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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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!

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.

Esme Parsons

DJG member Jane Moore interviews new designer Esme Parsons about her work.

Esme Parsons 191
Jane Moore and Esme Parsons at the Barbican Centre

JM: Esme, what has been your inspiration with this collection?

EP: I am inspired by urban city landscapes, modernist and brutalist buildings, graffiti, road markings etc. I like to take inspiration from the urban landscape that otherwise people would ignore. I can often be inspired by barbed wire or scaffolding.

JM: How do you approach the making process?

EP: I take many photos, sketch quick line drawings and make paper and card models until I am happy with the construction. I then start building the forms in silver.

JM: What other materials do you use?

EP: I prefer to work in silver because it enables me to enamel the pieces in bright opaque colours. Sifting gives me a spray effect which replicates the effects of graffiti.

JM: Have you always worked with enamel?

EP: During my first year at UCA (University for the Creative Arts) Rochester on my silversmithing and goldsmithing  course we had the good fortune to be taught enamelling by Louise O’Neill. I found her to be extremely inspiring.

I experimented and played with traditional enamelling techniques until again we had the very inspiring enameller Jessica Turrell to teach us on a short course.

JM: Do you spend much time testing enamel colours?

EP: I have my favourites but am always open to trying out new colours and I experiment with different size meshes until I am happy with the effects and results.

JM: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

EP: I would very much like to exhibit abroad such as SOFA in the USA. Presently I am an artist in residence at Edinburgh University. I have access to all the facilities at the University and also space to work alongside teaching and helping the first and second year B.A. Students.

Having worked with these students I have realised that I would like to teach on a more permanent basis. I would also consider doing a Masters degree in the future but first I would like to consolidate my current work to see where it takes me.

Esme Parsons 198

Esme’s work is on display and for sale in the Designer Jewellers Group pop-up shop in the Barbican Centre, London, now until 27th December 2014.

Kelly Munro: One Year On

At the New Designers show in 2013 we selected Kelly Munro as one of our six Designer Jewellers Group new designers. Now, as the anniversary of the show approaches, and Kelly updates us on her first year in business and her preparations for appearing in ‘One Year On’: a special section of the New Designers show.

Since graduating last year from Edinburgh College of Art the past year has been a bit of a whirlwind. New Designers last year really kick-started my career as a jeweller and I am thrilled to be accepted back to exhibit at ‘One Year On’.

I have been making ‘to do’ lists since I first found out I was accepted to exhibit and It is still going strong. In the run up to the show I have been creating new statement pieces as well as working on some brand new designs that don’t fit into the jewellery category at all.  I have something very new to bring to the table this year after having ideas before Christmas. I designed five pots and commissioned a local wood turner near my hometown up north to create these. Since then I have painted, burned, branded and pierced large net-like lids. I am very excited to reveal these at One Year On and hope they are well received.

I would say my work has evolved a lot in the past year – especially since I have introduced my new silver collection – but the same principle of burned wood combined with colour and saw piercing still stands. I still thrive to create bold statement jewellery that is also very easily worn. My silver collection is now available to purchase through my website and has gotten off to a great start so far.

It is about 2 weeks until the show and I have just started thinking about my display and what I still need for my stand. So far I have decided that less is more. I am planning to pin all my statement pieces along the back wall with a while background to keep it all simple. I have started building plinths to show off my smaller works, and at the same time trying to remember I have to fit everything into a metre.

Next week I have a photo shoot planned with the lovely Kevin Sinclair and my beautiful friend that I always rope into being my model – Hannah Minnock. I was really pleased with how my photos turned out last year and were used in so many magazines and online blogs, one was even printed A1 and displayed at SOFA Chicago which was fantastic. I am crossing my fingers that the weather says dry and our shots are as successful this year.

Kelly Munro

All in all I am so excited to exhibit again but very nervous, I just hope I can keep up with all the other fantastic makers at One Year On. The group this year are exceptional, and I am looking forward to meeting all the exhibitors I haven’t yet met.

We wish Kelly a fantastic show, and can’t wait to see her new work!
New Designers is on at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 25th June 2014.