Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
MA in Jewellery, Silversmithing and Related Products is the title of our course programme, which the jewellers and designer-makers featured below have experienced. This is however a very limited and traditional description when one considers the wide variety of studio methods, artefacts and products that are within the province of the designer who has knowledge and expertise in the area of personal ornaments, body signification and decorative metal objects. The variety of materials, manufacturing techniques and processes available to an artist or designer in this field is far larger and of much greater potential than is indicates by the terms 'jewellery' and 'silversmithing' and has some affinities with industrial design, fashion design, fine art and social practice, and is often formed by intellectual engagement with general philosophy, strategies of conceptualisation or investment in critical theory.
Our course philosophy addresses the existing and potential relationships within this sector, and educates its students to recognise, identify, understand and operate within this diversity. The philosophy of the course is embedded within a structured course programme that requires students to address vocational and academic research in design by applying their developing abilities and interests to a wide range of issues and design questions. Design experiences include ideas generation focused through strategies for concept development, the analysis of design problems and reflection on the relationships between personal objectives, cultural values, market identities and prototyping techniques, thus enhancing knowledge and understanding, as well as facilitating the formation of professional studio methodologies.
As makers, craftspeople or artists we are continuously faced with shifting parameters and double, if not multi-layered value systems, which determine or influence our way of understanding artistic production. These different layers may have their roots in cultural difference, historically conditioned educational backgrounds or economic differences, which are part of our widening and increasingly global culture. Furthermore, we are exposed to changing and often contradictory ideas that derive from conceptual thought, contextual dissemination of creative production and critical reflections on our practices. Our taste, value hierarchies and investment of meaning are influenced by such ideas and change accordingly.
Students on the MA in Jewellery, Silversmithing and Related Products have gone through an intense process of reviewing and advancing their reflective and creative craft practices and developed their distinct and inspiring artistic positions. At the beginning of the course ideas were explored and over the year of the programme these ideas were transformed, de-constructed, re-constructed and interpreted. Problem-solving, together with intense material research, skill development, and of course questions of wearability and functionality needed to be addressed. Finally each maker generated a body of work that demonstrates integrity of artistic enquiry and sensitivity to materials and processes.
The creative work of the students on our MA programme address aspects of the most vital issues in contemporary applied arts; in their questioning of established ideas of what constituts adornment, how decoration should be defined and executed, these works engage the eye and the mind simultaneously. They appeal to the intellect, whilst eliciting an instantaneous sensual reaction of pleasure, a desire to touch, hold, use, and wear.
Professor, Dr. Jivan Astfalck
MA Course Director for Jewellery, Silversmithing and Related Products, Birmingham City University
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I have made a collection of containers that explore form and contained space through the use of traditional sheet metal working techniques. The spaces are disrupted with bright block color and chunky wooden forms that serve to conceal and divide up the internal space while extending into the external space.
When I create containers I consider them from all angles, each perspective has an element of interest, creating a dialogue between the internal and external.
object; 2013; copper, wood and paint; 240 x 67 x 60mm
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I am interested in movement and how it relates to the experience of wearing jewelry. My work aims to explore the sensorial responses we get from work that is fluid, follows the body shape and reacts to our moves. It communicates to the body sometimes by following, other times by leading unexpected twists, revealing new colors and textures.
I work with hardwood as a precious material, combining it with fine fabric, polymer, and resin. The result is a lively ribbon-like material that enables me to make pieces that are flexible and exuberant.
I encourage the wearer to play with my work, exploring the colors, shapes and position possibilities.
Flame; 2013; neckpiece; hard wood, mesh, polymer plaster, acrylic paint; length 350mm
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In traditional Chinese culture, women are thought of as introverted, covered and fertile. I however want to glorify the female in the opposite way. Many archaeological artifacts show evidence of vulva-worship, lots of sex symbols of fertility such as flower, fish, frog and so forth. Inspired by nature and female physical characteristics, I combine these interesting elements and then rebuild a hybrid creative to convey the alluring beauty and even dangerous attractions of female genitalia.
There are two collections in my project. One collection focuses on sculptural objects with fantastical colours and the other is created in pure white to highlight the three-dimensional form itself.
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Ephemeral jewellery is attractive for me because it tells a story that not all jewellery can last forever, yet it still spreads the beauty in its short life.
