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Designing Britain 1945 - 1975 > The New Jewellery > The End of Era?
 
The End of Era?
 
IMAGE 95 :  Sizing Up : Julia Manheim  catalogue cover  Southhampton Art Gallery  3 Sept. – 11 October 1987 TNJ00923 IMAGE 95 : Sizing Up : Julia Manheim catalogue cover Southhampton Art Gallery 3 Sept. – 11 October 1987

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A portent of things to come. One of the main architects of British New Jewellery begins to make moves to leave jewellery behind in pursuit of larger object making. It came to pass that two of the other main architects of that movement, Susanna Heron and Caroline Broadhead, also felt that their future studio practices and production were no longer to be found within the scope of jewellery. And as Pierre Degen became increasingly involved in his academic career and exhibited less and less, it turned out that the four dominant names of the 70s and 80s in advanced British jewellery circles seemed to have said all that they could or needed to say in that medium. This had already been divined by Caroline Broadhead in her catalogue essay discussed in the previous image.
 
IMAGES 96 : Cover of Crafts No. 86  May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article  pp.16-21 TNJ00925 IMAGES 96 : Cover of Crafts No. 86 May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article pp.16-21

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IMAGES 97 : Cover of Crafts No. 86  May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article  pp.16-21 TNJ00926 IMAGES 97 : Cover of Crafts No. 86 May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article pp.16-21

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IMAGES 98 : Cover of Crafts No. 86  May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article  pp.16-21 TNJ00927 IMAGES 98 : Cover of Crafts No. 86 May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article pp.16-21

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IMAGES 99 : Cover of Crafts No. 86  May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article  pp.16-21 TNJ00928 IMAGES 99 : Cover of Crafts No. 86 May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article pp.16-21

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IMAGES 100 : Cover of Crafts No. 86  May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article  pp.16-21 TNJ00929 IMAGES 100 : Cover of Crafts No. 86 May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article pp.16-21

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IMAGES 101 : Cover of Crafts No. 86  May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article  pp.16-21 TNJ00930 IMAGES 101 : Cover of Crafts No. 86 May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article pp.16-21

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IMAGES 102 : Cover of Crafts No. 86  May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article  pp.16-21 TNJ00931 IMAGES 102 : Cover of Crafts No. 86 May/June 1987 and ‘The New Jewellery : death of a movement?’ complete article pp.16-21

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Perhaps many had been sensing it. But with such a bold feature article appearing in the major crafts journal in the English-speaking world ; authored by such a key thinker and observer/participant in the New Jewellery field as Paul Derrez of Galerie Ra in Amsterdam - the truth hit home.

Setting out plainly and seeming to sum up what he thought had been happening in the field for the last few years was for many jewellery observers, the official death knell for the New Jewellery. It was, in my opinion, the public pronouncement that officially (and finally) shut the door on these fantastic and daring few years. The ball of innovative practice was being tossed over (again) into the courts of ‘new ceramics’(46) and ‘new glass’.

This article was not the first to observe that an end of an era was in sight and with it an inevitable backlash. In the German magazine, Art Aurea Peter Dormer wrote an article entitled, ‘What is the future for contemporary jewellery?’ and he rather presciently observed,
 
The easy part is over in modern jewellery. From now on it is uphill. Twenty years ago jewellery was a conservative decorative art but a number of young ambitious ‘artists’ realised that much interest, excitement and opportunity for themselves and the rest of us was to be had by breaking all the conventions. It was like the first stage of any revolution – full of dramatic gesture and novelty…there were experiments in materials, there were new ideas about jewellery as social statement, jewellery as performance art and there was some wishful thinking about the ‘democratic’ nature of jewellery. Everything has been questioned. Moreover, it was a movement helped enormously by very good photography. Indeed, most ‘new jewellery’ is a disappointment in the flesh, it gains grandeur either through careful photography or stage-managed presentation…There is also too much repetition. Ambitious, young but second-rate ‘jewellers’ think that the new jewellery is easy: you cut bits of plastic out and put them in pleasing patterns…We should note that the new jewellery movement of the last twenty years has been almost entirely stage managed from within the movement. The number of outside critics and curators – let alone purchasers – has been small. Like the guilds of the past the less formal new jewellery movement has both made the work and praised it, and written its history, and chosen for it appropriate historical roots. It is a controlled exercise that has flourished independently of the outside world. It is insular.
 
