FYI: The New York Times has an interesting story today (Tuesday) on
an upcoming art jewelry exhibit:
If I had a spare couple of grand lying around, I’d go see it.
Director of Communications
Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America
By EMMA CRICHTON-MILLER
Published: May 1, 2009
LONDON The Goldsmiths Company of London, one of 12 Great Livery
Companies descended from the City’s mediaeval guilds, is
preparing an exhibition of contemporary jewelry this summer
called Creation II. In 2004 it used Creation I to focus on
leading silversmiths. The follow-up brings together work by a
dozen of the most distinguished artist-jewelers working in
The 12, spanning three generations, have created miniature
sculptures in precious materials that aspire to be both
expressive pieces of art and companions of the people who will
Mary La Trobe-Bateman, a champion of the applied arts in
Britain, is curator of the show, which will be on view at
Goldsmiths’ Hall from May 29 to July 11.
For most of the 20th century, jewelry making was dominated by
famous houses like Cartier, Bucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels,
Tiffany and Asprey, where skilled craftsmen and women toiled
anonymously to create exquisite settings for precious stones of
breathtaking rarity and expense. What mattered ultimately was
the value of the stones, not the originality of the setting.
But in the 1950s and '60s, independent artists in Europe began
to find in jewelry not just a satisfying technical and design
challenge but also a stimulating medium for expressing their
ideas. New priorities led to the exploration of new materials
and techniques, and a different relationship, more like that of
artist and collector was forged between creator and customer.
The “New Jewelry Movement” evolved.
Britain was slower to catch on. When Gerda Flckinger started to
study painting, in 1945, at St. Martin’s School of Art in
London, jewelry was still taught there essentially as a design
and craft discipline, considered of little value to a serious
artist. It was Ms. Flckinger, who later became a noted
artist-jeweler, that eventually set up a pioneering course in
modern jewelry at the Hornsey College of Art in 1962.
Since then, other colleges notably Middlesex University,
Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal College of Art have
developed thriving jewelry departments, represented in this
show; galleries are now dedicated to artist-made jewelry; and a
discerning public has learned to love this hybrid genre.
The Goldsmiths’ exhibition is rich in diversity of mood and
technique, and reflects the confidence of a now robust
One of Ms. Flckinger’s first students, Charlotte de Syllas who,
like Ms. Flckinger, cuts and carves her own stones, is showing
sensuous carved stone necklaces and some sleek brooches.
Vicky Ambery-Smith, another Hornsey graduate, is showing
distinctive architectural rings and brooches.
Although they were not taught by Ms. Flckinger, the professional
journeys of Wendy Ramshaw from illustration and fabric design to
jewelry and public art and her husband, David Watkins from
sculpture and jazz music to jewelry reflect similar responses to
the creative freedoms of the 1960s.
Ms. Ramshaw’s inventive and surprising pieces ring sets adorning
elegantly pointed finger towers; geometric brooches like cubist
drawings have set a high bar for contemporary jewelry since the
Mr. Watkins, meanwhile, encouraged innovation and
experimentation with materials as a professor of goldsmithing,
silversmithing, metalwork and jewelry at the Royal College of
Art from 1984 to 2006.
Several of his students are showing their wares in this
exhibition, including Andrew Lamb, with his subtle and exquisite
hand-drawn wire pieces; Malcolm Betts, whose reclaimed jewels
shine from unpolished, contemporary settings; and Kamilla
Ruberg, whose beguiling kinetic jewelry is accompanied by
delicate new geometric constructions in fine gold.
Mr. Watkins’s jewelry balances formal and technical invention
with a sensitivity to the idea of jewelry as adornment.
One of his students was Dorothy Hogg, whose work in silver,
sheet metal, red beads and felt, is, she said, “surprisingly
autobiographical.” Each beautifully made piece seems to lean
toward the body of the wearer, asking to be taken up like a
partner in a dance.
Ms. Hogg’s father and grandfather were watchmakers and jewelry
retailers in Ayrshire, Scotland. She ascribes her capacity for
intense focus on technical detail to the knowledge she gleaned
As professor of jewelry and silversmithing at Edinburgh College
of Art for more than 20 years, until 2007, she passed on this
meticulous workmanship to her students and colleagues a quality
that unites the very different sensibilities of Susan Cross and
Andrew Lamb, two of her protgs.
Daphne Krinos, born in Greece, was inspired to make jewelry by
looking at ancient Greek gold, and she chooses stones that evoke
for her the burned colors of Greek summers.
Those influences, however, have been constantly modified by
other inspirations the environment of London, the natural world,
art and family life.
Similarly eclectic in her inspiration, Catherine Martin shapes
her densely woven hand-braided jewels under the influence of her
past love affairs with classical music and Japanese textiles.
Susan May, too, draws on a love of music in fluid, sensual
jewelry that takes form in her sketch pad, where she draws
anything and everything that catches her imagination.
For each of these artists, jewelry, far from being a creative
sideshow, has become a powerful and exhilarating medium for the
expression of ideas and feelings.
To reinforce that message, Goldsmiths’ has commissioned a set of
short documentaries from student filmmakers to examine the rich
hinterland of biography, thought and practice that lies behind
each body of work.
For, as much as a particular expertise honed over many years, it
is each artist’s intense personal commitment to the medium that
gives the work its value.