How Jo Started Creating her Jewel Narratives

My signature style of texturing precious metals has been developed by using Stone Age tools that I find in the landscape. I am often asked, “why stones?” Well, it stems from my interest in American Indian culture that began when I first travelled to Canada as a child in the late 1960’s. We visited a tourist attraction where half a dozen First Nation women taught me a dance. The women had beautiful faces, ornate beaded necklaces and soft fringed garments. They were kind to me, and I thought everything about them was marvellous.

Visiting the Western States over the years, I bought contemporary tribal textiles in Colorado, Hopi and Zuni jewellery in Arizona and on a road trip in1994 I found a book, ‘Native American Jewellery of the South West’, by Dexter Cirillo. There is a section about a Warm Springs Apache woman called Jan Loco, who cuts her metal with poultry shears, goes into the desert, finds a boulder and uses a rock to run a tracery of texture over the silver in a wish to imbue the piece with ‘the spirit of the place’. What captured my imagination was the idea of working in the desert or in the landscape using found tools and a minimal kit of hand-tools. There was an optional module on my Degree called ‘Transformation of Surfaces’. I took the opportunity to visit beaches on the South Coast and in Scotland to find stone tools with which to work my metal and I continued this process during my MA. These days I work mainly in the comfort of my studio but still use the same favourite hammer stone that I collected in 1999. Luckily, my back up hammer stone collected at the same time is still usable even though, to my utter dismay, it fractured a couple of years ago. I have used the same anvil stone since 2000.

I still have a bit of a yen to spend a year living and working on the road, like Steinbeck did in ‘Travels with Charley’, maybe one day…

When lockdown started, I decided that I would only make work to order for commissions or work on personal pieces. I just felt that I have made many incredibly beautiful pieces of jewellery and that these pieces should find homes before I use more materials mined from the earth to add to work already in existence. I am pleased to say that I have so far stuck to this. The piece I chose to make follows on from the brooches made last year called ‘My Grandmothers’ Hands’, made using rings I inherited. You can read more about the process and the thinking behind these brooches here. 

This Gifted and Found pendant is my latest addition to Jewel Narratives, an ongoing series of pieces that use inherited jewellery or heirloom precious metals. I found the pearl in the street a couple of decades ago. The fulgurite, formed when lightening discharges into the earth, looks like a twig but feels like stone and was collected whilst camping out under the stars in the Egyptian desert for my 40th birthday, longer than my son’s lifetime ago. The bright silk used to tie it complements the vintage coral cabochon that my partner (now husband) gave me shortly after I first started making jewellery in 1988, and contrasts with the opal prised from the grip of a Koala pin that my lovely Dad bought back from Australia for me when I was a teenager. I found the tiny shard of white crystal on the same trip to Egypt. Jewel Narratives has brought these treasured objects and sentimental jewels out of boxes at the back of drawers and into the light where the narrative may continue. If you would like to work with me to bring your own sentimental, odd, broken or unworn jewellery, or tiny treasures into the limelight, please dig them out and get in touch. We can arrange a meeting online or in person so that you can show me what you would like in your own Jewel Narratives.

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