Tag Archives: William 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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“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.

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!

 

Acting the Fool – the Goldsmith’s Apprentice

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Statue of Touchstone Henley Street, Stratford Upon Avon

The other area of research for ‘The Noble Fool’ was touchstones.

I had been keen to look at the character of Touchstone, the fool in the play, and early in my research, I discovered that Shakespeare wrote the character for a new member of his company called Robert Armin, who had originally been an Apprentice Goldsmith.

This link was really exciting for me: Imagine, my first major piece of research into a Shakespeare play to create jewellery and I stumble across a Goldsmith who inspired one of my favourite characters!

Touchstones, usually slabs of black stone or slate, have been used by the Assay Office for more than 700 years to test precious metals. A streak would be made by the gold or silver to be assayed (tested) and then it was compared with streaks made by touch-needles or strips of gold or silver of known quality.

Through my research, I found out that this link was used by Shakespeare quite explicitly in the creation of his character. Touchstone always ‘tells it like it is’ in the play – he is the measure of all things, exposing counterfeit and falsehood, in the same way that a touchstone is the method used by Goldsmiths to test metals, identifying counterfeits.

I decided that I wanted to include a real touchstone in my piece and so my next task was to work out how to set it…

The picture is of a touchstone that is used every day by the samplers at the Assay Office. The pattern created by their scratching and acid tests looks like patchwork and gave me inspiration for my final design.

The picture is of a touchstone that is used every day by the samplers at the Assay Office. The pattern created by their scratching and acid tests looks like patchwork and gave me inspiration for my final design.

 

“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds”

How do changes in human subjectivity over time affect how we view a Shakespeare play? Should Shakespeare’s plays be staged as they were in his day, or can they be staged in a modern setting?

These questions were posed this week on a course I am following on Future Learn about Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Personally, I don’t think Shakespeare’s plays have to be staged in Elizabethan costume at all. The thing I love most about seeing Shakespeare performed is the seemingly infinite interpretations of the same text – surely it’s what makes the Director’s job so challenging?

I have seen Hamlet several times and costume or setting rarely make a difference to the overall experience. Perhaps this is because the play is predominantly about emotions; and politics and conflict are universal themes. In any case, I enjoy seeing Shakespeare’s plays re-imagined with settings and costumes that are often surprisingly relevant, even when they are a far-cry from what the Elizabethans, or even the modern-day Globe audience would expect to see.

The current productions of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won (or Much Ado About Nothing) at the RSC are cases in point. Beautifully staged productions set either side of the first World War, they are spot on and work brilliantly. Likewise, the RSC’s Merchant of Venice with Patrick Stewart, set in modern-day Las Vegas with an Elvis Impersonator, and a South-African influenced Tempest with Antony Sher as Prospero – both genius productions, still true to the text, but shedding a whole new light on the plays.

This whole notion of how Shakespeare’s plays are performed is something I feel very strongly about. After all, there wouldn’t be anywhere near as much inspiration for my design work if every performance was firmly entrenched in 1599!