A jeweller reflects

Jo Lally

Normally by this time in November, members of ACJ Wessex would be engaged in final preparations for Winter Jewels: frantically polishing new stock, checking work returned from the Assay Office and setting the final stones, desperately hoping that we don’t have any last-minute disasters.   We’ve all been there, on our knees under the bench, wondering where the stone went, whether it will still be intact when we find it, and why we hadn’t already done this weeks ago.  (We have, haven’t we?  It isn’t just me?)

We would normally be finalising stock sheets, cleaning display cabinets and hoping that we have the right balance of showpieces that catch the eye and demonstrate our talents, medium sized pieces for those customers who like to treat themselves to something a bit special, and Christmas present earrings at the lower end of our price range.  Gill would be checking the Christmas tree lights and supporting new makers and encouraging those of us who are organisationally challenged to provide all the important pieces of paper, at least before we open, if not actually by the deadline that rolled by a couple of weeks ago.

2020 has brought many changes and many losses.  No doubt many of you have, like me, been frightened of being ill, actually been ill and lost someone you cared about.  In the light of this, it seems almost callous to care so much about a jewellery exhibition that is online rather than in the wonderful room by the café at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.  And yet for many of us, this little loss makes all the bigger losses of this year so much sharper.

Winter Jewels is not just an important source of income for many of our jewellers – although it certainly is important.  It is not just a collection of beautiful jewellery hand made by around 25 (it fluctuates) talented people – although it is this, too!  It is not just a great opportunity to buy meaningful, local gifts for your loved ones whilst also enjoying a walk around the stunning gardens, a delicious cake from the café and a chat with your friends – although again, it very much is this opportunity.    

For the makers, Winter Jewels is part of the rhythm of the year, one of the rituals that mark the passing of the seasons and which provide the framework for our lives.  There is also a great sense of community around Winter Jewels.  As makers we are often alone in our studios, and although ACJ Wessex gives us the opportunity to meet every so often, it is at Winter Jewels that we spend most time together, and at Winter Jewels that we meet regular and new customers.  It is such a joy to steward, talking to other people who love jewellery, and helping people to find the perfect piece of jewellery for themselves or others.  Not to mention enjoying a bacon roll or (OK, maybe and) a delicious cake in a quiet moment!

So, the loss of our physical exhibition is much felt by us all.  All is not lost, because we do have an online exhibition that can be found at https://www.acjwessex.co.uk/wj2020.html

Will an online exhibition be the same?  No.  But, based on my enthusiastic perusal of other online exhibitions, there are some real advantages.  I love visiting jewellery and craft exhibitions and shows.  However, I can come away feeling rather overwhelmed.  Perusing the online exhibitions from the calm of my own home has enabled me to look much more thoroughly before I get befuddled, to make notes more easily, and to come and go at my leisure before finally making my choices.

Please let us know in the comments what Winter Jewels means to you!  And one final plea – please support local, small businesses.  It doesn’t have to be us.  There are many hardworking, talented people who have had a rough year, and who need your support. 

Winter Jewels Online 2020

Many of you will be familiar with our Winter Jewels exhibitions which are normally an annual event at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Romsey, running from the end of November into the New Year. This year we have, like everyone, been facing the challenge of the Covid19 pandemic.
We always like to plan ahead as far as possible, and towards the end of the summer we asked our members their views on the possibility of participating in some sort of physical exhibition (if possible) or an online event which would might run in parallel with a physical exhibition at Hilliers.
We discussed the option of a scaled down Winter Jewels event with Hilliers, but by September it was clear that the logistical difficulties faced in running such an exhibition would insurmountable, and we made the difficult decision that Winter Jewels 2020 would not go ahead in its usual form.
We decided instead to set up an “online gallery” linking to the web based shops of the virtual exhibitors. This was launched on 15th October 2020, and it can be found at www.acjwessex.co.uk/wj2020.html
The gallery links to the pages of 25 exhibiting jewellers. Although it is not possible to chat to them in person this year, it is possible to contact individual exhibitors via their websites. Regular updates on Facebook @acjwessex and Instagram @acjwessex will feature the work of our jewellers.
We realise that your shopping experience won’t be the same this year, but we hope that you will enjoy browsing our online event and selecting these unique hand crafted items safely from the comfort of your own homes.

Preparations for Spring Jewels

Petersfield Museum and Community Art Gallery
Petersfield Museum and Community Art Gallery

Our exhibitions always need a great deal of preparation, and Spring Jewels is no exception. Today we met with Ryan at Petersfield Museum to discuss the finer details of the event organisation. We also finalised the layout plan, working out the exact positioning of the 12 cabinets which will house the work of 14 designer makers.  Spring Jewels will start on 22nd May, and will open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm until 9th June.

