Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
“The year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”
The School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University presents the thesis work by students of the MA in Jewellery, Silversmithing and Related Products course. The show celebrates the achievements of a group of exceptionally diverse individuals, with each piece on display offering an unexpected adventure through material that highlights the creativity, sensitivity and diversity of cutting edge contemporary jewellery and product design today.
INSTILL-material matters showcases creative works that address some of the most vital issues in the contemporary applied arts field. The pieces engage the eye and mind simultaneously, and explore a diverse array of issues including the innovation of new materials, exploratory use of colour, investigation of different cultural aesthetics, and integration of intellectual concepts.
INSTILL- material matters offers an opportunity to experience the most recent works by MA postgraduates from one of the most important and internationally renowned contemporary jewellery programmes in Europe.
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The Surreal Banquet
Human behaviour, interaction, and social culture were my topics of interest, leading me to create ‘The Surreal Banquet’. This scenario questions many aspects of our social lives and the culturally accepted rules of etiquette and manners imposed throughout history by our society.
Six female characters are confronted by each other. The piece that each female is wearing uncovers aspects of the personality that lies behind the Jewels, clothing, and make up. Their mannerism and attitude have been stereotyped, defined by the selected attire and objects they are surrounded by.
On this singular occasion, at this banquet, each character has been allowed to have only one human characteristic that will set them apart from the rest.
Adorning them with power and pride, the jewels that hang around their necks are not only their tools, but an extension of the characteristic that has become their stereotype for the night. Through this bizarre and surreal set of neckpieces I intend to dismantle the function of cutlery, giving it a new life and purpose.
Interacting with our environment is an essential part of being human, I am interested in exploring this concept within my work. Interaction is an important part of my creative process,I want people to be able to play with the work, for me, without human interaction, jewellery’s potential is incomplete.
The choices I made with the ready-made objects was derived through a process of aesthetic decisions and intuitive play.I am fascinated with, not just the form, but also the lightness and airiness of the balloon. Subrounds and ovals are fundamental elements in my work, they are inviting shapes with a comic attitude.
Air is an indispensable ingredient in our life which is intangible and invisible, it is becomes tangible when blown into a balloon. The audience can decide whether to add air or not to control the inflation of my pieces. By blowing and then squeezing the balloon it will leak air, my work becomes activated. Vivid colour is a vital factor of my work, it expresses humor, is playful and has a powerful visual impact.
I am delighted to invite the audience to experience the interaction of the air within my work, once on the body the pleasure of this play can be shared with others.
My work connects aesthetic and spatial features that exist within architectural practices. The world and objects around us create an invisible connection to both symmetrical and asymmetrical structures, ordered and changeable lines, visible and invisible spaces, reflective surfaces and ambiguous shadows.
I have used lines, surfaces and spaces in my work taking inspiration from architectural designs and incorporating them into jewellery making. Lines are different to surfaces, but they can both create spaces. Varying volumes can portray both depth and relationship. They create dialogue.
Tsai Chia-Ju (Sora)
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you could not decipher a written word; what would you see?
The inspiration for my work comes from my personal experience of culture shock on my first arrival to the UK. It made me curious to explore that for Far Easterners who have never learnt English, the words appear as just a pattern. This is also the same for Westerners who do not know Chinese symbols. The commonality being that when a written language is unfamiliar and unknown only a pattern can be determined. In response to this, I began to think creatively about the art of calligraphy in relation to written language, each character has symbolism, a narrative and historical meaning.
Further to this, my time in the UK has inspired me to innovatively create my own fabric and reproduce these written patterns. Through this, I have tried to explore these boundaries. Within my design, there is a fusion of contemporary materials, my own cultural influence, self-reflection and inspiration taken from the West.
I am inspired by natural forms but recreating them through geometric structures.
I am especially interested in truss structures in architecture. The way a few bars can build a sturdy structure by ordering and arranging these elements .When transferred to craft, I found the most efficient way to build this structure was through origami. Origami is a way of presenting delicate, and repetitive patterns and can only be handmade, folding back and forth, depending where the shape is folded. There are infinite possibilities hiding in these patterns. For me, origami shapes represent mini architectural structures built up by the folding lines of paper.
The repetition of the folds has created a form which when linked together in lines appears both organic and strong through its continual geometric pattern. The folds in the design allow for flexibility and movement.
Through my collection I want to convey the feeling of lightness and delight.
My project aims to explore asymmetric and imbalance shapes. My inspiration comes from dance performances, as I love the way they pirouette and how the skirt flows in the air. Therefore, I aim to create flowing lines and try to capture movement in my work. Whilst all asymmetric and imbalance vessel stand in different posture in a line they create an emphatic visual effect.
