Presented by The Incorporation of Goldsmiths and Lyon & Turnbull
Elements will take place from 19 – 21 October 2018
I wanted to write a post that highlights the event but also discusses the wider impact of ethical making and what it means to me as a maker to be exhibiting there for the first time.
I graduated in 2013 from Glasgow School of Art and this will be my first finished collection of work showcased since then. It has taken 5 years to design, develop and make a body of work that I am happy to show (well relatively happy, we all have insecurities about our own practices). I could list a whole host of excuses from teaching, commissions, starting a family, part time jobs……….but ultimately the main reason why I haven’t made work is due to the ethics in the industry. Processes to refine precious metals, along with the mining of gemstones make me feel uneasy about accepting and contributing to the way the jewellery industry operates. (If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, then I would recommend looking at the work of Greg Valerio here.)
I love what I do, therefore I have been trying to figure out ways in which I can make work and feel positive about the ethical impact of my practice. Making choices about the materials I use, researching where they come from and exploring techniques to manipulate them is challenging and it takes time and practice to develop the skills for this. Rather than only working with precious metals, I recycle copper pipes, find and cut my own rock and use natural pigments to add colour to my collections. Developments in these last 5 years has been good, the availability of recycled metals and certified Fair Trade and Fair mined Gold and Silver have allowed me to understand the supply chain and be happier with how my work can impact the industry. It is still early days, and although you can buy ethical grain, wire or sheet metal, sourcing specific products supplied in these ethical metals is challenging. This has left me to make design choices based on these constraints and teach myself how to make chain, earring backs and other findings. Each piece of my work is handmade and I’m proud to say made from 100% recycled or Fair Trade Metals.
The current momentum in ethical making is really exciting and the last 2 years have seen the Incorporation of Goldsmiths Edinburgh host annual symposiums and workshops to educate about Ethical Practice. They have developed an Ethical Making Resource which went live this year in association with Ute Decker and Greg Valerio, who kindly supplied their years of research to help compile the resource for the greater good. You can view it here. Not only is it a great website for makers, it is a great space for ethical consumers to explore their options and educate themselves. Recently the Incorporation have instigated an Ethical Making Pledge where each jewellery college or art school in Scotland will move towards using ethically sourced metals and educate on ethical practices. These developments have certainly encouraged me to continue making and armed me with the information required to be more confident with my decisions. There is also a shift in consumer trends – the more we educate, the more people will feel inclined to buy ethically produced products, therefore creating more of a demand, which in time will put pressure on suppliers to work more ethically.
Back to Elements! I’m really excited to be one of the 50 exhibitors at this year’s festival. Elements is in its 4th year providing a platform for designer-makers like myself to find an audience along with potential buyers for our work. Along with my showcase, I will be part of their events’ programme where you can view demonstrations from makers demystifying their techniques and showing their skills. I will be setting up my lofi electroforming system, talking through the process and creating hollow copper forms by recycling old copper pipes. Other makers involved in this will be Mirka Janeckova (wax carving), Sheila McDonald (enamelling) and Jen Cunningham (saw piercing).
Elements is presented by The Incorporation of Goldsmiths and they have been working in partnership with Fair Luxury to produce the 2018 exhibition, Perspectives – Creating Jewellery for a Fairer Future. It will be on view for the duration of Elements, featuring a range of works that consider the concept of fair making. Other makers at the fair showcasing working in ethically sourced metals will be Bea Jareno, Hannah Bedford, Karen Westland and Jen Cunningham.
In my opinion, The Incorporation of Goldsmiths is doing great work, not only trailblazing a way forward for Ethical Jewellery, Silver and Gold but creating support networks, providing opportunities for makers and educating students and consumers. I see this year’s Elements as a celebration of all they have been working towards and achieving in the last few years. Hope you can make it along.
Elements takes place between 19-21 October 2018 at Lyon & Turnbull, 33 Broughton Place, Edinburgh,EH1 3RR.
Opening times are 11am to 6pm daily for the duration of the fair.
Entry is by catalogue and costs £5 (allows unlimited access for the duration of Elements Festival).
Under 16’s free admission