Inspired by the Seashore

The ACJ Wessex region covers an area bounded by 90 odd miles of coastland from the Jurassic coast of Dorset in the west to Chichester Harbour, Sussex, in the East; and  encompassing a wide variety of coastal landscapes and characteristics.  So while some of our members are geographically quite distant from one another many of us share the experience of being close to the South Coast that links us.  A project based on a beachcombing theme was a great way of getting members out and about together to seek inspiration by that linking thread.

So late last summer four groups set off to find inspiration at different locations, Kimmeridge in Dorset, Milford on Sea at the edge of the New Forest,  Southampton Water and Bosham in Chichester Harbour.  This was a way of spending time together walking, talking, collecting, drawing, photographing and lunching.  A great time was had by all. The social aspect of our meeting together to talk about jewellery and ideas would have been a positive in itself.  But we are of course all makers at heart so the plan was to use our trips as inspiration experiment with new ideas or techniques and maybe even make a resulting piece of work.

Autumn of course is a busy time for all jewellers in the lead up for Christmas and particularly so for the ACJ Wessex group who have an annual selling exhibition in November and December at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey.

It was therefore at our members meeting in Salisbury in January that we came together to show each other how we had been inspired by our visits.  This was not a competition and there were no rules.  Members brought a fantastic range of work they had created; examples of techniques they were developing, designs for pieces, trial pieces and some finished pieces,  as well as pieces on the theme that they had pulled from their archives to inspire further work.  Just a few examples of work created are as follows.

Vanessa Sharp had brought a silver and tourmaline necklace that she’d previously made based on bladder wrack and using hydraulic pressing techniques.  After the trip she went on an enamelling short course at West Dean College and developed the seaweed theme with a copper piece etching through and enamelling using white enamel at different temperatures “over” and “under cooking” to bring out sea toned colours.

Enamel work by Vanessa Sharp
Enamel work by Vanessa Sharp

Dawn Gear had found a beautiful piece of sea worn blackened wood.  She soldered copper in multiple layers to give a similar effect. And she also used seaweed to roll texture onto silver to make a pair of finished silver.

Inspirational pieces and finished items by Dawn Gear
Inspirational pieces and finished items by Dawn Gear

Sheila Joughin did some very accomplished detailed designs in her sketch book, based on seaweed.  One design has been expressed in 3D using paper cut outs to make a collar, and another design would use silver seaweed shapes to be hung on a piece of cord she intends to weave using red ochre colours.  She will include agate stone and hematite beads to complete the theme.

Having found shards of flint on the beach, Gill Mallett was reminded of some pieces of interest in her archive that she brought along to further inspire us; some flint arrowheads, and an amazing large flint dagger with a leather scabbard. She also brought an electro formed shell, and a natural shell set with freshwater pearls.

Furthering the shell theme Jill Clark found some lovey shell pieces covered with worm casts and barnacles and created a number of pieces on that theme taking silver and copper and drilling, rolling and soldering.

Found objects and completed piece by Jill Clark.
Found objects and completed piece by Jill Clark.

 

Our chairman Syd Meats brought some shells, driftwood and fossils and showed us some work in progress using a succession of domed pieces.  He has taken that further into a pendant that has evident shell like inspiration.

Seashore themed pendant by Syd Meats.
Seashore themed pendant by Syd Meats.

Finally Jo Tallis was hugely productive and brought a number of necklace assemblages using an array of found pieces of drift wood, shells, slate, seaweed, glass and recycled items.  A true artistic inspiration taken from the coast and its offerings.

Found objects assembled by Jo Tallis.
Found objects assembled by Jo Tallis.

Other members have collections, sketches and photos from which they will be developing further ideas and pieces.  All involved found the process very satisfying, getting to know other members better and learning from one another and nature.  In fact so successful was our project that we will be continuing our conversations with one another and with nature in another project this year.  This time we are taking another theme that forms a common thread across our geography; woodland.   We are all very much looking forward to further inspiration and picnics.

 

Article by Vanessa Sharp of ACJ Wessex.

Petersfield Museum Exhibition

We are holding an exhibition at the Petersfield Museum Community Gallery, 1 St. Peter’s Road, Petersfield, GU32 3HX from 22nd May to 9th June.  Opening times are 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Saturday only. There will be 14 of our members exhibiting their own designs.  Come along and meet the makers, there will be two members available each day to chat to you about the work they do.  Entrance to the exhibition is free.