I encourage viewers to see my work from a different perspective as my objects are not just as still objects but containers of motion with movement. I work with copper due to its malleable quality and strength.
Every piece I make is unique and bespoke. The process to create such work is calming and therapeutic. Silversmithing for me is just like a friend that I can have a conversation with and be involved; I cherish this technique.
The main material of my work is crayon. Crayon relates to childhood memories. We held the crayons with our small hands to draw our family, home and dreams. Our innocent world was created through the crayons. However, with age and through getting older, we seem to no longer connect with crayons, they disappear from our lives. We never forget that we have imagination; it is only hidden in the depths of the heart. I began to remember myself as a child when I played with crayons, I added glue into the crayon liquid and put the crayons into the oven and so on. During the playing process, I was able to learn about the properties of the crayon.
Through the use of crayon, I developed a new product. I melted the crayons in different ways and so each crayon piece made distinct patterns. As the material was crayon, it was able to be drawn. Various colours and patterns created simple forms, which would appear in different shapes. The special feature of the crayon rings was that each ring had a word hidden inside it, so when the crayon was almost consumed, the word would be shown. The crayon ring collection is colourful, geometric and playful. The rings will generate more fun and are highly interactive when worn.
‘Light’ is the central theme of my jewellery, and this collection has been inspired by the interaction between cathedral ceilings and sunlight. During different hours of the day, sunlight constructs beautiful shadows through windows. Those imaginative forms have sparked my interest.
I have been influenced by the concise shapes of architecture, and my pieces use geometric structures in conjunction with symmetrical components. They create meticulous angles for altered states of reflection with my main material – mirror plastic sheet, which transforms two-dimensional patterns to three-dimensional reflective sculptures.
Hence I aim to produce work that engages with the audiences closely, encouraging curiosity and a desire to explore the hidden details further.
People have always been full of curiosity for unknown things. For me, since childhood, I have been fascinated by marine creatures. I was born in a city inland and far from sea. I remember being shocked the first time I went to the aquarium. My mind told me that this was a mystical world I had never seen before. It was colourful, lively and gave people infinite imagination. People had always said that humans originated from the sea, and that seventy-one percent of the earth’s surface is covered by sea. The ocean is so mysterious must have some creatures we do not know yet. All of these have given me inspiration to create marine theme jewellery to inspire people’s imagination.
I make atmospheric, surreal and geometric jewellery. I draw inspiration from my dreams, landscape and traditional Chinese ink paintings which emphasize mood and atmosphere. The scenery I create is from my own imagination and features a juxtaposition of sea and land to producing a surreal effect.
People spend time in the outdoors, they use the camera to record beautiful scenery and memorable experience, but now I can put them to my jewellery and preserve them forever. These landscapes are wrapped up in transparent resin. The regular and irregular geometric shapes allowed me to highlight the scenery inside the resin.
Working with glass wax makes it easy to create detail and things in miniature like the slope of a mountain or the stem of the plant. I have used other materials such as Polymer clay, cotton and vines for the scenery, creating a vivid and contracting effect.
Each piece and scene is unique.
Josefine Rønsholt Smith
In a world saturated with products I find that as a maker it is my responsibility to
find a reason for contributing more products. My intention is to make jewellery that
is appreciated as keep-sakes, which have value beyond monetary costs with the
capacity for emotional investment. I believe that it is possible to create jewellery
that has relevance beyond the first desire to own and consume.
This body of work has sprung from my interest in materials, and specifically wood.
By recognizing what naturally occurs in the wood and exploiting those qualities,
such as mirroring wood patterns, I create intriguing tactile surfaces.
In my work, I am capturing abstractions and elements of functional objects that
evoke associations with tools or totems and therefore elicit familiarity. I am
interested in how we then connect with these objects based on our cultural
contexts and conditioned tastes. It is an exploration of how our visual heritage
triggers memories, which determines our attraction to an object. I encourage the
viewer and the wearer to consider intimacy and emotional durability within an
In my work, I explore the process of the transformation of the ordinary to the extraordinary though the process of embellishment, elevating the status of PVC plastic. PVC is used as it is a softer and more malleable plastic and is also relatively inexpensive. Three dimensional shapes provide different perspectives from various angles as well as allowing for different layers when decorated by embroidery, its life is extended and its value elevated. The embroidery used is steeped in historical craft and requires much time and care in its handmade production. This adds value to the plastic material reinventing it as something to be cared for and valued.
My patterns consist of abstract lines which express dynamic and static states creating directional force. The colours used in the collection are derived from nature. Some of the colours I used are so extraordinary that at first you would not realise they exist within our natural world and surroundings.
