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What's wrong with mixed media........?

I’m sat here looking out of my workshop window whilst writing this blog; it’s sunny with only a few fluffy clouds in the sky – it’s not exactly hot but it seems full of promise for a lovely summer ahead. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be a promise kept!

Those of you who are becoming familiar with my blogs will hopefully recognise that I have an innate sunny disposition and a ‘cup half full’ approach to life. However, today I want to write about something that has lately disappointed me.

I recently met someone who has been working in the jewellery industry for most of his life and who was very complimentary about my work. Naturally, for me, this was an invitation to talk about what I love doing. I explained that I design and make jewellery with silver sheet, silver wire and silver clay using traditional silversmithing and contemporary techniques to maximise the symbiotic potential of the mixed mediums. Unfortunately, this changed everything for him. He was derogatory about wire and particularly so about the use of silver clay and does not consider the use of it as ‘real’ jewellery making or the end product as ‘real’ jewellery.

He was adamant that ‘new’ jewellery designers, especially those using mixed media, lack the necessary skills to sit at a bench and make a basic ring to a specific size.

Wow – what a generalisation.

We had quite a debate!!

However, it has since got me thinking and chatting to other designers I know.

Whilst I have never previously been in the situation of having to defend the use of mixed media materials, particularly silver clay, it would appear that many of my ‘colleagues’ have.

I find this very interesting as many jewellers with traditional training specialised in a specific process, with the result being that a fabricator of a ring wouldn’t necessarily be able to set the stone and vice versa. I would still describe them as jewellers. Also, jewellery making techniques have evolved over many years – the introduction of lost wax carving and casting, anti-clastic raising, micro folding processes, the introduction of hydraulic presses into the jewellers’ studio and advances in computer technology heralding the arrival of CAD design systems. Even if you don’t call these advances, they are certainly changes – changes that are now very commonly used.

So, can precious metal clay even be described as mixed media, given that it is just another form of silver (or gold or whichever metal clay you work with). Whether you think it is or not, one thing is definite - the art of mixed media design – be it in jewellery making or many other artistic pursuits, such as collage designing, sculpting etc., has been growing over many years.

I believe that an unconventional approach to jewellery making allows more scope for innovation and experimentation, breaking through the parameters of conventional techniques and products, allowing for expression of creative individuality – with the only parameters set being those of your imagination.

With regards to silver clay, I don’t find this to be an inferior product, as corroborated by the fact that the assay office hallmarks it. As a recycled product, it is very eco-friendly – the components are reclaimed from medical, scientific and communications equipment. For working with, I believe it is a versatile, interesting product with many design capabilities. But as I stated at the start of this blog, it is just one more medium and what really interests me is the use of silver clay in conjunction with silver sheet and silver wire, to make beautiful, wearable art – it is this that I find challenging, all consuming and ultimately, so satisfying.

There has been much written about there being an abundance of badly finished metal clay jewellery in the market – to this I would say that the same is true of most mediums but it is also worth remembering that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Like any other medium, silver clay, whilst being more accessible to a wider audience, still requires skill to do well, just different skills to those needed to work with other mediums.

There is room for the unconventional and in the words of Jackie Truty ‘what’s wrong with non-traditional?’

So, to the gentleman who admired my work until he found out that silver clay was one of the components, I state that it is interesting that you didn’t know that metal clay was incorporated until I told you and I ask - if you admire the end product, what does it matter what it is made of?

The picture with this blog is made from silver sheet and silver clay with a silver wirework clasp, showcasing a stunning tanzanite cabochon.

Now that I’ve expressed my thoughts of today, it’s time for a break, a coffee in the back garden to enjoy this good weather. Then I must get on with my latest order.

Hope you’re managing to get some time in the sun too.

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