13th NOV 2008 - 30th JAN 2009

Invitation to the exhibition




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An exhibition of intriguing collections from the UK’s best new jewellery talent

Playful, surreal and, occasionally, unsettling, these quirky new collections include oversized castings of baby teeth turned into rings and necklaces, ‘batty bunnies’ masquerading as brooches and an army of ants escaping with precious jewels. There’s recycled materials used to make mini magical worlds, bejewelled ‘bird pooh’, a necklace that’s also a helter-skelter, intriguing timepieces and parts of puppets strung together. It’s a topsy-turvy world ...

Nothing is what it seems in this new exhibition at Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery; there’s a distinct ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel to much of the new work on show from eight talented graduates, recently featured in London’s New Designers show.

For Frances Wadsworth Jones ‘seeing is deceiving’ and she delights in creating visual contradictions that test the rules of fine jewellery. She invites us to ‘look closer’ at her Thieves collection of rings in order to see that ‘little is what it seems’; gorgeous gold rings feature precious gem stones seemingly being carried away by tiny ants, whilst a closer inspection of an ordinary looking silver ‘chain’ reveals its construction from an army of over 6,000 ants, each one forming a link with the next. Fascinated by these creatures’ industry, Frances has created her own labour of love.

Frances’ second collection, Heaven Sent subverts notions of taste and traditional jewellery by transforming ‘bird droppings’ into desirable jewels. Taking these nasty, accidental splashes as her starting point, Frances creates provocative but beautiful brooches in which she combines a collage of precious and semi-precious stones with the technique of granulation. Some pieces are a single ‘splash’, whilst others come with several tiny additional jewelled ‘dots’ which can also be pinned on to the wearer’s jumper, jacket, hat ...!

Using scaled up castings of teeth, Claire Johnston also creates jewellery with a distinctly surreal twist, through which she invites us to ‘contemplate the value of sentiment’. Her Tooth Fairy Series uses her daughter’s milk teeth – generally regarded as sentimental, precious mementos – which have been scanned in 3D, enlarged to a scale of either 400% or 800% and then cast using porcelain, gold or silver. Strung on a rope of human hair, the huge neckpieces resemble oversized strings of pearls; closer inspection and subsequent realisation that the pearls are ‘teeth’ brings forth diverse reactions!

For Leonie Batt, inspiration comes from art deco stylised rabbits and hares and her childhood attachment to her many pets. Leonie’s ‘mad bunnies’ brooches are created from a range of media, including wool, fabric, sequins, beads and precious metals, giving each its own character. She says: “I always love it when I have finished a piece and have a new little personality in front of me and I hope that the wearer will find a connection with them as well.” With names such as Prinny the Princess, The Werehare and Salty the Pirabbit, you can’t help feeling that they would get on famously with the March Hare!

Turning linear sketches into three dimensional structures that hinge and flex, is how Suzie Lee describes her work as a jewellery designer; her magical timepieces are individually made from sterling silver, often oxidized black to emphasise the graphic nature of the bracelets and ‘fob’ brooches.

Samantha Queen draws on her experiences of living and working in Hawaii to create magical microcosms, sparkly worlds with luminous trees and pink pools – a tropical paradise of rings and brooches, crafted from recycled materials including plastic, vintage jewellery, silver and gold, along with bamboo. Play With Me’ is a collection of jewellery by Sally Pawson which invites the wearer into a world of childhood fun and games – from necklaces that incorporate a helter skelter to a brooch which becomes a game of hop-scotch! Scottish jeweller Iona McCuaig has taken her inspiration from a found collection of letters and documents belonging to a World War II soldier in Glasgow – each piece of jewellery, including little ‘pocket’ brooches with a pencil or a playing card peeping out - attempts to capture a moment or an event from the letters.

Originating from Taiwan and with a strong interest in animation and illustration, NizA Huang creates a virtual home for her jewellery - filled with thick foliage and colourful flowers – and inhabited by a puppet. Her jewellery, which is based on parts of puppets, uses articulated pieces in acrylic, metal, bone, wood and leather, all densely decorated with her intricate drawing. The animation, which is shown alongside her collection, creates links between her original illustrations and the final pieces, giving life and emotion to the jewellery which, she suggests, ‘jumps out from the story’ and is ‘to be worn with fun’.

Explaining her choice of work for the exhibition, Kath Libbert comments: “I visited the New Designers Exhibition in London to seek out exciting, promising, new talents to include in the Gallery’s Christmas show and I was really drawn to the work of several jewellers who were either playing with scale, playing with perceptions, or even enabling wearers to play games with their jewellery. Each of the collections is intriguing in its own right and, as I became ‘curiouser and curiouser’, the theme for the exhibition emerged!”

Whilst in Alice’s words: “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?”

‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ runs from 13th November 2008 – 30th January 2009 at Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, West Yorkshire. Salts Mill is open weekdays from10am – 5.30pm and weekends 10am – 6pm. For further information call 01274 599790.

Artists taking part in 'Curiouser and Curiouser' are: Claire Johnston; Frances Wadsworth-Jones; Iona McCuaig; Leonie Batt; NizA Huang; Sally Pawson; Samantha Queen and Susie Lee.