Though we may raise an eyebrow at some of the unsubstantiated statements here, as well as the fact that Dormer himself was one of the ‘insider’ documentists, promoters and curators of this work – one of the Crafts Council cabal – his points were well–taken.

We have seen how Caroline Broadhead had written of an exhaustion in the New Jewellery repertoire. Writing about a jewellery exhibition of the work of Ros Perry, Abigail Frost rather testily observed:
 
Jewellery has been getting horribly serious lately. Everywhere you go, it seems, you meet a necklace that is insulted unless greeted as a piece of body sculpture.(48)
 
While it is appropriate to let Paul Derrez write about the death of the New Jewellery movement, it is only just to let Ralph Turner – with whom we started this account - have the last word,
 
The 1980s witnessed the most radical spirit in jewelry’s history. The forms that jewelry could take were expanded and its practical limits tested. New work arose which drew further on jewlery’s relationship to the body and to clothing. This led some jewelers to performance-based work and photographic jewelry events, where control over aspects of wearing jewelry are fixed in a single image.


 
And elsewhere,
 
Whatever issues, materials or categories; jewellery is a social communicator for good or for bad. The work of the 1970s and 1980s had fundamentally widened the field and if what followed was less assured, the old traditions had been challenged. There was no going back.
 
The text and some of the images produced in this module are ©JamesEvans 2002 as contractually agreed. No copyrighted part of this document may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author. Queries may be made to : james.evans@onetel.net
 
