A woman's work is never done

21 Jewellery works made for 15 trailblazing women. Created over three years, this frieze of jewellery represents the women who have been important to me, influenced my ways of working or ways of thinking. The collection was prompted by an ACJ exhibition in 2014, where I made a neckpiece in honour of Patti Smith, in response to the theme of ICONS. I accumulated a long list of trailblazing women and I decided to make more works in honour of them and their work.

It became an intensely personal way of making. Not purely making a work that would be a literal representation of the person I had chosen, or their style of work. It became a way of exploring how I felt about them and the particular influence they had had on me. Often the connection with them triggered a feeling, which then became, in part, a non-visual response for making.

Many pieces have multiple layers of symbolism and sentiment. Some pieces allude to something more tangible in their work, such as the scissors in the work “Wheel of life” for Patricia Highsmith, which references a murder weapon from one of her novels. The works for AS Byatt aims in part to capture the mood of Byatt’s novel “The Children’s Book” but also makes reference to the Cottingley fairies and experiences of my own.

These works are made in honour of the women but running alongside this is a dialogue with myself and my own interests, preoccupations and personal ways of making. Many of my jewellery objects have a collage or assemblage feel to them. For me, the person I make a work for might trigger a memory from childhood, have a connotation with a trip I made or an object I have seen in a museum. These complexities do not necessarily need to be explained to the viewer as once they are out there in the world they become something new and each viewer is invited to have their own conversation with the work. The experience will be unique to that individual and they might not admire the woman as I do or even have come across them and their work before. They are made to be seen a frieze of works, capturing different aspects of life and it’s cycles.

Some works, manifest themselves as a badges of honour to celebrate the achievements of the woman, others act as a talisman to offer protection. Most obviously the work for Mary Anning, which is titled “Talisman”. The notion of this piece is that it would have protected Anning from landslides, while she hunted for fossils. The neckpiece for Amy Johnson includes ephemera from her own lifetime. An enamel pin badge from the 1930’s, in the shape of a green plane with the name “Amy” written on it. It would have been bought as a commemorative souvenir after her flight to Australia. The work also includes a silver rose, to represent Yorkshire and has many embroidered details and words relevant to her life’s work and the planes she flew in.

I allowed myself to be quite fanciful with my making and I did not edit my responses. In the same vein I did not edit my list of women in any way, it was an honest and instinctive list of women who had been influential for me.

The women I have chosen are often the first to reach a goal, the first to pioneer a way of working, resilient women and women who made something of themselves despite set backs or gender bias. The women who are unapologetically themselves and get on and do their thing the way they want to!

I was surprised how many women on my list were musicians and strangely there are no jewellers in my list at all! There were many more trailblazers on my original list than I have managed to make work for. The strong women selected are from diverse areas; including sculpture, science, writing, painting, acting, civil rights, palaeontology and aviation.

A full list of the jewellery Anthology:

“Sister Brooches” for Louisa May Alcott, “Mr Punch” for PJ Harvey, “Woolgathering” for Patti Smith, “She flies with her own wings” for Amy Johnson, “Cottingley sisters” for AS Byatt, “Wheel of life” & “Lobster” for Patricia Highsmith, “Landscape” for Barbara Hepworth, “Self portrait” for Frida Kahlo, “Chair” for Rosa Parks, “Structure B” for Rosalind Franklin, “Talisman” for Mary Anning, “Mac ‘n’ heart” for Drew Barrymore, “Spellbound” for Siouxsie Sioux, “Thames” for Virginia Woolf and “Yoyo” for Kate Bush.

Images for all the works can be seen on the gallery page.