When presented with an object, it is inevitable that our minds make
instant connections and associations based on its nature and the form
that is in front of us. My work was inspired by the boxes that jewellery
comes in, a once purposeful item that is now obsolete and virtually
without function. My interest was in whether the jewellery box could
become the jewel.
In my collection, I have explored the relationship between practical
functionality and visual imagination through a reinterpretation of the
familiar and the recognisable. The formations of subconscious
expectations are rooted in pre-conceived ideas of a jewellery box’s
function. Whilst hinges, knobs and fasteners suggest that the object
can be opened, inside is an unexpected hidden compartment that
reveals how it can be worn.
Silk is traditionally used in cloth making and embroidery, however I wanted to challenge these conventions of working with silk, and to create three-dimensional objects with it. In my works, I have used heat-setting techniques on silk with a combination of bright colours to create my own forms.
In my mind, there is no fabric more sensual than silk. Silk is a resilient fabric with qualities that are shiny, strong, light, smooth and transparent; these are the very characteristics that set silk apart from other natural fabrics.
The inspiration for my work has derived from the ocean, and I have been impressed by the random shapes made by coral and the forms of sea eggs when joined together. My work depicts bright contrasting coloured patterns that not only represent the sea eggs but the veins that carry blood bringing life to my work.
I am fascinated by the different aesthetics of Eastern and Western features.
Living in another country, which has a totally different culture and tradition
has allowed me to form a new point of view about my culture and identity. I
have also started to explore the beauty of Eastern aesthetics from a distance.
In Eastern paintings, artists always put their perspective into the picture
instead of literally imitating the nature form. Traditional eastern painters were
good at analyzing and abstracting, every line in the painting is carefully
Additionally, I have learned form and been inspired by plants and creatures
in the natural world. I work with fiber clay, combining it with paper, plastic
sheets, wood and silver. My work is an attempt to combine the methods that
ancient people used in traditional Eastern paintings, with the vivid colour
combinations to then recreate a new object.
In our daily life, people are very busy and ignore the small things around us, From a deeper sense, I hope that my work can remind people to pay attention to the subtle details of our suroundings.
I have been inspired by nature and the pattens from insect, like butterflies and feathers. I combined these interesting elements to create unique fabric.
I am interested in texture and tactile jewellery. I work primanly with fiber clay and steel mesh. All the contrasting colours give my pieces more visual impact. The colours and textures of animal pattens are individual and unique. I have combine all design elements into broochs , forming each one uniquely.
I encourage the wearer to touch my work, finding out the different textures creates associations.
My work has been inspired by contemporary architecture, particularity the flowing outlined forms of layered structures. The structures themselves create a visual effect of movement and what I wanted to see was how this visual effect worked on small scale pieces like jewellery.
During my design process, I found similar characteristics between architecture and jewellery, architecture being an adornment of the landscape and jewellery an adornment of the body. I kept looking for the flowing forms that could fit the body, make tactile curves and create harmonious forms based on the shape of the fingers. Moreover, I have brought a kinetic element to the work, The jewellery will change depending on the wearer. My jewellery is not only a stone like object but reveals its wearable function by people playing with it.
The aim of my work is to encourage the wearer to play with the work, exploring
possible shapes and positions. The inspiration of my work comes from
kaleidoscopes, architecture and fractal patterns as well as natural forms. My
work has been inspired by parametric design and the work of contemporary
digital architecture. I am interested in products that are changeable and move
mechanically. Besides this, I hope my designs encourage playful and inquisitive
feelings for the wearer.
I work with 3D printed photosensitive resin, plastic and silver as my materials
due to their lightness in weight. Every series uses one element as a component.
To further continue the wearers interaction with my work I try to create
jewellery that the wear ability can be transformed, allowing one piece to be
worn in different ways and on different parts of the body.
My work explores intimacy as a human condition using my own body as the vehicle.
Each of us trace and map our bodies and those we love. Exploring and discovering how we experience sensations; all the intimacy, pain and pleasure we share.
These pieces are expressions of the inside/outside place, the space in between the body and the world: the receptacles where we receive, contain and ultimately exit with our last breath.
The intention is that the work has a life force of its own, a vessel for those emotions we all have felt and shared.
Pei Chen (Jenny) Tsai
I am always curious about how a piece of artwork brings its idea/concept to people who come from various cultures without written or verbal methods of communication: how people share experiences without such methods. Sometimes, people who have no relation to each other can derive the same feelings from a piece of work whether they are feelings of pleasure or disgust. Is it because we all share the same sensations and experience sometimes?
