Karen Elizabeth Donovan

Mike Carpenter spoke to new designer Karen Elizabeth Donovon, currently exhibiting with the Designer Jewellers Group at the Barbican London.

Karen Elizabeth Donovan at work at ECA

MC: Hi Karen, what inspires you to make jewellery and what materials do you use?

KED: I have come to appreciate the importance of heather as a significant fixture in the landscape of Scotland, where I live and have my workshop. I use titanium in my jewellery and I feel that heather and titanium share certain aspects of strength, durability springiness and is lightweight and can have subtle colour variations.

Titanium presents wonderful challenges to overcome and work around, and gives strength to delicate wirework and piercing. Colour and pattern are integral to my work and are developed through close study of plants and created by the attributes of titanium. As my work continues to develop, I have incorporated more gold, which historically held its own role in the ever-changing Scottish landscape. I find the disparity between gold and titanium to be fascinating and continue to work on this relationship.

All my work is made completely by hand, I bend all the wire into the shapes I use just with a pair of pliers. I then connect it all together and anodize it to give it the beautiful colours.

WEB Karen Elizabeth Donovan Lace Collar 2015 Shannon Tofts Photography

MC: How has 2015 been for you?

KED: I have spent the last year doing a residency at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA). I did my masters at ECA and it was good to stick around for another year developing new work and a distilled version of my degree work. Over the year I have been creating for exhibitions, developing new collections and most importantly working with students.

While at ECA I applied for and was awarded a grant from Creative Scotland for research and professional development. This grant allowed me to travel to Italy back in July to study alloying with Giovanni Corvaja. The reason I went to work with Giovanni was to learn how to alloy gold. When working with titanium I have a nearly endless choice of colours to use and can create a range or a change in colour through the piece. I wanted to use more gold in my work, but keep the colour changes. With Giovanni I was able to create a range of colours in gold with different ratios of metals. Each of these alloys have very different properties and uses. I am still working through this research, but I was able to create this chain pictured, which is based on previous designs in titanium but made entirely in 18 ct gold. I am hoping in time that my designs will develop relating the two colour ranges, using gold and titanium together. While the colours in gold are subtler than those in titanium they do seem to work well together.

I started the year off receiving the New Designers’ Goldsmiths’ Company Award for Jewellery and was overwhelmed by exhibition requests. I had a very busy autumn and was ecstatic to be recognised by the Goldsmiths’ Company. In January when it was a bit quieter I travelled to London to take part in the ‘Getting Started’ programme at the Goldsmiths’ Centre in Clerkenwell which was an amazing course and a great chance to meet not only important people in the industry but also my peers from across the country.

Back in September I was awarded an Enterprise Initiative Grant from the University of Edinburgh’s Launch.ed Office, which supports UoE Entrepreneurs of all disciplines. I used the grant to attend and exhibit at the Society of North American Goldsmiths’ conference.

MC: What are your future plans?

KED: While I am no longer at ECA I am hoping that the year I spent there has taught be how to balance creating for selling and personal research. I am looking forward to continuing my research into historical techniques and balancing them with the much more modern use of titanium, and more fully connect to the historical jewellery forms I am so fascinated by.

I look forward to exhibiting the new works which I have been creating with that new knowledge.

MC: Thanks Karen, we look forward to seeing the fruits of that research.

Karen’s jewellery is on display and for sale in the Designer Jewellers Group pop-up shop in the Barbican Centre, London, every day now until 23rd December 2015.

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Morna Darling

Designer Jewellers Group member Jo McAllister interviews new designer Morna Darling.

Morna Darling Portrait

JM: What made you decide to become a jeweller and where did you train?

MD: I have always loved drawing and making things and with jewellery there is so many possibilities of materials, scale and concepts, this definitely attracted me to studying it. Being taken to Dazzle by my parents during the Edinburgh Festival was also a definite attraction as there was so much exciting work. I trained at Glasgow School of Art which I really enjoyed, especially my fourth year when I had free reign to really develop and explore my jewellery skills.

JM: Describe where you do most of your creative work.

MD: I do most of my creative work in my studio which I share with two other makers. I love working with materials and making samples and test pieces before I finalise my designs and sitting at my bench is where this happens. I also occasionally takeover my kitchen table with my sketchbooks, I love to draw and collage and it’s a great calm place to do it.

JM: What are you currently working on?

MD: I’m currently working on a few commissions for Christmas and continuing to develop my current collections.

JM: What are the key themes in your work?

MD: I like to make pieces with texture, pattern and colour. My work is inspired by fabrics and clothing. I am interested in representing the qualities of cloth such as layering, threading, folding and the patterns found within it. Pattern making is hugely important in my process and I am fascinated with the structural repeated elements of fabric and how to emulate these in my jewellery. Using different materials from my source allows playful exploration of how to create aspects of textiles whilst not actually including them in my work.

JM: What would you like people to notice about your work?

MD: I think I would like people to notice the different ways I combine precious and non precious materials and how they can work so well together.

Morna Darling

JM: What attracts you to the material(s) you work in?

