A closer look at the graduate talent to watch emerging this year.
The annual New Designers show is a chance for UK-wide colleges and universities to show off a fresh assemblage of graduate jewellers and silversmiths, from the wholly experimental to the wear-it-now commercial. Kathryn Bishop headed to the Business Design Centre in London to meet 2014’s new talents.
A pink rubber brooch pierced with a fistful of acupuncture pins, chunky neckpieces that nod to the Art Deco era and porcelain pendants that could be mistaken for a slice of silk… If there’s one thing the array of jewellery at the annual New Designers graduate show offers, it’s variety.
The 2014 edition of the show – the 29th to date – welcomed jewellery graduates from a host of UK design schools and universities to the Business Design Centre in London. Schools taking part this year included Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD), Edinburgh College of Art, Glasgow School of Art, Middlesex University, the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Birmingham School of Jewellery, Sheffield Hallam, The Cass at London Metropolitan, Truro College and UCA Rochester.
The work on show at the June event revealed a host of inspirations, interpretations and skill levels. There were examples of commercially-minded design, such as drop earrings and trend-led double finger rings from the Design for Industry course at Birmingham School of Jewellery at BCU, while more unusual pieces grasped themes and ran fast, such as necklaces made using animal faeces, a bulbous perspex medal housing a glass eye and heavyweight rubber and marble collars, created to make the wearer more aware of their posture.
As ever, New Designers toasted the graduates with an award ceremony. This year, British designer Alex Monroe presented awards to several students, including Karen Elizabeth Donovan from the Edinburgh College of Art, who followed in the footsteps of 2013 award-winner Kelly Munro to scoop the Goldsmiths’ Company Award for jewellery. She impressed this year’s line-up of judges with her gold and titanium necklace and will now embark on a week-long internship with a London jeweller, while taking home a registration package for the London Assay Office.
Donovan said of her win: “I really enjoy my work and it’s great to be recognised. It’s great to be following in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Kelly Munro, and I will be looking to her example to develop my business plan.”
The New Designers Goldsmiths’ Company Award for Silversmithing was presented to Clive Taylor of Birmingham City University, who scooped the prize with his Executive LED desk lamp, controlled via a smartphone app. Mirroring Donovan, he has won a week-long internship with a London silversmith and a registration package for the London Assay Office.
Birmingham casting and manufacturing specialists Weston Beamor also returned as prize-givers at this year’s New Designers, presenting an award to Glasgow School of Art graduate Lindsay Hill for her Imperfections collection. The range, which features openwork gemstone-inspired rings and necklaces, was praised for its technical execution.
Hill described her elation at winning, telling Professional Jeweller: “With there being so many talented jewellers and silversmiths I did not expect to have been picked out from so many other designers. I was overwhelmed that Weston Beamor had selected me as their award winner, and I feel my trip down to their company will be beneficial in supporting my own work.”
Hill added that taking part in New Designers this year – a show that all graduates fund themselves – had brought multiple opportunities for her to progress as a designer. “Not only in producing new work but in getting my work into exhibitions I would never thought my designs would be [part of],” she explained.
Centrepunch, a south London training centre for jewellery designers that offers bench space and short courses, also presented an award at New Designers. It praised the work of Middlesex University graduate Mei-ling de Buitlear, whose work is inspired by African tribal jewellery. Centrepunch commended de Buitlear’s manufacturing nous, commercial sensibilities and deft use of bronze, gold plate and coconut shell charcoal, to create a collection that is simple yet striking. De Buitlear scooped six months free access to Centrepunch’s workshops, and endorsement from its founders Clive and Beaulagh Brooks.
Centrepunch director of education Beaulagh Brooks said: “Of all the beautiful creations on show, we felt that Mei-ling really pushed the boundaries by developing a unique manufacturing technique in order to produce her pieces. This has resulted in a range of stunningly pure and deceptively simple jewellery that could grace any red carpet.”
From red carpet jewels to statement costume pieces with a building block concept; Grace Honeybul of the University of Creative Arts, Rochester, presented a set of colourful Art Deco-inspired neckpieces, 3D printed in nylon. Like giant Duplo blocks, the necklaces can be pulled apart and re-built to form new designs. Alongside these, Honeybul showcased silver rings with an Egyptian aesthetic and statement stone-set designs that paid homage to New York’s Chrysler Building.
Honeybul said of the New Designers show: “Overall, the public’s feedback to my pieces has encouraged me to push my collection further, particularly my nylon costume collection based on Art Deco architecture, which can be customised to the wearers taste.”
Other 2014 graduates recognised by Professional Jeweller for showcasing designs with commercial potential or manufacturing skills included Sophie Naylor, with her intricate floral tiara and earrings; BCU’s Roxanna Moznabi, who told us of her plans to take her gem-set work to the Middle East; and Camilla Rowe, who sold some of her textured silver rings at the show. Sheffield Hallam’s Rachel H. Weston showcased intricate laser-cut paper jewellery inspired by fables, while Edinburgh College of Art’s Joseph Alessander impressed with his silverware and silver jewellery, which nodded to Arabesque themes with a touch of colour from lozenge-shaped slabs of chrysophrase. Sitting alongside Alessander was work by Isla Mercer Law, which combined baby pink rubber with chunky discs and tubes of marble. These heavy designs, hung from white rails to allow visitors to feel their weight, were created by Law to help wearers improve their posture; each piece can be worn around on the chest or down the back, the weight of the marble forcing the wearer to sit up straight.
New Designers is a show that annually reveals a wealth of styles and work, and a true cross-section of skills and techniques that jewellery schools and courses across the UK are teaching. As a result, it is a show that presents intricate and beautiful – not to mention award-winning – jewellery, alongside work that reveals a lack finesse or naive understanding of materials. Nevertheless, it is this contrast and variety that allows the designers of tomorrow to shine.
What 2014’s grads plan to do next
"Having interest in my work from both exhibitions and shops is enabling me to showcase my work as much as possible. I am looking forward to see what this year has in store. I’ll also be applying to One Year On at New Designers.”
Lindsay Hill, Glasgow School of Art
"I plan to gain experience within the jewellery industry to give me an insight into the business and marketing side of running a brand. I am also looking at collaborating with other creatives from different fields and researching new ways of pushing the boundaries of 3D printing.”
Grace Honeybul, UCA Rochester
This Review was taken from the August issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To read the issue in full online, click here.