Tag Archives: Stratford Upon Avon

“Thy curious-knotted garden”

Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 1 Scene 1

My second Shakespeare by Design Collection has just gone on sale in the Gift Shop at the newly re-opened Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford Upon Avon.

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

Herbals from the Rare Books Collection in The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Archives provided an insight into the gardens of Shakespeare’s England and the importance of fragrance and colour in the creation of the Elizabethan knot garden. Knot patterns were prevalent as design motifs in the jewellery of the time, as was the use of hollow forms, openwork and buttons.

These styles and techniques influenced the creative process behind this Collection, which brings together elements of historical research with theories about Shakespeare’s life in a range of handcrafted, contemporary silver jewellery.

The main pieces in the Collection are a series of buttons and hollow pieces featuring fretwork in each of the four patterns from the newly planted knot garden in the grounds of New Place.

You can view a gallery of the main pieces in the Collection by clicking here.

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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

‘Thou she be but little, she is fierce’

I’ve been visiting Stratford Upon Avon and the surrounding area regularly for quite a few years now and although the main purpose of our visits are most often Shakespeare-related, we realised this week that we have never really done anything ‘touristy’ in town.

It’s ironic to think that with such a love of Shakespeare and the theatre, we hadn’t actually explored Shakespeare’s houses for example; well I had, but it was in 1983 I think, so it probably doesn’t count. In fact, over the past year, I’ve been up to Stratford even more frequently for my research and I have spent many hours in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Library and Archive and The Shakespeare Institute, but I still haven’t ventured any further…

Two of the very talented actors in the garden of Shakespeare's Birthplace performing a scene from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in a less than summery, chilly wind.

Two of the very talented actors in the garden of Shakespeare’s Birthplace performing a scene from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in a less than summery, chilly wind.

So, this week as we drove up from Hertfordshire for a few days we decided it was about time we did. We did the Stratford Town Walk, visited the Church where Shakespeare was christened and buried, took in some non-RSC theatre, visited the Birthplace and, well obviously we went to the RST to see the unmissable ‘Death of a Salesman’, but that was planned a while ago.

The Stratford Town Walk was fascinating and extremely enlightening. John, our guide was very knowledgeable and had some great little anecdotes. I was surprised to discover that many councils around the UK, and indeed many countries, have donated lampposts to the town. In all my wanderings, I’d never noticed the lamppost outside The Swan Theatre that was donated by Israel and features an owl, Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof (an interesting trio if ever there was one!). I hadn’t realised that the town still occasionally flooded, or that a frog’s spittle could cure a sore throat, and I had no idea that Shakespeare’s grave was actually cursed.

The lamppost donated by Israel

The lamppost donated by Israel

A visit to the Birthplace, was equally educational – seeing Homer Simpson doing Macbeth was disturbing, viewing the First Folio was interesting and treading the floors of Shakespeare’s first home was actually more exciting than I had expected. Even better was the discovery of new inspiration for my designs so watch this space…

The First Folio in Shakespeare's Birthplace

The First Folio in Shakespeare’s Birthplace

I could go on, but I’ll come back to this in a later post. Until then, I’ll just say thank you to John from Stratford Town Walks for his handy tip on how to remember the titles of all of Shakespeare’s plays and wish you a very Happy Easter!

‘Nothing was hidden, everything was revealed’, Jay L. Halio

“Once, the theatre could begin as magic: magic at the sacred festival, or magic as the footlights came up. Today, it is the other way round…We must open our empty hands and show that really there is nothing up our sleeves.  Only then can we begin.” Peter Brook, ‘The Empty Space’, 1968

In April, I’m taking part in an alumni exhibition with ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter’ as the theme. Initially, I thought about focusing on a famous Shakespeare Sonnet (I bet you can guess which one) or looking at The Winter’s Tale, but really there was only one obvious choice for this project…

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not only one of Shakespeare’s most popular and most performed plays, it’s also a personal favourite and rich with very ‘jewellery-friendly’ themes and imagery. The biggest problem was deciding where to start. There have been so many productions, both in the theatre and on the big screen, that finding inspiration from performance archives was going to be a big task.

Fortunately, back in May when I was at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust researching As You Like It, I met 84-year old Roger Howell, who was Stage Manager and then Production Manager for the RSC for 30 years. As well as working with actors such as Judi Dench and Richard Burton during the early part of their careers, he also worked extensively with Peter Brook, Peter Hall, Hal Rogers and Ralph Koltai and was involved in the design process of several productions. It was at his suggestion that I decided to begin my research by looking at Peter Brook’s iconic 1970 production of The Dream.

Brook’s production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford is seen by many as the definitive version of the play in modern theatre history. As I explored the Production Records, Costume Bible, photographs, original costume designs and programme, I couldn’t help wishing that I had been there to see it. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Peter Brook believed that it was important to reinvent the theatre and find the ‘secret play beneath’. In fact, what he did with his production was so new and different, it really did reinvent the way theatre was performed.

Once I ‘found’ this production, I stopped searching for inspiration – I had it in bucket-loads. And whilst other productions will feed into my design development, this production is, without doubt, the starting point.

Magic, mischief and a little ginger cat called Puck

Well here I am, back on the train on the way home after an extremely packed few days in Stratford Upon Avon.

Embarking on a few days of intensive research feels like stepping off a precipice into the unknown. I’m never quite sure where my research is going to take me and this time was no exception. But I leave with a mass of notes, images and inspiration around Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I’m hugely excited.

So now the really hard work begins. I need to take everything I’ve absorbed and pull it apart, examine it and then put it back together. In doing so, I have to somehow translate what I see as the essence of my findings into design ideas. It’s a bit daunting…I’ve reached another precipice.

But as I left The Shakespeare Institute last night, with thoughts of fairies and lovers, mischief and enchantment whirling around in my head, I experienced a bit of the magic of The Dream.

A little ginger cat appeared on the path to greet me. He apparently turned up mysteriously in the grounds of the Institute just recently and yes, he really is called Puck. I didn’t discuss any of my ideas with him, but perhaps I’ll be able to show him something next time I visit.

 

Puck

“I am that merry wanderer of the night.” Robin Goodfellow (Puck) Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2, Scene 1

 

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