MA Jewellery and Related Products
Where and what did you study?
I completed a doctorate last year, studying alongside fulltime work at BCU. My thesis – Subjective Embodiment: Jewellery at the boundary of the self – explores how jewellery is used to communicate ideas about the wearer’s role and their position in society. Because of jewellery’s links both to cultural practices (through custom and wear) and to family and friends (through gifting and exchange), it carries a broad range of meanings and often evokes powerful memories. My research considers the push and pull of identity, as jewellery wearers deal with the sometimes conflicting tensions of jewellery’s public and private faces. Prior to that, my background was in English Studies, and I hold Bachelors and Masters degrees with a specialism in Twentieth Century Modernist literature.
What are your career highlights?
Handing in my PhD was a slightly giddy moment, and I’m still looking forward to the graduation ceremony, which has been put on hold because of the pandemic. Beyond this, a couple of events and shows stand out as particularly memorable. The Beyond Jewellery event at BCU’s Parkside campus, organized with my colleague Zoe Robertson, was spectacular, in bringing together a really exciting range of artists, practitioners and researchers to share their insights around jewellery and craft in performance. It culminated in an interactive performance of Zoe’s Flockomania collection, and it was great to see students, colleagues, members of the public engaging so playfully with her work. Finally, the graduating show of the first cohort to complete the MA under my course leadership was quite a moment: it was exciting, moving and inspiring to send them out into the world.
What are your specialist areas of expertise?
My expertise lies principally in jewellery’s wear and use: as such I’m interested in how jewellery can contribute to our embodied identity, signifying aspects of our status, relationships, membership of groups and signalling how we’d like to be treated by others. Related questions around the ways in which our bodies are conceptualised within our culture complement any enquiry into wearable adornments, and responding to these questions involves interrogating assumptions around agency, gender, and signification. All of these factors are critical in considering how jewellery and adornment is loaded with meaning by both wearers and viewers. I’ve worked with international students for many years – at undergraduate and, now, postgraduate level – and conversations around the cross-cultural meanings that jewellery and adornments can carry are endlessly fascinating.
What are your research interests; past and present?
My doctoral study examined what it means to wear a broad range of jewellery forms, from the live jewellery that is worn regularly, the retired jewellery that is no longer worn but is still retained in jewellery boxes and collections, and contemporary or art jewellery that often challenges embodied conventions in terms of scale, position, use of materials. The key insights, from this doctoral project, around the reciprocity of gifted jewellery and its role as material artefact that supports the process of coming to terms with change are certainly part of the research enquiry that I’m interested in developing further. I used creative methods involving drawing to gather data for my PhD study, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with creative methods in future projects.
What’s your favourite part about working for BCU?
My home base is the School of Jewellery, and I love working within a creative environment with other artists and makers who engage with materials to explore their communicative potential. The combination of inspiring colleagues and access to great resources helps to keep my thinking and my practice fresh. Having said that, my research focus is interdisciplinary, and I enjoy working with colleagues from across the Birmingham Institute of Jewellery, Fashion and Textiles, exploring the complexity of how jewellery as a component of dress shapes our embodied identity.
What do you believe it takes to work in the X industry?
The jewellery industry is highly complex, with long supply chains. An individual piece of jewellery might pass through the hands of a vast number of skilled makers before it reaches the customer. Because of this and the high value nature of the work made, people skills and a professional, trustworthy approach are absolutely vital in getting on. Word of mouth recommendations are so important, and it’s important to remember that everyone you come into contact with can make a difference to how you are regarded in the industry.