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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.