Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery’s Junior Designer Jack Bainbridge and Diamond Mounting Apprentice Will Lander have both displayed exceptional talent in their work – so much so that both were finalists in the ‘Jewellery Oscars’, the Goldsmiths’ Crafts and Design Awards 2014/15.
Here, Will and Jack explain how they each approach their disciplines from the different perspectives, what inspires them and how they translate and incorporate inspirations into their work.
The brief was to create an expressive and distinctive colourful set of jewellery based on a theme. A key requirement was to demonstrate creative use and deployment of coloured gemstones. The design also needed to show a practical understanding of construction methods such as setting styles and mounts.
So with all of that in my mind I started to look for my colour inspiration. I had been researching the tourmaline as part of my training with Harriet Kelsall, and had seen some beautiful examples at our Cambridge studio. In addition to this, one of the existing dress jewellery designs I liked from our website used a watermelon tourmaline. I loved the way the pinks, purples and greens worked together. I started to think about a theme where I could incorporate these colours.
I have always been passionate about art in all forms and I love the work of Norwegian photographer, Ole C. Salomonsen. He has recently created an amazing film called “soaring” which is breath-taking, real-time footage rather than time-lapse, of the aurora borealis and I knew when I watched it I had found my inspiration.
Aurora was the goddess of the dawn and she gave her name to the spectacular natural phenomenon that lights the sky with a shimmering, dancing curtain of colour, fragmenting into stars and this was what I started to draw. The flowing contours of colour. I knew which stones would give the colour tones and they became my palette. And platinum became the setting, for its strength and beauty. The brilliant and trilliant cut stones with their unique incandescent sparkle to reflect the natural beauty of the aurora. Depth came from the rich green tones from the tourmalines, green sapphires and peridots; striking blues from the sapphires, sky blue topaz and London blue topaz; vibrant purples developed through the placement of the tanzanites, amethysts and purple tourmalines. And finally the diamonds, lifting the piece, inspired by the stars.
The design brief was to create an original piece of contemporary pearl fine jewellery that informs, inspires and celebrates this unique and timeless gem.
Last year I had been to the Victoria and Albert Museum and seen an exhibition about Pearls, I was inspired by their inherent beauty. In fact to try and demonstrate my artistic skills, I had painted a bronze pearl brooch from the collection and used it in my portfolio to show to Harriet Kelsall when I applied for my position as a Junior Designer.
Differing from other gems which are hard stones, a pearl is created from organic life. It has history, a soul. I thought about the way they nestle inside a shell and I wanted to design something where they were embraced in a similar way but by gold. I wanted the necklace design to have links so it would undulate when worn, reminiscent of the fluid form of the sea. I actually made several of the silver links containing the pearls to perfect the shape I wanted to achieve to better inform my design.
My initial design was quite classic and perfectly symmetrical. However, I revisited a theme I have used throughout my college and university, which is ‘the beauty of imperfection’ and changed the design to be different and not a mirror image of the opposite side. The necklace had to be contemporary and I liked the idea of using rose gold, which has had a recent resurgence as ‘lovers’ gold’ - particularly fitting as pearls are often worn by brides. The pearls reflect femininity and there is an arresting contrast between the elegant whites and warmth of the rose hues.
Both of my designs are hand painted and drawn on board.
Having discovered the Council and the awards, and having seen some of the previous entries and winners, I expressed an interest in entering a piece to Richard, our Head Goldsmith, who is overseeing my training. Seeing the standard of work and the craftsmanship in the pieces in the exhibition inspired me to enter the competition and aim for the same exceptional standard of work.
Unlike the design categories that Jack entered, there is no set brief for the Diamond Mounting category, so there is always a diverse range of entries. The predominant focus is in the skill, techniques and craftsmanship used to create the piece, rather than the design itself. The piece needs to show a variety of hand making skills, including piercing and saw work, drilling, soldering, gallery work, and handmade components. This requirement meant that the design was quite “fluid” and evolved during the making process to allow the traditional features to be included and different techniques to be demonstrated.
The butterfly design was chosen as it allowed us to create a piece of jewellery that incorporated a variety of traditional features and is very demanding, given the stage I am at in my apprenticeship.
The piece has been entirely handmade, by me, under the guidance of the Head Goldsmith and Senior Goldsmith Ryan, who have offered advice and guidance along the way. For example, when making the framework for the wings, Ryan demonstrated the techniques and steps involved, which I then went away and did myself on new metal, which then went into the final piece.
The butterfly is both a brooch and a pendant. This was quite common with Victorian and early 20th century jewellery, and I was very keen to include this in the butterfly. This presented both a design and making challenge that I was determined to overcome. The result of this is a clever double hinge system that allows the bail to unfold from its position hidden in the tip of the top wing to become functional as a bail. Should the wearer want to have the piece as a brooch, they simply fold the bail away to its hidden position and use the brooch fittings on the back of the butterfly.
I have learned how to hand make brooch fittings, such as the “roller catch” that the pin locks into once threaded through clothing. This was a delicate task as the catch is very small and needs to be very precise to enable it to work correctly. If it isn’t quite round, the inner workings of the catch won’t “roll” properly and therefore will not secure the pin in place. Admittedly, the catch on the butterfly is a third attempt!
The beauty of bespoke jewellery, and something that we really enjoy here at Harriet Kelsall, is being able to feature different shaped stones. These always catch my eye, and I decided that I’d like to incorporate this in the butterfly somehow. By making the wire framework of the wings in the way that I have, it has afforded me the space to fit some different shaped handmade collets in the piece. This was another learning process – I have made round collets before and a couple of pear shaped ones, but never a trillion (triangular) one, and not on the small scale of the butterfly’s collets!
The soldering process was delicate and tricky. With a piece like the butterfly, there are many solder joins to hold the various components together. I estimate that there are over 75 joins in the piece, as every component has been handmade. I worked with different grades of solder to assemble the butterfly. Needless to say, some of the soldering was challenging and very stressful! One small mistake could have meant pieces moving out of place and potentially having to remake parts.
The butterfly was made over a period of 9 months, spending normally one day a week either on the piece itself, or learning new skills, how to make different components, or testing different features and methods to ascertain the best way to achieve the results I wanted.
I have learned so much from making it and I am very happy with the final result! Richard and Ryan have taught me some valuable skills that can be transferred into my day to day work and will benefit me massively. To be in only my second year of my apprenticeship and to have been recognised for the butterfly is a huge achievement and I am extremely proud to have won recognition for my work.