Please see below link re my collection of cufflinks. Available in Designyard and Deirdre O’Donnell Jewellery in Dublin and through the studio.
A short note on design and for craft.
It is a subject that confuses many, what it is and why is it important?
Design is the set of principles that moves an idea, through various steps to a result. This could be a system or object that serves the needs of whomever it is intended for.
The quality of many aspects of our daily lives is determined by how thoughtfully this is undertaken as design is many things. It includes the visuals in advertising, electronic systems, household goods, furniture, medical devices and how we navigate the motorway.
Craft Design is a branch that covers functional products and objects in metals, clay, glass, textiles, and wood- often produced in-house, in small batch production, with a high degree of handwork.
While such products are characterised by a focus on aesthetic values, it is never at the cost of functionality. If aesthetic values over ride functionality, the work ceases to be design and becomes a decorative or conceptual art piece.
For instance, Jewellery, or personal ornament, is design for a craft. Jewellery dominates the body, whose structure dictates its form. All pieces such as a ring, pendant or earring must fit as the design and body dictate. If gemstones are included these follow the same rules.
Architecture, on the other hand, encloses the body. Jewellery is sometimes described as intimate architecture. It is both structure and message.
This feature influences the design of wedding rings, lockets, brooches or badges with symbolic or literal messages. All objects gather memories and associations over time. Jewellery is powerful in this regard due to the strong emotional benefits it is imbued with.
Craft design therefore is an intimate part of our daily lives giving us an association with objects that contribute to its functioning with a joyful experience.
In 2013 David Poston had an exhibition in Middlesex University in the UK - called : Necklace for an Elephant and other Stories. Reading about it reminded me of the Elephant Necklace.
The necklace is wonderful, and I love it. I was lucky to see both the piece, and this image years ago. Though it looks as if the necklace was made for the elephant, it wasn’t.
This is the story of how the Elephant Necklace came about.
In 1974 when author and curator Ralph Turner was leaving his job, in Electrum Gallery, David Poston presented him with a silver necklace of heavy fused beads-ingratitude for his support.
In return Turner invited him to exhibit something BIG for the group show: Jewellery in Europe, held in the mid 1970s.
So Poston decided to make a very big copy of the necklace. The result: this Portland limestone bead necklace, that weighed 160 kg.
To create it, the beads were first carried 300 ft up a cliff path. They were next prepared with steel and textile dividers, drilled, and finally threaded on thick hemp rope.
The problem now was- how to display the necklace in order to get a good image. Turner’s solution was Womba the elephant, then wintering with Chpperfield’s Circus in the East Midlands safari park.
The late David Cripps was the photographer.
The resulting image was earmarked for the Jewellery in Europe exhibition poster. However it was only deemed acceptable for the Edinburgh venue, as Ralph Turner considered it unsuitable for such an august institution as the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The image and poster have rightly lived on. In recent years a signed copy was auctioned off at the Electrum Gallery’s 40th anniversary exhibition, in aid of the Japanese tsunami.
What of the necklace ? Thankfully it found a home with a private collector, long ago.
Poston studied at Hornsey College of Art- later Middlesex University. He was a participant, in the famous student protests, whose actions were a conduit for major changes in Visual Arts education.
Poston's jewellery is in the collections of both the Victoria & Albert Museum and National Gallery of Melbourne.
He describes himself as an interdisciplinary designer, inventor and 3D designer.
The Elephant Necklace reflects the originality, fun and inventive creativity that characterised Jewellery design of 1970s Britain.
It brings a smile…….
With thanks to David Poston for information , by E-mail 2013
David Poston website: David Poston
A long narrow piece of jewellery I saw on exhibition in London intrigued me for years. I recalled words under glass domes whose hinged covers invited concealment. Was there a political or a philosophical message there ?
Who made it? I couldn't remember.
Recently, determined to find out, I contacted the British Crafts Council, but to no avail. Later when randomly researching 1960s jewellery on the internet, suddenly there it was- the brooch. Mystery solved – see Figure 1
Figure 1. Silver brooch with enameled decoration and glass. 1966/7
This brooch is the work of the German born Jeweller Helga Zahn (1936-1985), who made London her home in 1957.
She came to study, and initially did so at Leeds College of Art and later at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London.
