Friday, 28 February 2014

Making More: Research

As a jewellery artist working in mixed media, I am naturally interested in how people have used unusual materials or combinations of materials in the past. An area I have been interested in for many years is Make do and Mend Jewellery from the 1940's. There is not very much recorded for this area and so it does have an air of mystery which appeals to me.

During WW2. Luxurious materials were in short supply for making "new" pieces of jewellery. Many people handmade their own jewellery and material choices were often very inventive. Scraps of plastic wire, textiles and leather as well as found objects such as fir cones and seeds were often used. Instructions for making your own jewellery were published in magazines.

One of the things I love about this kind of jewellery is how inclusive is it. Everyone could make it and it was very low tech. You didn't need any fancy pieces of equipment to produce it. There is something lovely about everyone being able to make their own from one set of instructions and them all being unique. I like to imagine who made them and how they might have looked on the garments of the time.

A while ago I found this brooch in an antiques shop in Rye. It is made with the plastic casing from electrical wire. Some sources say that women collected these scraps from the factory floor, although I did speak to someone who said that they could remember being able to purchase this wire from shops too. Some attribute the brooches to women making them at home for themselves and to sell, other say Italian prisioners of war made them. I have also heard and read accounts of them being sold in markets or outside the factories where the materials were collected.

I have been researching this area of jewellery in order to help me design and make my own series of brooches, using plastics,leather,felt,buttons,wool and household items. I will then be teaching others how to make them as part of the Making More project.

Making More

Back in November I was awarded a commission for "Making More" a pilot project organised by Making Space and LV21 Ltd with funding from Arts Council England.

Paivi Seppala (LV21) and Lynne Dick (Making Space), were looking to commission two UK-based designer-makers to work on a pilot project researching a new business model, focusing on the development of making skills at a local level in Hampshire/West Sussex Border and Kent/Medway areas. I was thrilled to be awarded the commission for Kent as it's the County I live in and love!

The project will involve me developing and delivering a programme of skills teaching sessions for jewellery. The group will then develop a collection of works in a number of workshops, to take forward and retail in local outlets.

The teaching element of the project will take place on LV21, a 40 metre steel-hulled lightship transformed into a floating art space and performance facility. The most unusual place I have ever taught in! I visited LV21 back in December and was amazed at the space and the diversity of events that take place onboard, including: gigs,residencies,workshops and school visits as well as arts management and consultancy.

The project was "inspired by the model adopted by the Rural Industries Bureau in the 1930s recession, where local village women were trained in quilting and these quilts were then sold to the Dorchester, London (later displayed in 2010 at the V&A Quilting exhibition)."

Stella Harding is the other artist, who will be working on the Hampshire project.

Over the next few months I will be sharing with you the development of the project.

Monday, 3 February 2014


I have been collecting and get getting a bit obsessive about buttons recently, as part of my research for a new and very exciting commission (more news on that very soon!) By chance, a good friend of mine, Paula Lindblom, sent me some buttons as a Christmas gift from Sweden. The beautiful flower posies. I love the way they are all lined up in a regimented grid format. I have them displayed in my studio for the moment as they are just nice to look at and have about me in my environment as I think and make.

The other ones, little pink bunnies, also on the original backing card are an eBay find. I may keep these on the card for a while to look at. I have got quite attached to these ones, so they may never make it into a jewellery object!