Exhibiting with Rachel Cronin, I shall be showing a wide selection of sterling silver jewellery: especially necklaces and earrings, but also bangles and rings.
My jewellery is bold and tactile, combining precious metal and semi-precious stones with found objects including china, wood, and - especially - sea-glass, which I collect whenever I’m able to get to the beaches of West Penwith. I love fragments that have past histories of use, loss, and recovery that their current forms can only gesture towards. On my first beachcombing expedition in St Ives, about 10 years ago, I found huge quantities of some very distinctive beige ribbed china, and I’ve gone on finding pieces of it year on year: it’s only beginning to become rare now. Apart from the texture (something like ribbed sea-sand) it’s really quite dull, but I began to feel a responsibility towards it, and gather it whenever I find any: one day I’ll know what to make with it.
Some of my favourite finds have been fragments of lettered china and glass. I suspect that some of the glass may in fact be bits of old milk-bottle, but in their shattered form the lettering becomes cryptic – a clue to the object’s imaginary pasts, as well as its real one. By setting these shards in precious metal, I hope people will look again at what has been broken and discarded.
I enjoy experimenting with texture and shape, and am particularly drawn to asymmetry. Recently I have begun using hammered brass as well as silver, and have been developing organic earring shapes that recall beachcombings, even when they don't include actual found material. This may be to do with exploring the relationship between literal and figurative: jewellery that includes sea-glass, driftwood or china allows the wearer literally to carry with them a piece of the place where it was found, whereas my new work is beginning to represent those places in a different medium.
I came to jewellery by a circuitous route: after a degree in English, I trained and worked as a bookbinder for several years, before returning to university life as a graduate student and then a lecturer. But although I enjoy the insides of books, I realised when I had to move for work and lost the space for my binding equipment that it’s vital to me also to make things that are non-verbal: there’s something very satisfying about an object as opposed to an argument. By great good luck, I discovered that the community centre in the next street to mine offered silversmithing classes – and, since jewellery takes up a great deal less space than binding, thought I’d give it a go. And was hooked.
There are more connections between the two crafts than might be expected: bookbinding isn’t only repair and restoration (though I did a lot of that), but can also include designing a binding from scratch, thinking through structure and texture and colour – so like jewellery-making, it involves thinking in three dimensions and working with the qualities of your materials, whether they are leather, paper and gold-leaf or sheet metal and wire. Now I’ve a bit more space again, I’m hoping to explore more fully how they might be made to overlap: books as jewellery, perhaps, or chained books, or earrings and pendants that use collage and gold-finishing techniques borrowed from bookbinding.
Ideally, I’d also like to find a way of fusing my life as a maker with my life as a writer. Calling my business Poet & Cat reflects that: I’m a poet as well as an academic, with five collections published by Bloodaxe Books (https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/category/jane-griffiths). And until very recently, I had a faithful companion and partner in crime in my valiant British Blue rescue cat, Smokey, who lived to be 18; the second part of the name Poet & Cat is homage to her.