The words in the brooch read as follows:
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
– Karl Marx, Theses On Feuerbach: Thesis 11 (1845)
The use of a piece of jewellery as a medium for a message was a surprise, and completely new to me. Interesting too is the control given to the wearer, by Zahn, to choose which words to display– layers and secrets.
Zahn describes her work and process as follows:
…. to explain why I hate also making jewellery …… and I do, not only because
the actual period of creation is very short, and the process of making very
tedious, but because of its limitations in self expression and materialistic
overtone the word “jewellery” carries.
I tried once to break that rule with a brooch I made, with a quotation by
Karl Marx inside it. I failed miserably. The piece in itself is a contradiction,
so is the quotation, . and the way I exhibited … another…
While I experienced no sense of these frustrations in viewing her work, Zahn’s perspective is revealing.
With the exception of the articulated pendant, Figure 2, the style of the brooch appears unique in Zahn’s overall output.
Figure 2. Silver and amber articulated pendant
She is known, instead, for works combining metals with natural materials such as pebbles, shells, and bones. These were exploited for their colour and tactile qualities
A wonderful example is the dramatic silver neck-piece set with Cornish blue pebbles in Figure 3. Another example of pebble set jewellery is the silver articulated pendant in Figure, 4. This also shows some influence with the colour choice in the work of Scandinavian jeweller Torun(1927-2004) – Figures, 5.
Figure 3. Blue Cornish Pebble set silver neckpiece. 1966/7. Collection Victoria & Albert Museum . M7-1991
Figure 4. Silver pebble set Pendant on handmade linked chain. 1960s
Figure 5. Pebble set silver linked pendant on neck torc. 1948
Zahn's work was well respected, beingrecognised in 1973 with a solo exhibition mounted by the Crafts Advisory Committee (British Crafts Council).
Ralph Turner, Curator, writer and critic of applied art. Head of Exhibitions, Crafts Council, 1974-1989, commented that from the outset Zahn “ questioned accepted values of jewellery and made decisive and often defiant statements.”
He believed her to be one of the first of the .." important jewellers of the period who took contemporary jewellery beyond the traditional into the territory of experimentation and expression of feelings"
Now that I know about it I appreciate Zahn's legacy of clarity, skill and originality.
In fact, the period between the 1960s and 1980s in the UK was a very fertile time for creative, innovative, and exciting jewellery. Many examples of which are displayed in the Victoria & Albert Museum – London.
The Victoria & Albert Museum – London- Jewellery collections: http://www.vam.ac.uk
Information and work re Helga Zahn: http: http://www.schmuck-zahn-helga.de/schmuck3e
The British Crafts Council- Archive on line: http:// www .craftscouncil.org.
Figure 1 Source: image of Brooch -Helga Zahn : http://www.danner-stiftung.de/
Figure 2 Source: image of pendant- Helga Zahn- British Crafts Council website:
Figure 3 Neckpiece: collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum: http://www.vam.ac.uk
Figure 4 Source: image neckpiece- Helga Zahn:
Figure 5 Source: imageneckpiece- Torun: http://http//collectors-gallery.com
Examples of various forms of Harvest Knots.Read More
The aesthetics and skills involved in the making of objects have been influenced by visitors to Ireland through every period of her history, with the mid twentieth particularly fertile in the modern era.
While little known, today, the Swedish silversmith Marika Murnaghan was one who played an important role in making modern design fun, fashionable and affordable in an Ireland emerging from the austerity of the 1950s. This was with her now iconic, modern Scandinavian style, primarily, silver jewellery.
A newly confident Ireland responded with delight, and the Marika Brand was successfully established. The jewellery, affectionately recalled today, was marketed through its own dedicated boutiques.
Having completed her training in design and silversmithing Marika Murnaghan, came to Ireland to marry in the mid 1960s. Shortly afterwards she began working in the Sheabac jewellery Workshop in south Dublin. The jewellery, however, only become popular when Murnaghan established her city centre workshop in the late 1960s.
Thus the Marika Brand began in an Ireland ready for affordable modern design. Now too in comparison to what pertained previously women could now choose to buy their own jewellery, and did so in their droves.
This receptiveness to new ideas was influenced by a number of factors, one being the increased access to international fashion and music via the print media and that of television, in particular the British channels.
