Tag Archives: sterling silver

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.

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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!

 

Pendant/brooch

It was a Kiss that got me started

‘Stolen Kisses’ began with an examination of the idea of star-crossed lovers, focusing on Romeo and Juliet.

However, it was the breathtakingly beautiful on-screen kiss between Rhett and Scarlett in Gone with the Wind that really inspired me.  And to be honest, it wasn’t difficult to find other examples of lovers kissing; Robert Doisneau’s Le Baiser de L’Hotel de Ville has been on my wall for 25 years and there are some fabulous examples of kisses in art and media.  I loved the paintings by Gustav Klimt and Francesco Hayez and Rodin’s sculpture is mesmerising.

There are also some lovely paintings of Romeo and Juliet, including my favourite by Frank Dicksee, but whilst all of these images are beautiful and romantic I wondered how I could achieve a comparable ‘feel’ in a hard, cold metal.

Fortunately, my research brought me to a stunning statue in New York City’s Central Park. The statue of Romeo and Juliet by Milton Hebald is situated outside the Delacorte Theatre. There is so much romance, passion and love in that kiss, it’s truly inspirational and it was the ideal focal point for my piece.

Statue in Central Park became a fretwork silhouette on my final piece

Statue in Central Park became a fretwork silhouette on my final piece

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…