Tag Archive | New Designers

Through the Loupe with…Karen Elizabeth Donovan

For March’s edition of “through the Loupe”  we’re joined by Karen Donovan, award-winning jeweller we discovered through New Designers and are so delighted to be able to showcase Karen’s beautiful and unusual jewellery.  With stunning detail Karen has recently created some jewellery with fantastic volume and a great use of colour, we’re really excited to see what else the future holds for this talented lady and hope you will follow her journey with us!

 

 

Tell us a bit about the jewellery you design:

 

I try to design jewellery that speaks to my experiences in life.  I moved to Scotland to do my postgraduate degree because I fell in love with Britain when I was younger.  My experiences here, including the people, the landscape and my interactions with the history formed a conversation that I could answer with my jewellery.  I have found the plants of Scotland to be completely different to those at home, and incredibly potent to the people here.  Once I had focused on these plants, namely Heather, the jewellery became easier to design.  I love stories, so when trying to find forms for my jewellery to take I looked into the social history of plants and the history of Britain’s jewels.  I think that stories are universally connecting – everyone loves a story.

  
[That’s really interesting because one of the reasons I love this necklace, above, is that it reminds me of the story of sleeping beauty and the forest that sprang up around her whilst she slept, I can just imagine the Prince cutting through the tangle of interwoven foliage when I look at it! Lovely]
 
How did you get into jewellery designing?
I took a class. I had been collecting earrings for ages, so when I saw a class on offer over the summer at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, I decided to try making jewellery, and it stuck.
 
Have you found it difficult to start your own business?  Was there anywhere you went for help?
I have thankfully found excellent guidance through the University of Edinburgh’s Launch.ed programme.  I work with a business advisor who finds excellent opportunities for me and I can ask anything pertaining to my business. I have also found some great opportunities and workshops with Creative Scotland and the Cultural Enterprise Office.
 
Do you make your own jewellery?
I make all of my designs by hand. I am currently an Artist in Residence at Edinburgh College of Art, which is a great opportunity to get some teaching experience under my belt and it comes with access to the extensive facilities in the department. Like many creatives though, my bench is an absolute mess no matter where it is.
[That’s fantastic news, as someone who is completely daunted by the thought of having to teach anyone anything it’s really inspiring that you’re taking the opportunity to pass on to a new collection of future creatives, but it must make you extremely busy!]
  
 
Who are your influences?
 
William Morris has always influenced me in some way. Whether through his writings or his designs, his life forms a large part of my philosophy toward designing and creating. My advisor at Skidmore College, David Peterson, has influenced me greatly and I often ask myself what would David say about this?
But my most important influence is my parents.  Through my upbringing I have been taught to appreciate art but also to be well-rounded and rational, and I could never have gotten to where I am without their support.
[That’s a really nice thing to say – I am sure your parents are very proud of what you have achieved.]
 
What inspires you?
 
Stories. Books. Like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, I read too much. But I think that experience lends a kind of significance to everyday scenes. Classical music is essential for that as well. There is nothing like a bit of Beethoven to make a situation seem more important. But hopefully what really comes out in my jewellery is that Scotland is incredibly inspirational. Take a good book and a few great classical recordings out to the Scottish islands and I am a very happy, inspired lady.
[I’m a massive reader too – I don’t think it’s possible to read too much!  Not a massive classical music fan though…maybe that’s why I’m not very creative!]
 
What sort of jewellery do you like to wear?
 
Rings. I find them strangely empowering.
 
What’s your favourite gemstone?
 
Citrine.
 
What are your aspirations for the future?
To continue to love what I do.
[Very wise words.]
 
Where did you train and how did you find the training process?
 
I did my Bachelor’s at Skidmore College in New York and my Master’s at Edinburgh College of Art. I enjoyed the diversity in the teaching between the two programmes. They provided different aspects to my training. I have tried as
much as possible during my education to get as much experience from as many teachers as possible in as many studios as I could, abroad and at home. I think that the most important part to any training process is that you put
your all in and take away as much as you can. Students should be as responsible or more than their teachers for their own learning.
 
Tell us about your connection with New Designers
 
New Designers was simply what everyone did after their degree at ECA. I never really thought about not going. Now that I have experienced it I value the platform it has created in my field, there is nothing I know of quite like it in the United States. It was a great chance to meet my peers across the UK as well as galleries and companies and people who could represent me and push me forward. I was presented with the New Designers’ Goldsmiths’ Company Jewellery award in 2014 which has helped my confidence and has pushed me into the business more thoroughly than I could have achieved without it. The main prize was a week’s work experience with Paul York at the Goldsmiths’ Centre which I did back in September. I was lucky to get to work with Paul, he is incredibly knowledgeable at what he
does and I learned so much from him.
 