I focus on how to transform soap into a piece of jewelry. The material is my mail inspiration because it is unusual to use for jewellery design and is full of potential and challenges. Furthermore, the soap symbolizes a variety of feelings and emotional states.
The exchangeable soap-ring where the soap can be exchanged like favors people do for each other. By experimenting with this material I wanted to crate useful and decorative pieces that beautifully combine those two functions. The piece of soap inside the ring can be changed into different colours and shapes, when the soap has been washed away, it is still a decorative independent ring.
Untitled; 2013; ring; silver and soap; 26 x 20 x 39mm
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As stone, sand and light are basic elements in traditional Zen Garden, my pieces are the combination of nature (stone, wood) and high technology (LED lights). In my project, every piece is a single independent unit with sand and a piece of wood in the package. It will be jewelry when worn on the body and a mini Zen Garden when lying on the table.
Due to the pressure, stress and other negative emotions we feel everyday, we need a little peaceful corner to release it. As a piece of jewellery, it can communicate with the body though light, as a mini Zen Garden on the table it can be a peaceful corner where we can practice Zen.
To the viewing, owners and collectors what you see depends on what you bring to it.
Untitled; 2013; ring; silver and soap; 26 x 20 x 39mm
My inspiration comes from broken walls which create their own beauty but with a difference. In our environment, we can see collapsed buildings, broken walls and corners, everywhere we look, but who would be willing to stop, pause and take a good look at them, and then start to appreciate their beauty?
This phenomenon has always attracted ,e. I really like those broken, hanging and protruding bits and pieces within the broken spaces of the structures, such as: steel, wall tiles and steel wire mesh. These are the main elements of my work which form the structure and characteristics of my work. I also bring in color combinations, which I feel are soothing, warm, and harmonizing. I used the pastel colors to create a calm and inviting atmosphere.
My main aim is to emphasize visual effects to enable perception of beauty which will activate the imagination of the viewer. Through this series of works I want to exhibit the value of broken beauty which has not yet been re-discovered.
Untitled; 2013; brooch; jesmonite; powder coated brass, spray painted steel mess, oak; 80 x 90 x 30mm
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I am inspired by the plants around us in the world, which are rich i ambience and imagery. Some parts of the plant elements are transformed, based on their own structure, to create a new element. Combining the elements allows me to further create jewelry and my creative process becomes more intuitive and holistic. The main material of my pieces is advanced plastic. It is quite light, and once it is completed, it will solidify and remain in structure for a very long time. In my opinion, all the colors seen are from nature. Therefore, an emphasis is placed on not only transformation but also visual effects. I use contrast colors to give my pieces more visual impact.
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I have always been curious about natural things. I have chosen to look at fauna and animals. Animals have constantly evolved as a means to survive. I am particularly interested in camouflage which is the key basic survival skill in the animal kingdom.
Things which are similar to their surroundings are very easily ignored or mistaken. My work aims to remind people of the importance of existing things which we don't see at first. I believe that every aspect in the animal world can be viewed as a metaphor for the human society. All animals have 'survival weapons' - becoming more hidden does not mean things disappear or that they are being submissive, it is much more about being offensive.
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My work explores notions of heritage and nostalgia. I am interested in breathing new life into seemingly outdated and passé craft techniques, in particular macramé, which experienced a fashionable popularity in the 1970s. Everyday household strings and twines are simply knotted in sequences and coiled, overlapped and manipulated creating soft organic forms.
Each piece is repeatedly hand dyed until the colours have been built and merged. The forms I create are in response to the materials and patterns I create in the macramé itself.
Developing, adapting and modifying the 'conventional' way of macramé enabled my pieces to contrast traditional with contemporary craft. The result is a collection of neckpieces and brooches that subtly question whether there was a simpler time in life.
Untitled; 2013; brooches; string; 85 x 85 x 45mm
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I am curious about the difference between natural movement and mechanical movement and I am started to be fascinated by animal movement. I wonder how animals move and the interactions of their anatomy, bone structure, joints and muscles. The animal is the perfect machine and humans try to stimulate their movement by using gears or other mechanical systems, it feeds our imagination. I tried to find beauty in the combination of natural movement and machine movement. I aim to create movements that combine these elements or interact with each other.
My pieces can be divided into two different series that are completely different in appearance, but both share the most important idea behind it. I intentionally choose metal to emphasize the contrast between flexible movement and rigidity. I wanted the wearer to experience the unexpected when they play with my ring and its movement.
