Do you know that unconscious processes are a part of jewellery design?

I believe that when we create, we are allowing unconscious processes to guide us towards something we have not been aware of before. Whether we allow completely spontaneous expression or have a desired intention when we start the process we allow ourselves the freedom to not know what the outcome to be.

This was something I learned when I was a psychotherapist. I was trained to let go of my intention and instead follow the path of the client as they explored their inner world and made sense of their struggle. My job was to listen and reflect back and to hold the belief that they could come to a new understanding.

So how can I use this same process of exploration and discovery in my life as a jewellery maker. Sometimes it’s as simple or as difficult as staring at a blank sheet of paper, allowing my mind to wonder and see what emerges. I may start with a very simple drawing and then make many variations on the theme, making sure not to sensor or judge, just letting the ideas flow, like a stream of consciousness. Often I will leave them for a while, understanding that the exploration and creativity will continue below the surface. Sometimes I will have what I call an aha moment, when a clear idea come to the surface, at other times I have to work at it some more until an idea emerges.

When I talk about my first collection , I talk about the dynamic tension between our inner and outer worlds. The core of that collection, my first, was created while still working as a psychotherapist so that I was still very much in touch with this idea of not knowing. Indeed i wondered whether some of the ideas and jewellery that emerged would work and be wearable. My design tutor told me to trust the process and believe in what I create. I remember thinking at the time how similar this was to how I would support and encourage my clients on their therapy journey. The pieces that I created then have remained central to my work as a jewellery designer. Of course the ideas have evolved over time, so that the designs have taken new directions.

And then came the pandemic and lockdown, something we had never encountered before. Being so confined created a quite magical time and space for exploration and I found myself trying out some very different techniques. I started pouring thin streams of wax on to various surfaces. Initially I struggled to control the wax but then I realised it was not possible to control it. Later I realised that i was exploring loss of control, just as we all were, as we tried to make sense of the feelings evoked by the pandemic.

Luckily for me this exploration created a new opportunity! Having created lots of shapes I began to pick out shapes that could be transformed with some refinement into jewellery. Once cast in silver I refined them some more, deciding which shapes would work well as pendants or earrings, which could make an interesting ring and so on. Finally a new and very different collection took shape! And what I find particularly interesting is what people see in these organic forms. One customer says her pendant reminds her of Lord of the Rings! Another sees an element of art nouveau! What draws us to a particular piece? I think there is so much involved in that question that it might become the subject of another blog!

In my next collection, I’m going to combine some of these curious fluid silver shapes with natural gemstone beads. It’s wonderful to be able to continue to create, finding new ways to work with what we have, just as we are doing in our post pandemic lives.

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