What do you like to do when you’re not doing this?
 
Read, drink tea, go for walks in the rain, sing, play and listen to music, and most of all I love to solve puzzles of all kinds.
 
White gold or yellow gold…or something else?
 
Titanium. It is wonderful to work with in every way. Its combination of properties creates a very challenging and unique material. I am not one to turn down a challenge, particularly when beautiful things come out of it. Although as far as gold goes: yellow gold. It has an unparalleled warmth, and is absolutely amazing to work with, there is nothing quite like gold.
 
[I’m so glad you said Titanium!  It really does add something extra special to see jewellery in this unusual metal, I think it adds something different in particular because of its weight, what you get when you pick it up is different from what you perhaps expected.]

 

K Donavan chain 1

 

 

STOP PRESS:  We’ve just found out that Karen is adding even more to her collection of awards!  We’re delighted to hear that Karen has recently been awarded the Goldsmiths Craft & Design Council Gold Award Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers Award 2015!  Also a Commendation in the Precious Metals, Gold, Platinum and Palladium category – what great news and many many congratulations to Karen on very well deserved recognition.

 

Thank you to Karen for coming through the loupe with us – you can find Karen on lots of social media outlets including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter (and don’t forget to join us on all of those too!)

 

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New Designers 2014

 

A quick trip to the New Designers exhibition last month left me inspired to get back to the bench!

New Designers is an event to showcase the best in new and emerging design talent across a range of disciplines.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go around the whole event, I did however make a beeline for the jewellery/precious metal section.  Every material I could think of was represented there, along with some more traditional materials and designs, which were somewhat drowned in the sea of the avant-garde.

 

There are over 3000 exhibitors at New Designers, and of course not all jewellers, so here’s a taste of some of the highlights:

The wooden jewellery of Sayoko Kobayashi was beautifully crafted and  I was fascinated to hear about some of the techniques she used for staining the wood, which included raspberry juice and onion skins!

 

wooden rings

 

My colleague and friend had her head turned by the laser cut rubber range of body adornment pieces produced by Black Lune,  truly statement pieces with such a unique look and feel.

I’m pretty sure my co-blogger would have enjoyed seeing the crocheted wirework of Sheila Zeat, [yes you’re right I would have loved to see this as a crochet addict!]

Being a gem lady myself, I was drawn to Lindsay Hill’s  rings, in particular the large geometric ring with movable stone, this designer won the Weston Beamor Award for her work, a great achievement.

 

DSCN0468 (2)   DSCN0458 (2)

 

There were a number of awards handed out at the event and a list of the winners can be found here.  As I mentioned above there are a number of areas of design featured, but we make special mention of Karen Elizabeth Donovan who won the Goldsmiths’ Company award for Jewellery with her stunning designs.

Although there were so many to choose from, my favorite piece was a wonderfully tactile gold strip layered ring from the LISSOM collection of Mireia Rossell  showing in the one year on section (along with Black Lune) which welcomes back some previously shown graduates to chart their progress.  One size fits all[FYI your co-blogger is ridiculously jealous that you tried this on and wants a go herself]!!  The ring was comfortable to wear and oh so springy!  I was advised you could play with the shape and wear it different ways even stretched out as a neckpiece!  Although I was too afraid of damaging this lovely ring to try it out myself, I was most impressed when the designer demonstrated on herself!  If you want to see what I am talking about do have a look at her website:

 

 

So what do you think – stars in the making? We’ll be keeping an eye out….

 

If you’d like to check out any of the other jewellery (or indeed not jewellery) exhibitors from New Designers 2014 – One Year On you can find a list here and here.  We’ve picked out the jewellers for you below (if we’ve missed anyone out do let us know!):

 

Alice Barnes Jewellery

Alice Clarke

Anais Paulard

Beatrice Mayfield

Han-Chieh Chuang

Chloe Herrero

Christiana Christforou

Hamish Dobbie

Kelly Munro

Kirsty Stewart

Mirka Janeckova

Rhona McCallum

Sofie Boons

Stefanie Cheong

 

 

If you’re a blooming designer why don’t you apply to exhibit at New Designers next year?!