To explore this theme, I drew inspiration from Optical Art. One of its characteristics is that even though the artist transforms their inspiration into abstract and geometric forms, most people are still able to enjoy and interact with the work. Those geometric forms can come from anything but do not represent anything in particular; they give pure visual sensation and aesthetic pleasure.
I consider colours, patterns, forms and space. I intend my work to have a kind of illusion which can interact with the viewer and evoke feelings and a sense of relatedness; I aim to produce work which people can interact with through sight and touch. My work is tactile and flexible so that people can play with it; it has details that people can look at closely, as well as being functional.
This work has evolved from an exploration of material, learning how to handle wire in combination with plastic and other components. I have divided my work into two series, exploring the balance between complexity and simplicity.
The Simplicity series has been inspired by traditional Chinese paintings; as the painters often leave large areas of the paper untouched to create space. Therefore In my series I have replicated the simplicity by adding tiny details in the weaving to create a disturbance in the pattern which quietly attracts attention. I hope my audience can discover that whilst it appears to be a simple white object, it also has beauty through its added detail.
In the complexity series, I was interested in challenging the possibility of the material through exploring form and colour combinations. By different weaving and folding techniques, each piece has its own characteristics. The challenge has been to maintain a sense of tranquillity throughout both collections of work.
Natural polychrome minerals offer mystical promises to me, they seem like a belief that existed; an idea of magical power and creative imagination. My design journey started with the inspiration of this magical resource and I hope to convey the wonder of these minerals to my audience.
I choose resin as my main material because of its transparency and similar quality to the natural polychrome minerals. I tried to imitate the inclusions of original minerals to enrich the aesthetic. I choose metal as my material, because it can produce a contrast to resin but still reflect the colour of resin. When working with metal, I took inspiration from the original outer skin-like shell that the minerals grow in, so the surface texture of my work appeared rough and unrefined.
The walls of traditional houses are irreplaceable treasures. My inspiration comes from the texture of the old walls which are full of nostalgia.
Nowadays, vintage house have been destroyed and replaced by many skyscrapers for people’s needs to advance. However, these tall buildings create commercial but sterile environments. This is not what a home should be. Nevertheless this phenomenon exists all over the world.
What should a house be? I prefer a house with crumbling walls and pastel colours. You can still see the history on the walls. All of these are beautiful and wonderful recollections, the records of times gone by.
Wohjou Fan Chiang
I have drawn my inspiration from an episode of Hannibal; we should respect every part of our prey otherwise it’s just a murder. Once something or somebody is unvalued, it is regarded as trash thrown away. We live in a disposable society, where we have got into the habit of throwing things away without honouring them or using them to their entirety. Inspired by this idea, I started to consider how I could make use of the remains of those animals which I have consumed.
Therefore I made flower and jewellery from the bones to reflect the mourning of the animal that has passed away as a sign of respect and to reinvent a statement of beauty.
Amulets are worn in many different countries and this series shows the cultural fusion of traditional and contemporary styles. My work has been inspired by the experiences I have encountered during my time as a student in the UK. During this time, I have thought deeply about Chinese tradition, in particular folk culture. Many Chinese folk traditions are close to disappearing and being forgotten. Therefore, I wish to bring traditional culture into the field of contemporary jewellery.
My pieces are designed to emulate the look of traditional Chinese amulets with a modern flair. To make my amulet, I use traditional folk elements in combination with contemporary materials. In this way I strive to spark the thoughts and reflections of my audience, reigniting an interest in disappearing cultures through the fusion of stylistic ideas from the past and present. Through a contrast between contemporary and Chinese traditional symbols, my pieces seek to express a cultural appreciation.
The inspiration of this collection came from observing the formation of crystals; I believe that crystals are like living organisms, they have power and energy which can be expressed in a physical form. The impetus behind this collection has been to show the environment in which crystals develop and the array of stones and structures on which natural forms with varying textures and colours exist; allowing me to create vivid bright coloured objects in a fantastical style.
Transforming my imaginary illustrations into real objects is the main topic of my work. I am also interested in researching the contrast and combination of organic textures and geometric structures. Instead of concentrating on the objective quality of crystals, I attempt to show people their original natural beauty, a visual representation of crystal formation.
I have always been interested in architecture and my inspiration is from frames used in buildings. I see them as prominent lines and have used wires to create three dimensional forms. My work has structural features and presents distinct spaces through different angles and perspectives. The inner and outer spaces of the structures are completely different. Each line has a curve, many curves create independent spaces and the spaces between the lines interact. These characteristics have compelled me to create my own forms within jewellery design.