MD: I work with silver, plastic and copper. I’m attracted to the plastic because of the soft, organic forms I can create with what is actually a hard material. It also means I have the opportunity to add colour to my pieces. I also patinate copper to turn it blue, joining this with silver is one of my favourite combinations.

Morna Darling: Wrapped

JM: What do you enjoy most – making or designing?

MD: I like nothing better than to play with different materials and to see what happens. I enjoy drawing and designing, but if I had to choose, I would say materials led processes.

JM: What is your favourite tool and why?

MD: My favourite tool is my rolling mill. I was very fortunate to receive the David Canter Memorial fund last year and I bought it with this. It’s a fantastic tool to impress unique patterns and textures on the metals I work with.

Half Layer, Morna Darling, silver and copper ring

JM: Who and / or what inspires you?

MD: I have always had an interest in textiles as well as jewellery so this is a big part of my inspiration in terms of my designs, however I’m constantly inspired by the many independent makers who create unique and different work and give me lots of determination to continue making and doing what I love.

JM: If you could collaborate with one artist, designer or maker, from any time, who would it be and why?

MD: One of the first jewellers I was aware of at school was American jeweller, Arline Fisch. She uses techniques such as knitting and crochet to create beautiful pieces made from colourful wire. She creates jewellery but also large installations, I’ve always been drawn to colour so to collaborate on an installation with her would be great fun.

Wrapped Necklace, Silver & plastic, 2015

Morna’s jewellery is on display and for sale in the Designer Jewellers Group pop-up shop in the Barbican Centre, London, every day now until 23rd December 2015.

Natalie Adams

New designer Natalie Adams, by Ute Sanne.

Candied Spirals Necklace_Adams_2015_Jewellery copy

When you see Natalie Adams work you are immediately transported into a vibrant, exotic and colourful world, miles away from grey British skies.

Born in England, Natalie grew up in Hong Kong and Shanghai. She returned to the United Kingdom for her degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing at Edinburgh College of Art. Her jewellery is evidentially a reflection of her years in Asia: Modern, cutting edge architecture fused with the traditional lattice work of the old Shanghai, dipped in bright reds, pinks and greens .

The result is a mix of very intriguing 3 dimensional shapes, executed with great precision and attention to detail.

Her chosen materials are acrylic plastic tubing, enamelled coated wire, sometimes gold and silver.

Natalie’s work involves a great deal of precision work by hand:

  • The acrylic tubing is cut and sanded down.
  • All the grooves that hold the delicate wire are hand sawn.
  • Once everything is prepared, the tubes are hand dyed, giving the plastic such fun colours and delicious transitions from one shade to another.
  • Then the wires are woven through the grooves.
  • The colourful chain links are made from coils of jewellery wire and twisted to make double helixes.

Natalie Adams jewellery Sunset Bangle_Adams

I particularly love Natalie’s Sunset Collection: True statement pieces in a riot of pink, orange and blue colours!

Natalie is currently Artist in Residence at Edinburgh College of Art and her jewellery can be viewed and purchased from the Designer Jewellers Group exhibition at the Barbican Centre until 23rd December.

Natalie Adams has accomplished a fantastic first collection and I am certain she has a great future ahead of her!

Beth Spowart

DJG member Henrietta Fernandez interviews new designer Beth Spowart about her jewellery.

Beth working

HF: How did you get into jewellery and where did you train?

BS: Since a young age I have always loved creating things with my hands.  At school my art teacher, Andrea Douglas, was a great influence and encouraged me to pursue my love of jewellery making. I graduated in 2014 from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Jewellery and Metal Design developing my interest in smart materials and since then I have never looked back.

Beth Set up

HF: How did you start using smart materials in your work?

BS: During my 3rd year at university, I was introduced to smart materials by Dr Sara Robertson- a lecturer in craft innovation and smart materials. She has shared her invaluable knowledge and skills with me, which I have gone on to apply creatively within my work.

HF: Can you explain a bit about the smart materials that you use in your jewellery?

BS: At the moment I am using two different types of smart materials in my jewellery. Thermochromism is a property that changes colour with the stimulus of heat, and Photochromism changes colour with UV light. I have developed this technology in my jewellery to make pieces that are sensitive to body heat and react with daylight when worn outside. This makes each piece individual to the wearer depending on their surroundings.

HF: Describe in more detail the technology and skills you use to make your pieces

BS: To create the shapes in my new collection ‘Playground’, I have manipulated my drawings and photos in to digital form. Through using the resources at the art school I then transfer my designs to the laser cutter to engrave my drawings into anodised aluminium.

HF: Tell us more about the ‘Playground’ collection that you launched this year

BS: ‘Playground’ is inspired by my childhood memories and the nostalgia of being care-free. Through the shapes, colours and movements of the playground I have made this new collection using the smart materials and techniques that I have developed since graduating. Throughout all of my collections I aim to remain innovative, creating jewellery that is interactive and individual through the use of techniques, materials and designs.

Workbench

HF: So, where is your workshop based?

