The Goldsmith’s Centre’s Drawn + Formed exhibition; in partnership with the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers
This exhibition explores the history and contemporary uses of hand-drawn wire in embroidery, jewellery and silversmithing. London was first introduced to gold and silver wire drawing by craftsmen from Europe around the 15th century, however, there is reference to combining metal wire with textiles as far back as the writing of the bible.
Wire drawing is the process of hand making wire for jewellery and silversmithing, using a draw bench at room temperature. The draw bench reduces the thickness of the metal by forcing it through a series of draw plates, although today metal thread is most commonly mass manufactured using moulds. The resulting wire is polished and coated with a precious metal, after which the wire can be drawn and reduced to a tenth of the size of a human hair!
This necklace by Teri Howes (Image 1) was inspired by the double helix structure of DNA. The use of contrasting gold and grey/black filaments highlights the helical structure more obviously. Howes uses crochet to create her jewellery pieces, an unlikely technique when using wire, but very effective.
This display case (Image 2) was almost hidden in plain sight as you entered the exhibition and it was only when I returned to the entrance that I noticed the familiar items from the exhibition advert. They were smaller than I expected but this made the intricacy even more impressive.
I can see why the curators chose the stunning Tiger by Laura Baverstock to promote the exhibition; I noticed I wasn’t the only one admiring it whilst there. The Lenticular Brooches by Andrew Lam were packed with scale-like beads, appearing like textured fur from afar.
This goldwork design titled Morphosis by artist Annalisa Middleton (Image 3) immediately caught my eye due to the striking contrast of bright colours against the shimmering gold. This has to be my favourite piece from the exhibition. Middleton took inspiration from cellular biology and marine life and combined this with her interest in futuristic technologies to create this fantastical, organic, data capsule. The artist describes the design as a ‘portal’ for the viewer to be immersed in her world. From a biological perspective you could interpret the main feature of the design as a virus or a cell filled with a variety of organelles.
Image 4 shows embroidery in a more unusual frame in the form of a used alarm clock. Pankhurst started her alarm clock series with Lockdown O’Clock, an alarm clock with an embroidered face and great feathery wings, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. This most recent addition to the alarm clock series was inspired by nature and growth, something that many appreciated more throughout lockdown.
Another personal favourite was this rose gold, three-dimensional piece titled Embrace by Naomi Aindow (Images 5 & 6). I kept coming back to this display and would notice extra details every time. This body adornment piece is part of Aindow’s Spores of Life collection inspired by the intricate details of lichen and moss. The focus of this shoulder piece is enhancing the scale of these details through textured hand stitching and beading. I particularly like the contrast between the smooth, shiny, glass beads and the soft, comfortable fields of french knots. The hand embroidered forms remind me of the diverse species seen in coral reef photography.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to The Goldsmith’s Centre and would highly recommend it to anyone else interested in goldwork, silversmithing and body adornment. My favourite design was easily the goldwork Morphosis piece by Annalisa Middleton, due to its biological context and personal connection to the artist. The exhibition has inspired me to be more adventurous and explore more obscure materials and processes in my practice.
Written by Cadi Williams
The Goldsmith’s Centre, 42 Britton Street, London EC1M 5AD
16 June 2022 – 15 September 2022, 9am – 6pm