think a lot, and not sleep a lot because of it. I’ve always had an active mind: I can stare at the ceiling just thinking about things.

We take in a lot every day, even just flicking through a book, you take in so much. Just scanning through a magazine: 150 images going through your head without even realising it. It’s all in there somewhere.

Some pieces are entirely in my head. For others I have a starting point, and I try things out – if mistakes happen, they happen and I just go with it.

I work until I’m happy with the piece, or happy enough. I’m never 100% happy with a piece of work.”

A photo of a male artist sitting inside his studio of jewellery and designs while laughing
© Museum of London
German-born Husam El Odeh studied fine art in Berlin before relocating to London in 1999. A repeated award-winner, he was worked with Topshop, Pringle and Kickers, winning adulation from Karl Lagerfeld and Rihanna.

“I studied fine art and attended jewellery workshops – not very often, but I remember thinking ‘wow, I can do this’.

The material just felt right, something I parked at the back of my mind. My fine art work was always very body-related so it felt like a natural transition.

I was also realising that jewellery is possibly most similar to fine art in its uselessness. I say useless in a most respectful way. Uselessness is a skill that’s almost been forgotten.

Narrative is a very natural thing with jewellery. I think I invite that in a lot. A lot of pieces I make start with something I’ve found in the street or that somehow ended up in my studio.

I don’t think much about the starting point, I just let it happen and the thinking comes afterwards, or during the process of working it.

If you look at my biography, there’s no denying that it’s heavily fashion. But with anything there should be a body and soul that is not easily changed from season to season.

I sometimes pull out things I’ve done before without anybody noticing and suddenly everybody seems to pick up on them.

What I love about fashion that it has sides that are not meaningless, not superficial, like people expressing themselves, which they do with jewellery as well. Jewellery has the advantage of appearing more timeless which I like.

I find it hard to imagine working anywhere but London. I try out that thought every now and then to see if I’m ready, but I don’t think I am.

I started as a jeweller in London, and a lot of the chaos and juxtaposition and how London is has flowed into my work.

It’s very substantially rooted in London. I refer to it a lot, directly and indirectly.”

A photo of a female artist sitting on a chair inside her studio
© Museum of London
Noemi Klein is originally from the West German countryside, but began working as a jeweller in east London during the early 2000s. Sh efirst started designing and working in metal after being given a cast off piece of machinery by her dentist father.
“I’ve always been interested in miniature, the aspect of making something that’s real but small.

The collection I’m working on now is about making flowers as real as possible: it’s a technical challenge. Parallel to that, there’s an interest in shapes, the way that certain things go together.

The other thing is the process of making. There’s a random element in it where you set out to do something and then you find something else in the process.

Maybe there’s an element of aesthetic sensitivity – liking the Cure and being ‘emo’. I suppose as you get older there’s more of a rational element. And those two things are then in dialogue with each other.

So I like the certain dark, sad things, with something that’s quite considered. And there always seems to be a little bit of a fantasy element.

Reality and fantasy are completely mixed. I was just looking at HR Giger, whose work I love and also think is absolutely gross. He deliberately goes into this slightly kitsch area and I admire him for it.

I have veered towards fantasy, and then I’ve pulled myself back, and tried to inject some sort of stark sensitivity. Otherwise I would be away with the fairies, and there would be angel wings and whatever.

So I think there is a point, I can always feel it when I’ve made something where I've gone a bit far. I can’t pinpoint where that is, but I can definitely sense it when I'm being too literally fantastical.

London is a prominent presence in my design process as well as professional practice as a jeweller. Drawing on the challenges and privileges of living in the metropolis, I come up with imagery that exists because or in spite of the city.

I think it's a nice way to highlight the diverse approaches amongst people working in the discipline today while at the same time paying homage to tradition and craftsmanship, showing that jewellery making as a practice and profession holds a special position in London, just like it has done for a long time.”

A photo of a female artist working with wood and metal inside her studio workshop
© Museum of London
Frances Wadsworth-Jones makes jewellery with “a little tomfoolery”. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2008, the award-winning London-based designer has made a name for herself with her thoughtful and quietly provocative style – injecting fine jewellery with wit, irreverence and exquisite detail.

“I applied for Fine Art in Edinburgh. I didn’t get in and I ended up doing a foundation degree at Wimbledon School of Art. I’d done a jewellery course in school and already knew I liked it.

Within design you have parameters. With jewellery that is wearability and a certain scale, which really appeals to me, as well as an intimacy, because you are creating something that goes close to the body.

I also love to make, so craftsmanship played another big part. I applied to study jewellery in Glasgow and as soon as I started soldering that was it.

I think all the work that I’ve ever made fits in a Tupperware box. Things I make tend to be delicate and fine. There is an intensity about smaller objects and also something really seductive about detail that draws people in.

Often my pieces are about double takes. Something looks normal at first but then you come closer and it’s able to have a double life because it is so small.

I want laughter to be a catalyst for other things. I want to make objects that people think about, because I’ve surprised them.

The first reaction is a laugh and then maybe afterwards they’re walking along and they see some bird crap and are like ‘oh yeah, okay’. So it’s slightly changing the way that people look at things. That sounds very grand.

I loved being in Glasgow but I was born in London, I’m a Londoner so I feel a connection to London. When I walk I look at the floor all the time, so a lot of my inspiration comes from what has been discarded.

I realise this is probably true for most of my work. The Heaven Sent pieces, the brooches, are a very London thing. They came from my journeys to college – I know that birds in Ealing do particularly good ones. There must be some good berries.

Having been born and raised here, London is an intrinsic part of how I see things, how I think about things and, ultimately, how I make things. This is probably most apparent in the Heaven Sent Collection, which is inspired by London’s pigeons, making it my unusual love letter to the city.”

  • Made In London: Jewellery Now is at the Museum of London until April 27 2014.

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