Free Content Surface and substance: A call for the fusion of skill and ideas in contemporary enamel jewellery

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This article references the ongoing practice-led research project, Innovation in Vitreous Enamel Surfaces for Jewellery. The project is based on my experience of enamel as an innovative, expressive and contemporary material. Drawing on extensive contextual research and my knowledge of the subject area I argue that, despite this apparent potential, there is little evidence of innovative practice within the field of enamelled jewellery in Britain. I outline the cultural, historical and educational factors that I believe contribute to this deficiency. I examine the two distinct and opposing approaches to enamel that are prevalent within contemporary jewellery. The first of these is a traditional fine practice that is predicated on skill and the inherent beauty of the materials; the second includes conceptually motivated work, where a rejection of both the skill base and the moribund traditional associations attributed to fine enamel practice have led to enamel work that demonstrates an impoverished skill base. I argue that the prejudice that inhibits innovation can be countered by wide dissemination of best practice and give examples of an alternative approach which values skill and knowledge, in combination with a conceptual approach, to produce work which is genuinely innovative.

Keywords: contemporary jewellery; craft; innovation; practice-led research; skill; vitreous enamel

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of the West of England, UK.

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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