ENDNOTES

(1)See Selected Bibliography for relevant texts.
(2)The astute reader will notice the spelling of the work ‘jewellery’ veering between the American and the British. The British spelling is preferred by the present author and will be used in all cases except where original source materials have used the American, ‘jewelry’. It will be seen that even British publishers utilise the American spelling in order to cut typographical and printing costs and with an eye to the American book market.
(3)Ralph Turner, Jewelry in Europe and America : new times, new thinking, Thames and Hudson, London, 1996, p.32.
(4)John Perrault, ‘Crafts is Art : Notes On Crafts, On Art, On Criticsim’, in The Eloquent Object, Philbrook Museum, Tulsa, 1987, p. 199.
(5)There are a plethora of terms used to describe the work of the contemporary studio practitioner. Each generation seems to devise its own in order to get around the ‘crafts’ tag – and all of its attendant pejorative received meanings.
(6)See Bibliography.
(7)See Bibliography.
(8)Joan Evans, ‘Envoi’ in A History of Jewellery 1100-1870, Faber and Faber, London, 1970, [2nd Edition], p.183.
(9)As noted in my ‘Introduction’, the spelling of the word ‘jewellery’ veers in this present account between the British spelling, ‘jewellery’ and the American spelling, ‘jewelry’. The author prefers the British spelling but UK publishers insist upon the American version, in order to make small savings on text printing and to pander to American book markets. Where quotations and actual titles incorporate the American version I have had to follow suit.
(10)This anecdote was told to me by one of the authors, Ralph Turner , in an informal conversation at the Crafts Council in July 2002.
(11)Susanna Heron, ‘Jewellery Undefined’ Crafts No.61 March/April 1983 p.38
(12)For a fuller account of Cartlidge and Electrum see James Evans, ‘Silver and Electrum’, Metalsmith, Volume 17 Number 2 Spring 1997 pp.22-29.
(13)Susanna Heron ,‘Jewellery Undefined’, Crafts, No. 61, March/April 1983, p.38.
(14)This was a time where a marked degree of political consciousness was at work. The long-running boycott of South Africa was in full swing and many jewellers and goldsmiths were refusing to utilise South African gold or diamonds into their work. They were also refusing to partake in certain international competitions sponsored by the likes of DeBeers. This was one reason that a door of opportunity opened for exploring alternative materials for expressive jewellery-making. Issues of democratising jewellery, i.e. making it affordable for all, was also informing jewellery thinking at the time.
(15)Not without opposition as Heron records in her article ‘Jewellery Undefined’ in Crafts, No. 61, p.38, "In 1971, few art-school trained jewellers in Britain were using non-precious materials, which were not considered as serious media. (I worked with resin at home in 1970, to avoid the criticism of my tutors)."
(16)Graham Hughes, Loot, Goldsmiths Hall, London, 1975, p. 2.
(17)Ibid .
(18)Brian Beaumont-Nesbitt, ‘Introduction’, Loot VII, Goldsmiths Hall, London, 1981, p.4.
(19)Ibid. Catalogue numbers 622-624 p.36. Silver and resin earrings for £30 a pair.
(20)Ralph Turner, ‘Preface’, Jewellery in Europe, Crafts Council, London, 1975, p.4.
(21)Ibid.
(22)Sarah Osborn, ‘Breakaway Gold Standards’, Design, March 1976, No. 327, p.47.
(23)Graham Hughes, ‘Introduction’, Passing Out catalogue, 1976, [unpaginated].
(24)The use of the word ‘makers’ here is very interesting – especially in light of the well-known conservatism of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. In the early 70s there was a move afoot to try to find a better taxonomy for studio craft work than ‘craftsman/woman’ or ‘artisan’ or ‘artist-craftsman’ or even ‘designer-craftsman’ to describe contemporary practice. The word ‘maker’ came into renewed parlance at this time (probably via the Crafts Advisory Committee and Crafts Council) and it was a sign of the times for Hughes to be using it in this context.
(23)Graham Hughes, ‘Introduction’, Explosion , Goldsmiths Hall, London, 1977, [unpaginated]..
(26)Galerie Ra was established in Amsterdam in 1976.
(27)Susanna Heron, ‘Jewellery Undefined’, Crafts, No.61, March/April 1983, p.42.
(28)Ibid. p.42.
(29)For a profile of this artist see James Evans, ‘Timothy Carson, Punk Survivor’ in Kunsthandverk, Autumn 1999, pp.27-29.
(30)Jerven Ober, ‘Introduction’ in British Jewellers on Tour in Holland, Gem. Van ReekumGalerij, Apeldoorn, 1978, [unpaginated].
(31)Tom Saddington in the exhibition catalogue, A Guide to Tom Saddington’s Jewellery Performances, Arnolfini, Bristol, 1980, [unpaginated].
(32)Ibid.
(33)Jane Lott, ‘Buried Treasure’, Design, No. 388, April 1981, p. 44.
(34)Peter Dormer and Ralph Turner, The New Jewelry: Trends and Traditions, Thames & Hudson, London, 1985, p.185.
(35)Attempts at other nomenclatures like ‘body jewellery’, ‘body sculpture’, ‘objects to wear’ etc. were invoked but never really caught on in quite the same way as ‘wearables’ did.
(36)Duly published in Crafts, No.59, November/December issue 1982, was a feature article by Christopher Reid on Degen and New Work entitled, ‘Clowning Seriously’, pp. 18 – 21.
(37)Peter Fuller, ‘The Jewellery Project’ exhibition review, Crafts , No. 63, July/August 1983, pp.46-47. The entire article can be seen in IMAGES 71/72.
(38)Ralph Turner, ‘Preface’, The Jewellery Project, Crafts Council Gallery, London, 1983 p.3.
(39)Susanna Heron, ‘Work in the collection : a broader context and related activities’, The Jewellery Project, Crafts Council Gallery, London, 1983, pp. 6 –13.
(40)Peter Dormer, ‘Live Wire’, Crafts, No.62, May/June 1983, p.24.
(41)The artist James Evans referred to in this quotation is indeed also the author of this present piece. He trusts that it is not too immodest to introduce his own work into this account. It is, after all, from his professional association with ‘The New Jewellers’ and Ralph Turner , that he took up residence in the U.K. where his work was being exhibited at most of the gallery venues discussed in this account. This brought him into the orbit of the London/Amsterdam/Munich jewellery axis – but that is another story indeed.
(42)Ralph Turner and Peter Dormer, The New Jewellery : trends and traditions, Thames & Hudson, London, 1985, p.20.
(43)For an excellent account of the little known history of Canadian jewellery, see Anne Barros, Ornament and Object: Canadian Jewellery and Metal Art, 1997.
(44)James Evans, ‘Silver and Electrum’, Metalsmith, Volume 17, Number 2, Spring 1997, pp.22-29.
(45)Caroline Broadhead, ‘Extensions’, New Tradition : the Evolution of Jewellery 1966 – 1985, Crafts Centre, London, 1985, p.69.
(46)In fact, Peter Dormer’s follow-up book, The New Ceramics : trends and traditions which was similar in format to The New Jewellery: trends and traditions (sans co-writer, Ralph Turner) was published by Thames and Hudson in 1986.
(47)Peter Dormer, ‘What is the Future for Contemporary Jewellery?’, Art Aurea [exact reference not located, my reference came from a photocopied section. Art Aurea is no longer published].
(48)Abigail Frost, ‘Jewellery by Ros Perry’, Crafts, No.65, November/December 1983, p.49.
 
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