For those of you who know about Kevin Coates, yes, the book’s
finally out. I have it in my hot little hands. Amazon (US) has it. For
those of you who don’t, prepare to have your socks nocked off.
Kevin Coates is a British jeweller, who works in…pretty much
anything he wants. Very figurative work, starting out in the early
’70s with innovative use of titanium, largely for its colour. He also
works extensively with baroque and handcarved stones, incorporating
them into the figurative portions of the work. He’s still one of my
two favorite people for using titanium for his own purposes, rather
than letting the titanium use him. Stunning stuff. I saw an
exhibition of his work at Goldsmith’s when I was going to school in
London. I’ve been a fan ever since. Imagine someone who does
figurative work with outstanding craftsmanship. Imagine someone who
makes pieces that pun…in Latin. He makes work that assumes that the
viewer’s well educated enough to either get the joke, or follow the
references, and refuses to dumb down for those that don’t get it.
Meanwhile, the book: 315 pages, hardbound, full colour throughout.
It’s not exactly a retrospective, but more of a collection of work,
with critical evaluations by several authors. However the most
important thing is the pictures. Full colour pictures of all of his
pieces, up through 2007. Full page images of many of them, along with
explanations and technical notes for some. You could (and I have)
spend days just looking at the pictures.
I’m at a loss to describe the book itself without turning it into an
explanation of Coates’ work, and that’s rather the point: his work
is the point of the book. This is the first time all the work has
been available in colour, all in one place, with explanations. If
you’re at all interested in seeing just how metaphorical and
figurative jewellery can get, and still be jewellery, (as opposed
to academic studies) you need to see this book. If you’re interested
in how to incorporate intelligent references into jewellery without
turning it into a steaming pile of inscrutability, you need to see
I don’t impress easily. Coates is one of two people who have made my
jaw bounce off the floor. The book title is “Kevin Coates: A Hidden
Alchemy”. Seek it out.