The Guild of Jewellery Designers

Offering Support and Newtworking for Jewellery Designer/Makers

Miki AsaiThe New Designers showcase was unveiled once again on Wednesday afternoon at the expansive Business Design Centre in Islington. New Designers is the definitive exhibition of UK graduate work in the creative arts and this year’s edition is even more diverse and vibrant, boasting work in an impressive range of materials, styles and structures.

When I first began reviewing this show in 2011, few students had their own websites or had considered taking the mental leap from having created their own collection as a student to becoming a fully-fledged retail/wholesale jeweller. Gradually over the past few years a more mature and consumer savvy awareness amongst students has developed, with all but a few having their own website and students already offering collections made with eco-friendly and upcycled materials.

Trends that appeared across the show included:

- Judicious use of magnets as part of the design, mainly used in clasps and for interchangeable design elements. It may sound a tad ‘do-it-yourself’, but they are flush set and thoughtfully integrated into the design
- Interactive jewellery – play pieces designed with the purpose of re-igniting the inner child and providing a way to pass time the old-fashioned way (See Yue Tong from Birmingham School of Jewellery) as well as more grown up kinetic pieces and jewellery designed to be easily customised by the wearer (Alicia Banton, Mara Balode)
- A real innovation with materials, purposing everyday things such as thread, eggshell, paint and plaster in new and beautiful ways
- Including fully soldered chainmaille as a design element to create fluidity and movement.

My own personal highlights from the jewellery and metalwork section include:

Abbie Owen-Thomas (Birmingham School of Jewellery)

Abbie’s oversized chains with enamelled components are flawlessly balanced, the hues of enamel, the finish and the balance of shape and size are all just perfect. It was interesting to speak with Abbie and learn that her education has also covered photography and textiles; perhaps there is something to be said of a multi-disciplinary approach.

Lydia Blackshaw (Glasgow School of Art)

Lydia’s work falls in to the category of jewellery that is eyepopping. She uses acrylic paint, acrylic sheet and hand constructed silver components to, quite literally, make ‘wearable art’. Her original brushstrokes are applied to acrylic sheet that she then either rivets or uses strong magnets to attach to silver constructs. The results are bright, beautifully finished and surprisingly grown-up.

 

Mara Balode (Glasgow School of Art)

Mara uses laser cutting and etching to create thousands of delicately embellished acrylic squares that she then hand-drills both horizontally and vertically. Next, the squares are strung in various arrangements to form neckpieces that are both mesmerising and customisable.

 

Yi Feng (Birmingham School of Jewellery)

Yi’s passion is Mokume Gane, which he has explored to stunning effect and pushed beyond its usual shapes. He has even attempted to recreate a Picasso painting using the technique and I think he has succeeded!

Miki Asai (Glasgow School of Art)

Miki’s interest in finding beauty in imperfection and impermanence has fuelled her creativity to produce a most sublime collection of objet brooches. Constructed from paper and then ‘mosaiced’ with various media such as tiny mother of pearl squares and eggshell, the pieces appear exquisitely precious whilst being light in weight and surprisingly robust.

Josephine Gomersall (Sheffield Hallum)

After studying textiles and pattern design, Josephine embarked upon a design MA specialising in jewellery and metalwork. Inspired by the fragility and impermanence of nature, she aims to create visual memories or ‘fossils’ of fleeting moments in the life of a botanical organism. Her pieces are little treasures which when viewed as a whole, show a multi-faceted collection that has been crafted with tenderness.

Alexandra Myles (Glasgow School of Art)

Alexandra has a definite style which she has applied to various metal objects including jewellery, spoons and daggers! A meticulous craftsperson, she employs a mixture of casting and hand soldering to form her unique and highly stylised pieces, which include sections of chainmaille for added interest.

Yi Cao (Edinburgh College of Art)

Yi was displaying an impressive body of work at New Designers this year. Her jewellery is constructed from one continuous length of flat wire which she then curls and hand solders to create a lacy mesh and goes on to use this for a variety of shaped jewellery pieces. Yi has made large catwalk pieces like her Elizabethan-esque neck ruff, as well as smaller more wearable pieces.

Alicia Banton (Rochester UCA)

Alicia’s work is subtle and classic, whilst being such a lot of fun! Some of her earrings come in two parts which look different according to which way you hold them up and you can hook and unhook the elements to create different configurations (four in all, I think). Other of her pieces have sliding rings that either ‘squish’ the design into a flower bud shape or allow it to blossom out and are also cleverly constructed to work as a neckpiece as well as a tiara. The possibilities are endless and Alicia’s enthusiasm is infectious!

Roberta Lee (Edinburgh College of Art)

Roberta used the flowing movements of dancers as an inspiration for her energetic and funky jewellery. Lines were sketched, metal was curved and soldered and then brightly dyed threads were wound around and around the metal frames to produce this collection of bold, easy to wear neckpieces and earrings. A relatively simple process for stunning results.

Danielle Laurent (Birmingham School of Jewellery)

Danielle’s iconic work taps into the past for inspiration with plush tactile velvet gems and Baroque shapes, whilst looking to the future by ensuring that her manufacturing process and materials are eco-friendly.

OYO

It was great to visit the One-Year-On section and see some familiar faces! Sinead Cooke, Rachel Codd and Mamm+Myrgh (all mentioned in previous years) had succeeded in making it into OYO this year and it was lovely to see how they had really pushed hard and developed their collections.

As in previous years, the GoJD will be awarding three free Gold Memberships to the jewellery graduates who have shown the most innovation, imagination, craftsmanship and commercial awareness. We are especially looking for jewellers who are planning to embark upon self-employment straight away as we hope that the mixture of PPL insurance and extensive supplier discounts that comes with GoJD Gold Membership will be a help to them in their first year as a fully fledged jeweller.

Winners to be announced soon.

Jayne Coulson

44 Hockley Street

Hockley

Birmingham

B18 6BH

Tel: +44 (0)121 507 0994