was on display from February 4–24 at Shibumi Gallery, located in
Berkeley, California, USA. This exhibition featured works by two British
jewelry artists—Polly Wales and Jo Hayes Ward. In this interview, Polly
and Jo provide us with insight about their process and the concept
behind their pieces.
Missy Graff: Please tell me about your background. How did you become interested in making jewelry?
Wales: I initially studied sculpture, but I couldn't really come to
grips with the convoluted language of fine art. It felt so removed.
After a few years, I wasn’t sure why I was trying to communicate in what
felt like such an indirect form. A few years later, my passion for
making drove me back to the university, where I studied jewelry. I loved
making for making's sake and making decisions from an aesthetic
viewpoint rather than a totally intellectualized one. That said, for the
first few years of my jewelry career I was still in pursuit of marrying
the two, and it was while I was studying at the Royal College of Art
(alongside Jo Hayes Ward) that I began my investigation into casting
materials together. I was making jewelry that never had a perfect
moment; a moment of shiny newness that heralded, somehow, the beginning
of the end; or jewelry that demanded to be kept pristine, polished, and
safeguarded. So, I started casting stones inside the metal, creating
pieces that always had unique outcomes, and if worn forever and a day,
would always be changing and revealing something new, the gold wearing
away to reveal the stones buried within. This process became the
backbone of my work.
Jo Hayes Ward: I have been
making since I was a child. I started making jewelry out of wire and
beads using my dad's soldering iron when I was about twelve. Years
later, I learned metalwork and silversmithing at art school. I didn't
actually make any jewelry until I began working as an assistant with
three different London jewelers. This was an invaluable experience that
led me to do a masters in goldsmithing at the Royal College of Art in
2004. Upon graduating, I launched my first fine jewelry collection.
Can you please describe the work you are presenting at Shibumi Gallery?
Polly Wales: The pieces that I am showing at Shibumi are a selection from my Classic Crystal Collection, which have stones cast throughout. I also included some of my newer diamond and bridal pieces.
Hayes Wards: I am presenting large structural rings and pendants
constructed from hundreds of minute cubic or hexagonal units. Due to the
faceting and textures on the units, the pieces catch the light in quite
an unusual way and really come alive when worn. Also on display are
interlocking hex rings in three shades of gold, again built from a
shimmering pattern of angled hexagonal units and set with diamonds.
your jewelry reflects a geometric and digital aesthetic. What drew you
to this style? How does this distinguish you from other artists in the
field? Who are your major influences?
Jo Hayes Ward
I love to build things, which is essentially what I do when designing
jewelry. Early in my career, I discovered Computer Aided Design (CAD). I
used it simply because I was unable to achieve the intricate and
complex pieces that I wanted to make by hand. I now use 3D computer
modeling programs and 3D printing as tools to craft much of my work. My
influences are the artists Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt, among others.
Polly, your pieces have an eroded look. What inspires your work?
Wales: The look of the pieces was really an outcome of my experimental
investigation into creating new materials. I wanted to create materials
that change and evolve as you wear them. That process, in itself, became
my sole pursuit. The aesthetic is very much defined by the process of
casting the stones in place. It’s a pretty high risk and crazy way to
work. I’m always trying to refine what I do and push what is possible at
the same time.
Polly, who are your major influences? When I look at the images, I gather they are an eclectic mix of ancient and modern.
Wales: I love Byzantine jewelry, Indian jewelry, and like every British
jeweler, I am currently fascinated with the Cheapside Hoard. The women
who wear my jewelry have also played a major role in how the collections
have evolved. The work has been influenced by seeing how women wear it
and live in it.
Were you familiar with each other’s
jewelry before being chosen for this exhibition? Do you see any
connections between your works?
Polly Wales: Jo is
one of my best friends! What we have is pretty unique. We have
travelled parallel paths through our careers since we first met at the
RCA. However, our work is so different that there has never been
anything we haven't been able to share with each other. Jo's work is
about meticulous thought and consideration. Everything in her work is
exact. The outcomes are defined before leaving the computer screen. On
the flipside, my work invites chaos at every step of the way, from
making the waxes to the casting. I don't know what will come out until
it's finished in front of me. All that said, I think we marry up pretty
well. How well our jewelry sits together sums up our friendship nicely!
Hayes Ward: Yes! We met 10 years ago on the first day of college at the
RCA, and we have been best mates ever since! At face value, the
aesthetics of our works are very different, but I think we tackle
similar themes, and we both work with intricate detail and strive to
make unique wearable treasures. I love what Polly does. We offer great
support to each other.
Can you please tell me about the British jewelry community? Would you describe it as active?
Wales: We have a unique jewelry culture, and it is reflected in our
jewelry community. It’s much smaller than elsewhere, and British women
do not buy much fine jewelry for themselves. Stepping outside of the UK
has been very liberating. It has given me so much freedom. I have found
an amazing amount of support and friendship in the US, and that is where
I feel like part of a community.
Jo Hayes Ward: There
are a lot of very interesting and fantastic designers involved, but the
market in the UK is very small and fairly conservative. Over the past
couple of years, I have been part of a group called the Rock Vault. We
show new work twice a year at London’s Fashion Week. The work is curated
by the jewelry designer Stephen Webster and The British Fashion
Council. The idea is to make fine jewelry from London more visible in
the fashion industry. The venture has given me and the 10 or so other
designers a great deal of international exposure. Last summer, we all
exhibited at the Couture show in Las Vegas, something I am planning to
do again this year.
What are you reading that you can recommend?
Polly Wales: It's been three years since I have read anything of substance. I will start again soon!
Hayes Ward: Nothing right now. There is no time between running the
business and family life. I have a two-and-a-half-year old plus a
three-month old who keep me busy day and night!
Original article from the AJF blog can be found at: