Acquisitions: Supporting Contemporary Makers
As the Company moves towards the celebration of its 700th anniversary in 2027, its pioneering support for contemporary makers through competitions, acquisitions and commissioning plays an important part in enhancing the vitality of design and craftsmanship in silver, jewellery and art medals into the 21st century.
Supporting contemporary makers
This report describes the Company’s acquisitions - gifts, commissions and purchases - over a continually challenging period. It's been an important year for gifts, for which we are incredibly grateful. Coupled with this year’s purchases, the pieces help broaden and extend the story of remarkable contemporary jewellery and silver in the Collection.
The Goldsmiths’ Company has supported excellence, craftsmanship, community and skill in the goldsmiths’ community ever since it received its first charter in 1327. That commitment is represented in the Company’s fine Collection of mainly British contemporary and historic plate, modern jewellery and art medals. Our ambitious plans to digitise the Collection will eventually make it freely available online.
Despite the pandemic, we completed a remarkable series of commissions, two from makers new to the Collection. Jessica Jue’s ‘Whispering Reeds’ beaker was made with mentoring from Angela Cork and Clive Burr which allowed her to develop her design and making skills. Tamar De Vries Winter’s exquisite cups dedicated to the Unknown Refugee build on Jewish traditional travel cups as a meditation on separation, memory and loss. Junko Mori’s superb sculpture, ‘Hope in Balance’ is emblematic of the Covid-19 experience in inspiring us to think about the body’s immune response to the virus.
It has also been a time of gifts. Associate Member Helen W. Drutt English gave us a fine group of works in silver and gold by Breon O’Casey, in memory of the artist. Marina Vaizey added an exquisite pair of O’Casey earrings which were immediately worn by the Prime Warden, showing how this artist’s work continues to resonate into the 21st century. Carole Devlin presented a fascinating group of prototype ceremonial maces made for universities by her late husband, Stuart Devlin, representing an important facet of his early international work; to this she added Stuart Devlin’s Court Cup, which he had designed and made for his own use in the Hall, documenting his close association with the Company.
Other gifts included design drawings and prints relating to engraved silver in the Collection from the maker, Malcolm Appleby; design drawings for Robert Organ’s retirement gift, a silver tea bowl by Yusuke Yamamoto; and precious design notebooks by Dorothy Hogg recording the genesis and making of her jewellery over decades. Acquisitions ranged from pieces by Sheng Zhang and Yen Duong, both new to the Collection, to a man’s superb lapel pin by Fred Rich and Cara Murphy’s colourful bowl, a first for the Collection from a Northern Irish silversmith. I am grateful to Dr Frances Parton, Deputy Curator, for writing several entries, signed F.P. The report reveals how the Company’s pioneering support for contemporary makers continues to inspire artistry and excellence in precious metal as it moves towards its 700th anniversary in 2027.
Dr Dora Thornton
Curator of the Goldsmiths’ Company Collection
Gifts to the Collection: Jewellery and small sculptural works, Brean O'Casey
Gift of Helen W. Drutt English in
memory of Breon O’Casey.
"The sculptural qualities of his jewellery led directly to sculpture: he explained how silver animals on brooches 'evolved into little silver animals in their own right'."
The small silver figures and bronze maquettes are rarer than his jewellery, which still has a considerable following.
This is therefore an incredibly significant group for the artist, which extends and complements the important group of jewels which we have from him in the Collection, acquired by Graham Hughes in 1972 when his work was exhibited at Goldsmiths’ Hall. It joins work designed by other leading sculptors in the Collection, such as Elizabeth Frink, Terry Frost, Bernard Meadows and Robert Adams.
The fact that the pieces have been selected for us by O’Casey’s former friend and gallerist in the USA, Helen Drutt English, and that they are offered in memory of the artist, further adds to their importance as gifts for the Collection. Helen memorably described him as “an artist—one whose creative pursuit transcended media like the early modernists he admired: Braque, Picasso, Matisse and later Calder.”
Commission: Pair of Travel Cups, Dedicated to the Unknown Refugee by Tamar De Vries Winter
2021, 925 sterling silver
"These evocative and powerful objects speak of separation and reunion, and a universal longing for ‘home’."
Ideas of place, heritage and memory are integral to the work of silversmith Tamar De Vries Winter. Born in Jerusalem to a European immigrant family, she trained and works in the UK. The Company commissioned her to make a pair of interconnecting vessels, which used her signature technique of printed enamel transfers to tell a story relevant to contemporary society.
“Travel Cups are traditional Jewish ceremonial objects, created for people on the move who need to perform specific rituals. I was inspired to relate this custom to stories of the contemporary refugee by creating a pair of vessels… Inspired by the iconic symbol of the olive tree (Jerusalem, my birthplace) and the apple tree (my garden in Cambridge, my current home), images of the natural world, especially trees, weave throughout much of my work. These two cups represent a dialogical relationship between people who have been separated, forever on a quest to find each other, enamelled with images of trees referring to a sense of natural shelter, place and belonging.” - Tamar de Vries Winter
Purchases: ‘Dark crimson underwing moth’ pin by Fred Rich
2021, Britannia silver, 18ct gold, 22ct gold and
“I’ve never shied away from designing jewellery for men and I’ve always felt that ‘jacket jewellery’ has a lot of potential for innovation and display..." - Fred Rich
Fred Rich’s ‘Dark Crimson Underwing Moth’ pin is from a series of pins based on detailed watercolour drawings. The pins have been carved before enamelling to capture the signature hairy veiny look of a moth’s wings. The enamel itself uses a cloisonné technique, which Rich calls micro cloisonné and which uses 22ct gold wire only 0.05mm thick. This is difficult to control, but it enables very fine patterns to be embedded in the enamel.
His work is well represented in the Collection as a world class enameller, particularly in basse taille, but these pins are a new departure. He comments: “I’ve never shied away from designing jewellery for men and I’ve always felt that ‘jacket jewellery’ has a lot of potential for innovation and display...These moth pins are designed to be worn by either men or women with the intention that they look as if they have just landed on you and want to show off their unique, understated beauty. There are so many different kinds of moth to draw inspiration from and I’ve made every effort to copy nature as much as I can, while still using a kind of ‘design shorthand’, to create a naturalistic and believable look.”
Purchases: ‘Oval Lace’ ring by Jo Hayes Ward
2013, 18ct gold
"All her jewellery has a completely contemporary aesthetic while sharing an affinity with the best textured gold from the 1960s."
This impressive ring was chosen as a new acquisition for the Collection following on from the exhibition Rings: A World of Invention for Goldsmiths’ Fair 2021. It has a striking geological form made up from repeated elements of faceted gold blocks. Hayes Ward’s digital designs are 3D printed in wax before being cast in gold and meticulously hand-finished in her studio. She likes to blend machine marks into the subtle texture of the pieces she makes, which have a discreet, mesmerising shine as light plays over them.
She works sustainably, using only 100% recycled or FairTrade metal. This ring joins three of her pieces in the Collection—two brooches and a bangle—going back to her student days at the Royal College of Art, showing how the Company has long supported her work through purchases and a commission. All her jewellery has a completely contemporary aesthetic while sharing an affinity with the best textured gold from the 1960s, making this a particularly suitable acquisition in the year in which the Company celebrates 60 years since the founding of the Modern Jewellery Collection.