Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Hidden Wonders

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Secret Garden Locket in gift box

A couple of months ago I delivered the final two Signature Pieces for the Knot Garden Collection. I’m extremely proud of both pieces – they took a long time to design and create – and I decided it was about time that I shared them here. In my humble opinion, they encapsulate the spirit behind this Collection.

The Knot Garden Collection is inspired by Shakespeare’s life, with the stunning patterns of the re-imagined knot garden at Shakespeare’s New Place being the focal point of each piece.

As part of my design development, I researched Elizabethan jewellery and accessories, including the Cheapside Hoard. My discoveries, alongside my review of Herbals from the Rare Books Collection in The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Archives, led to the design of these two lockets that embody the Elizabethan desire for fragrance and colour and their fascination with pomanders and boxes.

The Secret Garden Locket has a fretworked* version of the seal from a signet ring (thought to have belonged to William Shakespeare) on the front and opens to reveal a knot garden pattern inside, which has been plated in green gold.

The locket bears the inscription: “Thy curious-knotted garden” Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 1 Scene 1.

The Perfume Locket, a modern take on the Pomander**, features a knot pattern on the front and opens to reveal a specially commissioned solid perfume created by Katie Beswick. The perfume created for the piece has a rose scent:

“The key notes are rose otto and damask rose, with warm seductive amber, honey and animalistic propolis infused with poplar bud. It takes me to a place of heady love in a summer garden,” says Katie.

The locket bears the inscription: “A rose by any other word would smell as sweet”, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 1.

All pieces in the Collection are made in sterling silver and hallmarked. All except the stud earrings also feature the WS signet ring pattern alongside the hallmark.

* fretwork is a form of openwork. To see how it’s done and find out more about it, please click here.

** Pomanders and Vinaigrettes were used in the 16th and 17th Centuries to hold perfume or perfumed sponges, to ‘disseminate attractive scents around the wearer’ or to ward off disease.

The Secret Garden Locket is available to buy online here and the Perfume Locket is available here. Both pieces are also available, along with the rest of the Knot Garden Collection in the shop at Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford Upon Avon, England.

At my bench

The locket fronts are creating by saw-piercing the fretwork pattern and then soldering it to a solid piece of silver.

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Milestones

“But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.” 

Lady Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 7

The beginning of 2016 has been incredibly busy. I began the year with a trip up to Stratford Upon Avon and came back with a long list of things to do. Not that I’m complaining, busy is good. Busy is always best as far as I am concerned. However, it does feel rather good to have reached a major milestone this week, so I thought I would take the opportunity of a slight lull in the proceedings (call it procrastination if you must) to put some thoughts into writing.

In July, New Place, Shakespeare’s home in Stratford Upon Avon, will re-open to celebrate his life and work and the 400th Anniversary of his death. Plans for the site include a number of Artist Installations inspired by his plays, a recreation of his gardens and the outline of what is thought to have been his house, and a brand new Visitors’ Centre. You can read more about it here.

In May 2015, I was invited to design a jewellery collection for New Place and in January, after months of researching, designing and testing, a Collection of 27 pieces was agreed and I began working on the first set of samples for publicity and display.

Yesterday, I delivered 24 pieces of finished jewellery to the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office for hallmarking. The sense of achievement I felt at having finally reached my first milestone, was huge. But the process to reach this point was fraught with stress, self-doubt and quite a few injuries! Despite several cuts from my saw blade, stabbings from my files and burns from my torch, I succeeded in producing a set of pieces that make me very, very proud.

Being commissioned to create a Collection for an organisation like the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is scary, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s also a challenge and it’s been a brilliant way to push myself beyond my comfort zone. At times, my perfectionism nearly got the better of me and I was often plagued by self-doubt, wondering why I was putting myself through this agonising process – surely an office job would be better – but I did it and I’m glad I had the courage to persevere and see it through.

So as I contemplate the next milestone – finalising the designs for three Signature pieces, two of which promise to push me even further away from what I know – I look forward to embracing the difficult tasks ahead and to reaching the next stage in this exciting journey.

Expectation Whirls Me Round

“I am giddy: Expectation whirls me round.

Th’imaginary relish is so sweet

That it enchants my sense.”

Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene ii

This time last year I had just set up Shakespeare by Design and began sharing my story on this blog and in social media.

I had discovered my design inspiration, I had the beginnings of my first collection and many ideas for more. I officially became a designer of Shakespeare-inspired jewellery and began to explore, research, discuss, test, sketch and fretwork.

It’s been an incredibly exciting year, during which my trips up to Stratford upon Avon and forays into the world of social media have paid dividends. I launched my first collection – The Noble Fool – in October and was recently commissioned by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to create an exclusive collection for the re-opening of New Place.

As we embark on 2016, I’m excited to be putting my own interpretation on Shakespeare’s work during the year that marks the 400th Anniversary of his death. This year my Noble Fool Collection will move to the Gift Shop at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, my Stolen Kisses pendant will be featured in a book celebrating artworks inspired by Shakespeare, and my new collection will be launched. I also plan to develop my Words, Words, Words and A Midsummer Night’s Dream Collections.

