Manifest – Meet the Designer – Jo McAllister

Manifest is a touring exhibition of jewellery by the Designer Jewellers Group to celebrate its fortieth anniversary. The Manifest exhibition showcases the work of 20 jewellers from around the world in a unique display, which is open to the public at Barbican Art Centre, London.

Designer Jewellers Group

29 May 2016 – 30 June 2016

Foyer, Level G, Barbican Art Centre

Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS, United Kingdom

Ticket: Admission free

Times: Daily 12 noon – 8pm

Here is Jo’s work:

Jo McAllister

Manifest Lookbook



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.

Harriet Rose Knight

In the final blog post of this series, DJG member Jo McAllister interviews new designer Harriet Rose Knight.

Harriet Knight

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

HRK: I’ve always loved making things. When I was 12, I made my first silver twisted ring at a craft fair workshop and haven’t stopped making jewellery since then. As a schoolgirl, I attended short holiday courses in Cornwall and evening classes in Bath. In June 2014, I graduated from The School of Jewellery, Birmingham with a degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing.


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

HRK: I design anywhere and everywhere. I always have a notebook at the ready for those light bulb moments, sketching what I see or little diagrams of how to assemble a piece. I then develop and refine on my little scribbles, working on my computer in the quiet comfort of home. I am currently an Artist in Residence at The School of Jewellery in Birmingham, where I like to finish, dye and assemble all my pieces within the hustle and bustle of a busy workshop.


JM: What are you currently working on?

HRK: I am developing a whole brand new wooden range of jewellery which I am excited to be bringing out in the New Year. But I am also still developing and promoting my graduate collection. I’m introducing new colour combinations and pieces to the range such as drop earrings and pendants. As well as this, I am also a member of the Continued. Collective which will be exhibiting internationally next year. I am creating a special one-off piece for that.


JM: What are the key themes in your work?

HRK: My graduate collection is entitled ‘A Portrayal of Composure’. It captures the silent concealment of anxiety, through combining a quiet controlled oval exterior, with layers of intricate restrictive grid work. For me it visually describes the escalation and constrained, trapped feeling of fear, emulated through layering and precision cut caged designs. This raw emotion however is disguised through gentle curves, accurate intricacy and a muted colour palette forming a quiet, calm and reflective aesthetic deceiving the viewer. Within each piece, differing stages of portrayal are depicted through the breakdown of grid work.


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

HRK: I am always drawn to and take pride in creating pieces with subtle intricate details that are seen when you take the time to look closely. For example within my current work, I will dye an individual layer up to 4 times to highlight the natural grain of the wood.

I am also a bit of a perfectionist which is translated through the control and engineered precision of my designs. I hope that people will feel drawn to the materials used and the blend of engineering and smooth lines in eye-catching, wearable pieces.


JM: What attracts you to the material you work in?

HRK: As I mentioned previously, I love precision and to have control over my materials. Laser cutting allows me to gain this control, however why I specifically enjoy using wood, is that it balances this harsh exactness with a softness and a warmth of a natural material.

In the past I have used a lot of metal within my work, but wood is amazingly light, allowing me to explore thicker, bigger and more intricate designs that would be far too heavy in metal.


JM: What is your favourite tool and why?

HRK: My little riveting hammer! Not only absolutely adorable in size, I couldn’t make my work without it.


JM: Who and / or what inspires you?

HRK: Often within my work I use concepts not as a communication tool but as a design tool for myself. I feel that without a concept to direct my design journey, there are too many possibilities, too many outcomes to choose from and I find myself wanting to try them all. These concepts are from everyday life and issues that I feel strongly towards and range from anxiety, divorce and gender equality.


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

HRK: I think it would be wonderful to collaborate with Lara Jensen who an incredible milliner, creating pieces for catwalk, TV, film and advertising. Her pieces are daring, expressive and always different. I feel that my conceptual influences and light wood material could be transferred into something really bold and dramatic.


Harriet’s work will be on view and for sale in the Designer Jewellers Group pop up shop in the Barbican until 27th December (closed 24th- 26th December).

Jo McAllister: Stone Made Metal

This short film by Alexander Brattell shows DJG member Jo McAllister using Stone Age tools and techniques to make her wonderfully textured jewellery in fine silver.

The film was made for The Crafts Council’s “Power Of Making On Screen” programme to accompany their 40th anniversary exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Jo’s jewellery is featured in our exhibition on now in the Barbican, and for a chance to meet Jo in person, pop in today or tomorrow!