Another was the modern Scandinavian influence brought by visiting European designers to the jewellery and silverware made in The Kilkenny Design Workshops ( 1965-1988) The Marika Jewellery Brand had, however, a far greater share of themarket.
Marika Jewellery was a fine example of modern Craft Design. The collections were designed to appeal to a fashion conscious clientele, and comprised ranges of simple fresh modern abstract shapes, often set with gemstones-Figures 2,3.
Murnaghan appreciated Irish culture, too, and referenced it both in her collections and unique pieces. An example from the collections is her interpretation of a Penannular brooch, as illustrated- Figure 5. This minimal design was in sharp contrast to the often insensitive reproductions , generally available, of artefacts such as the Tara Brooch, that catered for the long established market for Celtic jewellery.
In time to cope with demand, a Marika manufacturing facility was established- fondly remembered by ex employees, who numbered forty towards the end of its time.
Marketing and PR were important in maintaining brand awareness. This reflected the approach of the fashion industry, all with a lightness of touch, evident in the Marika retail outlets, point of Sale material, and packaging- see Figure 4
The print media and television, were employed with in depth interviews and exhibition reviews. This was a unique approach to marketing for an Irish jewellery brand.
Additionally Murnaghan completed an extensive portfolio of silver ware, and unique pieces. An example for jewellery is the elegant neckpiece she is shown with in Figure 1- a modern interpretation of Celtic imagery- clearly designed to draw attention to the wearer.
Murnaghan undertook many important commissions. An example, in 1983, was her platinum comb which was the first piece of platinum hallmarked in Ireland-see Figure 5.
We are fortunate to have a selection of Murnaghan’swork on permanent display in the National Museum of Ireland, where her contribution to design in Ireland may be appreciated.
With her passing a unique modern Brand for Jewellery that shone for twenty years in Ireland, faded to memory.
The story of the Marika jewellery Brand is very inspiring, particularily the ambition tobring modern affordablejewellery to what became a very receptive market.
The timing was perfect – at the cusp of change.
Further suggested research:
Marika Jewellery and silverware: National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts and History.- Out of Storage.
Marika Murnaghan archive-National Museum of Ireland – relates to the purchase of examples of Marika work and contains press cuttings.
Figure 1, Murnaghanwearing unique silver pendant. Archive – National Museum of IrelandThe Irish WomanSeptember 1978. Courtesy the Irish Country Women’s Association.
Figure 2, Marika Jewellery . Archive; National Museum of Ireland. Evening Herald 1970. Images CourtesyIndependent Newspapers.
Figure 3, Selection, Marika Rings – Archive; National Museum of Ireland – Evening Herald 1970 Courtesy ; Independent Newspapers.
Figure 4, Marika Retail outlet. Archive; National Museum of IrelandEvening Herald1970. Courtesy Independent Newspapers.
Figure 5, Decorative Hair comb, platinum. L16.5cm 1983. The Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin – Exhibition 1637-1987. Courtesy; The Company of Goldsmiths.
For more information:
National Museum of Ireland
Welcome to my journal I look forward to sharing my stories and passion for jewellery with you.
I want to start a conversation around the history and culture of Irish and international jewellery and design. I welcome all feedback and suggestions.
While not strictly necessary, Jewellery fulfills us in so many ways- as fun, as fashion, as a badge of identity, or as status with expensive materials and gemstones.
It also touches us personally at various times in our lives, as a wedding ring, an amulet or good luck charm, regalia, and as a very precious Gift.
I will discuss many aspects of personal ornament here. This will involve its place in Irish cultural history, from the elegant gold objects in the National Museum of Ireland, on to the present as jewellery continues to reflect our world and embody our values,
Today too it often encompasses personal expression or makes a commentary. I will discuss examples and their makers .
Design is the thought process as how ideas are brought on their journey to a material place in our world. Therefore it is how the combination of metal, gemstones, leather, textiles or plastics are brought together by human intervention to give us a piece of jewellery
Design primarily focuses on both the conscious and unconscious needs and desires of whomever a object is intended for. This may be a simple functional item, or one imbued with the emotional value of a brand. Well known jewellery brands include the long established Cartier and Tiffany.
My recent MA in Design History and Material Culture, completed in NCAD, has expanded my awareness of design- its power and its function in our environment.