Curiosity and intrigue have accompanied my exploration of jewellery and design. They were with me for rainy tours of historical sites and the discovery of metal artefacts in the National Museum.
A book was important too. I remember the library where I found the biography of the early twentieth century architect and designer El Lissitzky, who was so influential for the Bauhaus and Constructivist movements.
My eyes were opened to design , by this book, and its effect onour world. I recall El Lissitzky’s exhibition design, including his interactive systems allowing the visitor control what was revealed to them. The graphics were powerful too.
This awareness prompted my pursuit of a design education in the National College of Art. There while exploring many materials - metal drew me in by its qualities, potential and limitations. These I explored through designing and making jewellery and objects.
I fell in love with the discipline of design and was lucky to be awarded a summer scholarship to the Silvershop in the Kilkenny Design Workshops. This gave me my first experience of the professional world of product design. It was a wonderful experience and instilled a standard I maintain in my work to this day.
A Design scholarship brought me to London for jewellery and product development studies at Sir John Cass College. The wonderful world of crystals and gemstones was revealed to me too.
While this was a difficult period in London due to the troubles in Northern Ireland I received much. The city is an important centre for high end and cutting edge jewellery, with many important brands located there too. London is renowned for its museums with many important jewellery and gemstone collections.
The study of Celtic, Viking and Anglo Saxon artefacts in these museums, gave me an appreciation of the high quality design and technical skills these peoples had, as well as the position such work holds in the history of metals.
It was enlightening to access work from other periods too, particularly that of the Art Nouveau period of the late 19th century and the modernist movements of the 20th century.
London was a very exhilarating place to be for these reasons, as well as that the period from 1960s to the 1980s was very productive for all art forms in the UK. The greater accessibility of third level education to a broader demographic perhaps is one reason one reason for this. Energetic originality defined much resulting work.
Vivienne Westwood - a major force in British fashion was among the innovators of the time. Barbara Hulanicki whose Art Nouveau inspired fashion was sold through her Biba boutiques was another, as was Celia Birtwell CBE, the textile and fashion designer, known for her bold, romantic and feminine designs. Her friend the artist David Hockney helped define the era.
In terms of jewellery and silver-smithing , freshness and innovation characterised the work of British jewellers such as Andrew Grima, David Watkins, Jacqueline Mina and Wendy Ramshaw. Silversmith David Mellor worked across disciplines by designing the National traffic light system of 1966, along with his silverware.
Happily I was able to remove myself from the alternative universe of college, to be employed in the Jewellery trade for a number of years.
I was very lucky to spent time at the bench for two London Jewellery companies-one large, one small- with contrasting, valuable experiences. Bench work in Dublin followed. Here too an important moment occurred through my experience in a high end retail jewellers, where I learnt what jewellery meant to the person on the street and the relationship they built around it.
Later I developed my own ranges inspired by my experience of Celtic studies, culture and travel. My appreciation of our culture has been to the fore by my collaborative work for the retail outlets of the National Museum.
Curiosity about design and its power in our environment, prompted my recent MA in Design History and Material Culture. I look forward to now examining the place of jewellery in Irish culture.
2005- Made for America Award –DCCOI for the Irish- American market with industry partner
2000 - Art of Gold – Jewellery project DCCOI - EXHIBITED Ireland and Europe