My pieces have been divided into two series which outwardly appear different but observe the same concept. ‘The Fluid Collection’ depicts the movement with sparkling spots which glide and flow around the wires. ‘The Geometrical Collection’ simply transforms the lines into structural forms playing with the vivid colour and highlighting the geometrical volumes.
I have always drawn inspiration from pretty objects and things that convey a sense of smooth beauty. The form that flows and the line that curves with gradient layers attract most of my attention. For me, pretty objects have a variation of depth and volume. Thus, harmony and balance are both essential factors made to invoke and evoke objects with aesthetic and pleasing qualities.
My work started with an intention of pushing the possibilities of the plastic sheet to its ultimate use, and of building an interlocking relationship of folded and refolded celluloid sheeting. The material primarily worked with is the celluloid, with its light and flexible qualities for presenting the variation of curved lines. I love using repetitive techniques to create the visually complex structure. Hence, by utilizing duplicating units, I strived to make three-dimensional objects that demonstrated the beauty of the gradual changes in lines and the virtual space created. I used the colour to support and highlight the changes of lines. Thus, both form and colour are both important elements in my work: they reflected how structure and complexity are to be valued in my jewellery design.
Sumptuous, feminine and highly ornate are words that could be used to describe this collection and the decorative style of Rococo interior, which has been a source of inspiration. My works tends to embrace pastel colours, combined with electroformed copper. Moreover, I took such motifs enclosed them with round, oval shapes, elaborate patterns and adapted them to be worn on the body.
My work is a two-part jewellery set, which are wearable and decorative table or hanging pieces. The jewellery featured in the collection has been created by using synthetic papers such as Tyvek and lutradur transformed into intricate forms. I have also explored a method of firing ceramics with loofahs. These act as stands or hooks, which adds functionality, but also highlights the extreme visual aesthetic.
There are people who are born to travel and I am lucky to be one of them. I love hiking in the mountains, strolling by the sea, trekking through the desert...all of these landscapes have given me the inspiration to design. I am particularly fond of Chinese landscape paintings. I have been inspired by this artform and the memories of emotional experiences during my travels. In response to this, I have aimed to combine and create new landscapes in my jewellery. Metal has been used to create flat two dimensional objects and I have combined these two forms to create an interesting contrast.
Chinese landscape painters believed that man is an integral part of nature, therefore, many painters like to represent one or two people in the paintings. Actually, when people wear my jewellery, it seems that they will become the person who is in the landscape painting; and they can inhibit an element of the landscape jewellery. Landscape in nature is created by a bigger force, whereas landscape in my jewellery has been created by myself. My work does not copy or replicate mountains or rivers; it resembles a feeling, a mood and my emotional world.
‘Seeing is believing’ but is what you see the truth? Refraction brings out various perspectives of an object, therefore we may question what representation and false appearances are; and what illusion and reality is. Illusion is more than just a false phenomenon, rather, it is a creative way to show and attain beauty. Therefore, a simple geometric figure can present different kinds of beauty by being applied to different styles which dazzle the viewer no end.
I have used the phenomenon of visual illusion, to inform the audience that perceptions can change through different mediums, and that you will not see all from just one glimpse. I have achieved this by combining three forms together, solids, liquids and air within a transparent container. From the different angles the refraction of my work appears differently.
In this series of work, the materials display contrast, gradation and structure. I considered their contrasts, such as hard and soft, rounded and acute, solid and hollow. Every element of my collection merges into the next pattern, colour and form. Throughout my research I have explored the space of structures, and the overall arrangement and relationship of touch. Through incorporating small details into the design a harmonious kind of balance has been achieved.
This exciting 'material adventure' has been driven by my own interest in discovering the qualities of materials, and the consequences of composing them in different ways. For example the geometry starts from the jesmonite point and becomes a solid silicone block, which then transitions to a hollow space outlined in thread. I hope my work can encourage viewers to think about the possibility of working with non-traditional m,aterials and how non-precious sources can challenge conventions.
To our families, partners, friends and loved ones, we would like to acknowledge all the love and support that you have so generously given to us over the course of our MA. Thank you!
Grateful thanks to all the staff at the outstanding School of Jewellery, a place where we are all proud to have been educated and mentored. We would also like to thank Birmingham City University and the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design for their part in our educational journey.
For some students this opportunity has only been possible due to the generous bursaries and awards granted allowing them to partake in such studies. We would like to thank the following institutions for their kind support:
The South Square Trust
For their financial sponsorship of the graduating show we would like to thank
TTF Haute Joaillerie
GRASS HILL JEWELLERY
Henry’s Wooden Crafts
Chang Jian Technology CO. LTD
AS A PROJECT STUDIO