London-based jewellery designer Jennifer Campbell is the latest maker to be showcased in the Barbican Shop as part of our Makers initiative. Taking inspiration from both natural and artificial objects, her jewellery designs cross the boundary between painting, sculpture and fashion.
We catch up with Jennifer to find out more about her work and her Barbican range.
How did you become a jewellery designer?
I’ve always had an interest in fashion and so it finally occurred to me. why not make some fashion pieces out of the materials I had been using for my art practice? Once I started experimenting with this, I realised that my love of colour, which has developed through painting, can have an influence on the design and fashion side of my brain too. I see designing and making my jewellery as a separate psychological zone from making paintings, sculptures and installations, almost like an alter-ego, but they do of course influence one another.
How did you incorporate classic Brutalist aesthetics into your designs?
I spend a lot of time at the Barbican and I have been a fan of Brutalist architecture for a long time. I love the striking effect of a bold angular concrete building that stands out from the surrounding architecture, which is newer and more glossy or older and more elaborate, than the brutalist style. I aim for my jewellery to make a similar statement.
I love the striking effect of a bold angular concrete building that stands out from the surrounding architecture
Your line of jewellery incorporates some elements of Bauhaus design, can you talk to us about that and what your other inspirations are?
Having studied and taught at various art schools I am lucky enough to have experienced directly the effect of the Bauhaus School. Its way of teaching, especially focusing on play and material exploration, has been incorporated into the structuring of the majority of modern art schools. Their focus on changing people’s day-to-day living experience by re-thinking design, is a mentality that I value as a designer. As well as referencing the modernist utilitarian look of that era, my jewellery is also very easy to wear. Whilst being hand-crafted, it is also light-weight and very durable – you can roll around on the floor, dance and pass out in my jewellery. My aim is that anyone who owns a Sodabay item can throw on a comfy jumper or plain t-shirt and add one of my necklaces or earrings as they walk out of the door. The addition of the bold colour and imaginative design of the Sodabay item will make them feel immediately more expressive and dressed-up with minimal effort.
Your jewellery takes inspiration from both natural and artificial objects too.
Another way of saying this is that the influence for my jewellery design come from practically anywhere. From my grandma’s vintage 1970’s dresses to the reflection of a setting sun scape in a lake. My jewellery celebrates colour, texture and shape and their infinite combinations. There is always something new to be found in the world in you are in the right frame of mind to be looking for it. You re-invent yourself each morning when you start your day. This is my belief and it is ingrained into everything that I make.
You re-invent yourself each morning when you start your day
What does a typical day (if there is one…) look like in your studio?
The designing phase has a completely different rhythm to the making of the beads. When making the beads I am always experimenting with colour and technique but it is also very meditative – it has to be, you cannot work with clay if you are in an agitated mood! When I have made a load of beads I start trying out lots of different combinations before settling on a design, and even then I have to let it sit for a while, come back to it and make lots of little changes before I am satisfied. It’s quite obsessive and I often stay up late at night switching combinations of colour texture and form.
Your necklaces use a Polymer clay ball and knot fixing. Can you talk to us about this particular process?
I wanted the fixing to be in line with the over-all design, I see a lot of jewellery that is spoilt by the fixing. I also wanted the necklace to have the flexibility to be worn differently depending on who wears in, what mood they’re in, what else they are wearing. The knot and ball fixing is simple and also gives the wearer the choice of how long they want the necklace to be each time they wear it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring jewellery designers?
Do what your instinct tells you and don’t compromise, there is no point making something that you are not in love with.
Browse Jennifer Campbell’s collection for the Barbican Shop
Meet more of our Makers and designers in our Design collection.