The geometric series can be seen as abstract sculptures, which are simple shapes combined together, using wood and metal to create contrast between texture and color. I preferred to keep this series simple by using minimal mechanics so that the audience can see the structure clearer. Those rings can create unpredictable movements by simple joint and hinges affected by gravity and are inspired by my interest in the combination of animal and mechanical movements.
Untitled; 2013; ring; wood and wire; 63 x 67 x 10mm
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I question our need as humans for jewellery. For me, jewelry must be made for more than simply decorating - I think it has deeper meaning, I think it links to memory and faith.
I like to create an atmosphere which closely relates designers to viewers. To achieve this I focus on different ways which convey feelings, especially those generated by the voice. When things become difficult, the comforting sounds of family or friends on the phone, or a soothing prayer song can help uplift the spirits. In my view, a voice can be defined as an element of jewellery. It seems I wear it, not only wearing on my body, but also being influenced in my mind by listening.
I also used traditional craft skills and embroidery combined with sound recordings of voices to create three-dimensionalfabric pieces. In these pieces I create a unique balance by using traditional embroidery together with modern recordable electric circuits.
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My latest series of works The Rice Stone is intended to represent this original spiritual force, which is rough and dynamic; the work is researched through and visually related to ritualistic forms of the prehistoric age. Rice and dust are used as the main materials in my work, which are common and usually unattractive. The working process transforms the ephemeral substance into precious and durable rough stone and I use laborious stone-cutting techniques to shape and polish the stones to bring out their crystalline structures ordered in repetitive formations.
In the series Immortality Icons I transformed the material of plastic bags, which I collected from supermarkets, into the form of jade corners and plugs, usually found on ancient death masks in Chin of the Han dynasty (206BC - AD220). The Jade pieces were plugging the nine orifices of a corpse and were believed to protect the body from decomposition after death. I intent to challenge a widely and universally accepted global consumerism, which ironically leaves us with materials that are 'immortal'. The plastic plaques are individual pendants with vivid artificial color; they look like casual and easy accessories, but are intact meaningful in that these units constitute together the shape of a Jade death-mask, which represents a serious eternal and moral warning.
Rice Stone; 2013; brooch; grain, dust and silver; 54 x 60 x 40mm
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My collection is a progression os previous works based on architectural anatomy. I attempt to convert plain shapes into distinct forms accompanied by a diverse geometric union and intersections to create new perceptions for the viewers of my jewellery.
By minimizing structure and outlines and by rearranging those minimal forms in different set patterns I create a series of wearable objects. the aim of my design is to create a grey-tone collection with a modern visual aesthetic and appearance. Consideration of scale and materials are integral to the value of my designs. The finishing and digital technology techniques which I use to make my pieces have been refined through numerous experimentations and it is the most valuable aspect of my collection.
Untitled, 2013, brooches, plastic, silver and magnets; 40 x 40 x 40mm
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There was a murder.
There was little understanding.
The crimes escalated.
The greed for bodies is now insatiable.....
A warning - be wary for your discarded childhood memories,
the token of love generously given yet discarded.....
Emotional and physical transgressions, dismemberment, disfigurement, sexual mutation, all perpetrated against the sacred, the innocent transitional object.
Oh what fun.....
Trophy; 2013; brooch; transitional object, textile; powder coated copper; 200 x 100 x 80mm
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By looking into the fragments of life (a word, an action or the image of an old object), some relationships between them can me found such as contradiction or accommodation, and can be seen as a kind of communication within them. Those relationships always inspired me and push me to develop my work.
The recent project came from a piece of broken egg, what was interesting was the contrast and relationships between the broken and the unbroken fragile shell in my view. This contrast relationship has been strengthened when I combined ancient lace pattern, fine jewelry pattern and delicate eggshell material by traditional hand craft. Those traditional parts, the contemporary forms, the refined craft technique on a fragile eggshell all create an oxymoron in contemporary jewelry context. In this case, I intend to build a 'looks like impossible to be owned' beauty in my objects.
Untitled; 2013; necklace; eggshell, brass, gold plate; length 410mm
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The inspiration to create the forms in my works comes from the various parts of the human body, which fascinates me. I try to generate more ideas about how I really understand and look at the shapes of body parts. I create three-dimensional to lead the audience to appreciate these interesting formations and the relationships between them.