BS: I am in my second year as Designer in Residence at DJCAD in Dundee and this is where my bench and studio are currently based. I support students in workshops and also with their own individual projects. The residency programme helps graduates starting out in their careers by providing support through the use of the university’s facilities, spaces and mentorship to help them develop their skills and confidence in their creative practice.  I applied after I graduated in 2014 and saw it as a great opportunity to help me set up my own practice as a contemporary jewellery designer and maker.

HF: What’s your typical day like?

BS: Right now, I’m pleased to be busy making Christmas orders! So my typical day starts at 8.30am at the workshop in the university, having a cup of coffee to set me up for the day. I always check my e-mails and I look at my ‘to do’ list! At my bench I will be cleaning up castings, working with my resin pieces and making elements for each piece of jewellery. Also I am involved in helping the students through workshops. I am usually home by six thirty when I catch up on any admin work and create more lists!

HF: Where do you sell your work?

BS: I am exhibiting in three other galleries this Christmas; the Dazzle Winter Show and Studio Fusion Gallery – both at the Oxo Tower Wharf in London. Additionally, I am selling my new collection at The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle until March 2016,  this is in collaboration with Craft Scotland. I have stock from my previous collection in Gill Wing Jewellery shop in Islington, London.

I have also recently launched my online shop on my website, www.bethspowart.co.uk where I am selling some of my new earrings and I will be adding more items in the next few months.

Beth’s jewellery is on display and for sale in the Designer Jewellers Group pop-up shop in the Barbican Centre, London, every day now until 23rd December 2015.

Karolina Baines

DJG member Shelby Fitzpatrick interviews new designer Karolina Baines about her jewellery.

K Baines in studio

SF: Can you tell us a little about your background?

KB: I studied my foundation course at Stevenson College in Edinburgh, where my tutor Russell Wallace, inspired me to generate ideas in many different ways. I never forget all his advice. I am very pleased to have graduated from Edinburgh College of Art this year with a first class honours degree. It was there that my interest in enamelling really took form, as I learnt from Elizabeth and Jessica Turrell. I learnt so much from my teachers including Stephen Bottomley and Susan Cross, and am really glad of all the opportunities I have had to grow and develop through my time at ECA.

K Baines Venice photos
‘Faded glories’ of Venice
SF: Where do you find your inspiration?

KB: Of my current two collections, ‘Currents of Venice’, is a result of a research trip to the beautiful Italian city last year. There, my imagination was captured by the patchwork of texture and colours, of old and new, as the residents work to restore the faded glory and faded colours, resulting in layers upon layers of architecture and details. I feel this translated well into a set of pieces with both deep, vibrant colours and strong tactile values, which invite touch and intimate exploration.

K Baines Sketchbook and test pieces Venice
Sketchbook work and test pieces based on Karolina’s research trip to Venice
My other collection, ‘Lines in Motion’ grew out of my interest in the relationship between surface and form, and as a personal challenge I set myself. Much of my work is rooted in drawing at the sketchbook level and printmaking and is by nature very two-dimensional.   My challenge for this project was to develop new ways of achieving three-dimensional forms. I took my inspiration from the weaving movements of basketry and the pleat work of Japanese clothing designer Issey Miyake. Although these two sources are quite different, I found they both involved a certain kind of rhythm in their creation and introduced a sense of movement into my work as well as bringing that much need third dimension.

K Baines Sketchbook and test pieces Basketry
Sketchbook work and test pieces for Karolina’s ‘Lines in Motion’ collection
SF: In what techniques do you feel confident and which would you like to develop further?

KB: I love the versatility of enamel, with the world of possibilities it allows for, in terms of texture and pattern. I especially enjoy creating matt finishes. And the colour! I have always enjoyed a strong use of colour in my work and enamel allows for especially vivid and deep shades and hues. In the Summer I was privileged to be a part of the International Enamelling Symposium in Erfurt, Germany. It was just amazing to work alongside great enamel artists from around the world and to learn from them, and to explore new possibilities. I feel that I have yet to exhaust the creative potential in the use of enamel and look forward to more opportunities to experiment with this medium, such as working more with industrial, liquid enamels, as until Erfurt I mainly worked with vitreous enamel.

K Baines Necklace 'Currents of Venice (5)' Shannon Tofts
Neckpiece from Karolina’s ‘Currents of Venice’ collection  (photography by Shannon Tofts)
I would like to develop my use of other mediums including wood and resin. I had a wonderful opportunity to study “Exploring Jewellery with Wood” for a week at West Dean College with Beth Legg. I really enjoyed using found wood and experimenting with pyrography, and would love to develop this further.

SF: Would you like to collaborate with others, either to a theme, or on a specific project?  If so, can you imagine the advantages in this?

KB: I would love to collaborate with other artists on a project. Although I have not got anyone in mind as a specific collaborator, I can see definite advantages of working alongside others, such as being stretched in new directions and being open to lots of new techniques. Some of my favourite projects at college were when we worked with other students, especially from different disciplines. It really opened you up to new possibilities.

K Baines Earrings Lines in motion (1)' Shannon Tofts
Earrings from Karolina’s ‘Lines in Motion’ collection, 2015
Karolina’s jewellery is on display and for sale in the Designer Jewellers Group pop-up shop in the Barbican Centre, London, every day now until 23rd December 2015.