But who knows what this year will bring? All I know is that I am incredibly lucky to be combining my two favourite things – jewellery and Shakespeare – and I look forward to sharing my journey with you in 2016 and beyond.

I wish you all a very happy, exciting and prosperous year.

Jane x

Pendant/brooch

Fretwork: An unhealthy obsession?

‘Stolen Kisses’ was part of my College requirement and so I had to follow a brief. Part of the brief was a requirement for geometric fretwork. Thus began my slightly unhealthy obsession with producing ornamental designs in silver with my piercing saw…

After a class on fretwork – how to design it; the importance of interconnecting sections (cut out too much and you could end up with more ‘gaping hole’ than ‘openwork’); selecting the bits to cut out and the bits to leave in place (positive and negative spaces); how to pierce out really tiny holes etc., I started experimenting.

In fact, I was so excited about fretwork, I ended up including three different kinds of fretwork in my final piece…that’s a lot of piercing and a lot of back ache!  So in ‘Stolen Kisses’, there is the silhouette of R&J, the fretwork quote around the edge and, for the geometric bit, a rose window pattern. Not only that, I actually then continued with fretwork for my second piece – ‘The Noble Fool’ – and have now begun working on a fretwork quote collection.

The art of fretworking:

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The design – in this case a quote from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ – is drawn out on paper.

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The design is transferred onto the metal and holes are drilled in the ‘negative spaces’. A saw blade is then fed through one hole at a time and secured in a saw frame.

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The holes are cut out one at a time with a piercing saw.

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Once the holes are cut out, the paper is removed and then the cleaning up starts.

Fretwork is a long and fiddly job. It’s complicated and challenging but the results are well worth the effort… and the back ache!

 

The thing that did it for me

I began looking at how Shakespeare could inform my jewellery designs when I was in the third year of my City & Guilds.  Up until that point I had felt a bit lost – I had no real problems making a piece of jewellery, in fact I was loving it; I just struggled with inspiration. Most of the jewellers I have met use nature or architecture for inspiration and this really works for many successful designers.  It just wasn’t doing it for me.

I’m not saying I don’t find architecture or nature inspiring, I do. I just don’t feel a burning desire to make jewellery from it. I was blown away by the architecture in Dubai, I completely adored the buildings in Italy – the Duomo in Milan literally took my breath away – and I’m quite partial to the odd bunch of peonies. But inspiration for my next jewellery collection? Nope.

So that got me thinking. I needed something to inspire me and take me through my third year and beyond. I needed to find that theme or focus that would help me to find my own personal language.

Then it hit me. Why did I have to confine my source of inspiration to objects, why not find inspiration in what I love? Why not start with concepts, ideas, words, feelings? I love the theatre and I particularly love going to see Shakespeare’s plays, so why couldn’t this be my starting point?

As I sit writing this, I’m on my way up to Stratford Upon Avon to spend three days in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Library and Archive, the Shakespeare Institute and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I’ll be drawing inspiration from my surroundings, from a trip to the Theatre and from the many, many books, photographs, production records and studies of Shakespeare’s plays in performance.

When I get home, the hard work begins…turning this inspiration into jewellery. I can’t wait!

Photo taken by me

The Duomo, Milan. Both photos taken by me in August 2013

Thoughts on Hamlet

“The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.”

Hamlet Act 1, scene 5

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Hamlet is thrown into a situation that is alien to him. He is studious, bookish (perhaps a little introverted), definitely thoughtful and possibly a bit self-absorbed and yet he finds himself tasked with revenging his father’s murder. Does he go mad in response to the pressure of this onerous responsibility and the truth he has discovered, or is there ‘method in it’? What is real and what is not what it seems?

Themes, concepts, images, atmosphere…Design development – taking the first small steps.

Into the unknown – research begins

‘The Noble Fool’ Touchstone pendant and Touchflower in sterling silver and gold.

‘The Noble Fool’ Touchstone pendant and Touchflower in sterling silver and gold.

When I began my research for ‘The Noble Fool’, I chose As You Like It because it was one of my favourite plays. It’s a play I have been in twice and seen on stage five times (three of which were at the Royal Shakespeare Company).  It’s a popular play, with interesting characters and settings and a richness of themes.  I have never seen it staged the same way twice and it lends itself to a variety of interpretations.

Starting out, I was particularly interested in the character of Touchstone, the fool; the character of Rosalind who disguises herself as a man for the majority of the play; the contrast between the beginning of the play in court and the remainder of the play which takes place in the Forest of Arden; Orlando’s love for Rosalind; and his idea to pin poetry to the trees in the Forest.

It’s amazing to look back now at my starting point, the beginning of a journey that took me more than four months to complete. In design, where you start is very rarely an indication of where you will end up and I could never have envisaged my final piece when I set out on this project.

The thing that excites me most though, is that I can revisit my starting point again and again and never end up with the same result. So now that ‘The Noble Fool’ is finished, the question is, where shall I go next with this play?

Currently, I have no answer, but if I do, I’ll let you know…