To produce the translucent and flexible effect, I chose wire knitting as my main technique. I create overlapping effects and intricate structures by constructing multiple layers inside and outside forms, which look different when viewed from different angles.
Wearers can choose to show any side of the objects as they want, and people are encouraged to play with the multiples into which my forms can be manipulated.
Untitled; 2013; neck piece; copper wire and colour spray; 800 x 100 x 100mm
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In my work I emphasize contradictions, conflicts, crazy behaviors and I aim to express a sense of 'breaking through'. 'Breaking through' means two things to me, one is that after breaking something, a new form is produced; and the other is the destruction of a previous shape or form.
I use two sets of visual elements in my work, which are classical Chinese elements and contemporary, more Western elements. The main content of my more classical elements relate to Chinese traditional painting, which I paint on clay. The shape of the clay relates to clay bowls which were broken. Some elements using silicone in fluorescence colors are used as new materials.
I play and joke with the combinations of those two sets of visual elements and aim to produce great contrast which emphasis conflict which emphasizes conflict and dialogue, while creating a crazy feeling, which is also strong in colour, texture, shape and spirit.
Way; 2013; brooch; wool, silicone and paper clay; 95 x 75 x 50mm
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I am interested in creating work that manifests fluid movement through the dynamic flow of the lines. My quest is to understand 'contrasts' in various ways. The pieces are sculptural and have subtle contrasts introduced to them. The lines flow and morph along the contours of the body, so that it creates pieces the make a visual statements.
My pieces have spatial quality to them and are meant to be objects that invite curiosity even when viewed away from the body.
Untitled; 2013; finger piece; steel wire, powder coat; plaster and pigment colour; 210mm x 230mm x 25mm
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I have created wearable pieces, which transform from two-dimensional objects when worn. Traditional origami techniques are thus translated into wearable modern jewellery pieces.
I think every piece should be made for some purpose or function, so wearability is one of the most important design elements in my work. A successful piece must attract attention and somehow captivate the wearer, regardless of the material, form, concept, or technique.
The pieces of my collection can be worn in various ways; they can be enjoyed visually and appreciated for their geometry and playfulness. My design philosophy is drawn from the pure simplicity of line and fold - seeking a balance between creative exploration and design development.
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My design pathway is narrative jewelry and I really enjoy it. Jewellery communicates non-verbally and it emits signals which originate from thought, ideas and concept.
Nowadays, people who live in big cities are used to a relatively comfortable society. The idea of of war and hunger are very strange to most of them. But there are many countries which are at war. War has destroyed many things, such as families, lives and hearts. My design project focused on war-children. Children have pure minds and lovely hearts, they are supposed to have a bright future. Sadly, those who grow up in war have lost that precious childhood, the chance for education and a future. Those children are living in pain. They have lost their parents maybe, their family, and are starving every day. Many of them have been captured and trained to become child-soldiers. With my project, I wish to represent their damaged minds and lives. I wish to inspire conscientious reflection in the viewer of my work and to gain support and sympathy for those poor children.
Each of these pieces either tell a meaningful story or depict cruel emotions. My stories use sarcasm, smiles and symbols and I use the form of jewelry to express my ideas. To me jewelry is much more than just as ornament, it is an essential message to others and to the world.
War Child; 2013; brooches; brass, copper, silver, cold enamel and gold leaf; 31 x 24 x 20mm
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Presented as ornamentation my pieces look un-wearable at first, adopting a closed protective posture, an intention to create visual confusion in the determination of form and function, a tactic of distraction.
Mechanical movement in each piece originates from visual dynamics of speed, strength, agility and the aggression in the expression of explosive energy. This offensive movement has a double purpose to act as a show of protest to interference and also to invite transformation by evolving and adapting to new surroundings.
Untitled; 2013; bracelet; acrylic, silver, cubic zirconia’s; 80 x 80 x 60mm
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I'm interested in the process of cosmetic surgery. Some people want to get cut and stitched in order to escape from their original appearances over and over again. It seems to me that cosmetic surgery meets with emotional and physical needs.
Fastening and fixing are part of the desirable effect; they are worth to suffer for beauty. My pieces become art works only when displayed on the body. The pieces made from silver and their structures mimic the intrinsic forms of the surgical incision line.
Untitled; 2013; nose piece; fine silver and suture nylon; 40 x 32 x 75mm