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.

Ciara Bowles

Recent graduate Ciara Bowles who is exhibiting with the Designer Jewellers Group at the Barbican this Christmas, spoke to DJG member Michael Carpenter.

Ciara Bowles at New Designers 2013

MC: Where did you study and what got you interested in making jewellery?

CB: I have been interested in jewellery since I was young and I made jewellery out of wire, bottle caps and drinks cans for my friends and sold it at school. At college I became more and more interested in adorning the body, so a degree in jewellery seemed like a natural progression.

I studied at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating with a 1st in BA Jewellery & Silversmithing in 2012. Since then I have been developing my jewellery from my experimental degree collection, into more wearable everyday pieces.

MC: What are your inspirations?

CB: My work is inspired by plants, flowers and microscopic images of cells: I have always been fascinated by the colours, textures and delicate structures.  Colour, pattern, material and scale are what excites me, colour being the most important medium of all. I try to create jewellery that tantalises all of the senses though my use of bold colours and different materials, so much so that it draws you in to take a closer look.

Ciara Bowles PC021691

MC: How do you make your wonderful pieces?

CB: I use aluminium because of its light weight and malleability, the method of powder-coating gives me a strong smooth block colour to work off and the suede chenille (bound around the edges) for a different texture. All of my work is hand-pierced, which people say is crazy, but I like to have control over the patterns and it means that each piece is completely unique.

MC: What have you been doing since you graduated in 2012?

CB: Since exhibiting at New Designers: One Year On this year I have taken part in eight contemporary jewellery exhibitions around the country, one in Norway, including the Designer Jewellers Group. Next February I will be taking part in the new graduate exhibition at Studio Fusion Gallery, London and FASHIONED at Craft Central, London. I am also working towards designing a more commercial range of jewellery which I will launch at Pulse Design Fair, London in 2014.

MC: Thanks Ciara, I think you have a bright future in jewellery design.

Heather Woof

Heather Woof has joined the Designer Jewellers Group this season for their annual Christmas exhibition at the Barbican, London.

DJG member Mike Carpenter explores her work and methods in producing her distinctive jewellery.


Back in the summer a few members of the DJG met up at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London, to pick potential New Designers for our Christmas exhibition at the Barbican.


Heather’s work immediately struck me, with a good display and a body of work that hung together well as a cohesive whole. But what particularly impressed me was the flowing and fluid feel to her work, especially as she is using steel and titanium, two rather unforgiving materials that are not easy to manipulate.


The resultant jewellery is part of Heather’s “windswept” collection. Inspired as Heather says by the wild Scottish weather. Plenty of inspiration there.


Heather’s pieces appear to have been ‘blown’ into shape to give a tousled yet elegant feel to them. All the frond like elements are hand cut and shaped in steel or titanium and mounted in silver, and sometimes gold.


Heather has been very busy since completing her MA in the summer, and all seems set fair for good things in 2013.