Born in London, Jacqueline Ryan studied fine and applied arts at a wide range of institutions since 1985, including West Surrey College of Art in Farnham, the Fachhochschule College of Art and Design, Germany, before completing her Master of Arts degree in jewellery and goldsmithing at the Royal College of Art in London in 1991. Jacqueline then moved Italy with the goldsmith Giovanni Corvaja in 1992. Jacqueline has exhibited and lectured widely in continental Europe, the UK and internationally in the US.
SF: What do you make?
Art jewellery that is both wearable and collectable. I will generally spend a lot of time on a piece because firstly, making in metal is not immediate and secondly because detail is very important to me so I am working in a very intricate way spending between 10 days and 4 months to make a piece.
I take a lot of time drawing and then recreate my drawings in 3D, usually card, models.
During this process, a form of abstraction occurs (I like to compare it to a kind of metamorphosis like with butterflies) in which during each stage I move further away from the actual object of inspiration and what I am making in paper actually takes on own, new qualities and it’s unique personality. This is its story beginning to unfold.
At this stage, when I am clear about proportions and the qualities of what I would like to make precisely, I work on metal tests or move straight on to the jewellery piece itself (the developed adult butterfly!).
Each piece I make therefore, not only has a history of many hours of labour but also a great deal of “invisible” research behind it since the hours I spend on models and tests are never obvious to the eye of the beholder unless I exhibit them with the work, which occasionally I can.
The reason there is so much labour in my work, from a more technical point of view, is also because though not perhaps immediately apparent to both trained and untrained eyes, but each separate part (even the tiniest) is hand-sawn, hand-fabricated, flame-soldered (NOT laser welded!), raised or forged without the aid of machinery or multiple production techniques.
This makes each work authentically unique and as irregular in it’s finest details as the natural organisms that are one of the main inspirations in my work. I do each process myself beginning with the alloy in gold, (which I always prepare myself) through to the finished work.
In a “fast” world where there is increasing pressure to make as much in the shortest time-frame possible (or rather the desire to earn as much as possible for as little as possible) I have chosen, in complete contrast to multiple or mass production, to embrace the philosophy of “slow”, jewellery. I like the full control that being both the architect and the craftsman (without compromise) of my own work gives me.
SF: Where do you make?
In a beautiful restored etruscan building that also has traces of roman and medieval architecture in an historical hilltop town in Umbria, Italy, where I have lived since 2001
I originally moved to Italy in 1992 first settling in Padova, (which has had a significant goldsmithing tradition in the past) but was then attracted to central Italy for it’s beautiful scenery and favourable climate and moved there in 2001.
Umbria with it’s rolling green hills is, in a way quite similar to the British landscape which I remember from my childhood (and student years in Surrey). A soft, quiet rural landscape was something that I missed whilst living in the university town of Padova.
SF: Are there any benefits to living and working in the city/region/country you are based in?
If good wine, cuisine and climate count as a benefits those are the first 3! Add to this the privilege of a slower pace of life and beautiful surroundings.
On the downside, here in Italy there is no state funding or what could be considered assistance for craftspeople. The fiscal pressure in Italy is also very high.
It is extremely difficult to survive as a craftsperson in any discipline here unless teaching is an option which it isn’t always since there are very few colleges as compared to other European countries and sparsely dotted.
SF: What inspires you?
A combination of things; The beauty of our natural environment, the structures of natural organisms, how they grow or decay. Early impressions from my childhood when my father would take me on my first walks in Epping forest (near where I grew up and where, according to some legends, was the last battle ground of Iceni warrior-Queen Boudicca who fought against the Romans in 61 AD).
I still have such vivid memories of visits to the Natural history Museum, Science Museum and Kew Gardens.
All these things had a profound effect on me as well as jewellery from ancient cultures (Egyptians, Etruscans), how nature was perceived by them, how gold was used by them (including the techniques they used to make objects) but in particular the mystery of how objects made such a long time ago are still so completely timeless and pure.
My dream 3-month holiday would be to visit Australia or the Americas. It would not be a break from work though as I would travel there with my sketchbooks and camera and end up spending most of my time researching.
For now, and more realistically, I break for walks in the countryside when I can.
I currently have several works shown in Munich (from 6th March until 5th May) in the context of a stunning group exhibition “Neuer Schmuck fuer die Goetter” (New Jewellery for the Gods) at the National Antiquities Museum in Munich (Staatliche Antikensammlungen), where there is one of the most extensive collections of gold jewellery by ancient civilizations (Greek, Roman, Etruscan) which is exhibited alongside the work of 16 contemporary jewellers who work in gold.
I will have some work with Adrian Sassoon Gallery (www.adriansassoon.com) during the crafts council annual “Collect” fair held at the Saatchi Galleries in May and my work will be again be shown with Adrian Sassoon during Masterpiece, London, in July and the Pavilion of Art and Design, London in October. Other than this I am working on new projects, some small-scale paper projects for the near future and a commission, currently.
SF: What advice would you give to an up-and-coming artist?
To truly follow your own convictions and be coherent to yourself. Remain strongly individual (whatever others may think) and do something that has not been done before, even innovating.
Creating your own very unique style and not just blindly following trends/tendencies in jewellery, thus risking to end up uselessly imitating the work of others will make the difference between success and mediocrity.
Sadly, I notice that very many young people seem to be doing what they think they ought to do but not what they really want to do….These are 2 very different things!
SF: What’s currently playing on your studio ipod / cd player / tape deck / record player?
Debussy (one of my favourite composers) coupled with quiet tapping as I hammer micro-sized gold leaves that will eventually be a ring.
images (c) Jacqueline Ryan