CONTEMPORARY JEWELLERY PRACTICE: THE ROLE OF DISPLAY IN ADDRESSING CRAFT VALUES WITHIN THE CREATIVE PROCESS 

 MICHELLE JESSOP 

 

A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE 

REQUIREMENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF BRIGHTON 

FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY 

OCTOBER 2013 

UNIVERSITY FOR THE CREATIVE ARTS 

 

ABSTRACT 

The aim of this research is to investigate the role of display within contemporary jewellery, defining an approach that informs both jewellery practice and critical discourse. Conventional structures such as the display case, plinths, frames and mounts operate as communicative platforms from which jewellery is presented, often negating the interactive nature of an object that is designed to be touched, worn or owned. My practice takes the form both of writing and making to explore presentational methods that promote the emotive qualities presented, produced or prompted by a craft object as a means of engaging the viewer within the gallery space.  

One area of my investigation involves looking at strategies used by craft makers to communicate their work to a wider audience beyond the gallery space.  Developments in digital media and an increasing emphasis on audience participation or collaboration offer interactive potential. These methods present an alternative form of communication compared to the conventional display case that tends to hinder such a socially-led approach to contemporary jewellery. Another significant departure from the taxonomic mode of displaying craft collections is the exploration of bodily processes. This ethos inspires a growing number of contemporary jewellers who seek actively to engage an audience with their work using various strategies. This creative drive demonstrates a move away from the presentation of the craft object as an autonomous artefact towards an approach based on social interaction. 

The impetus of this study arises from Nicolas Bourriaud's notions concerning relational aesthetics. Bourriaud is known for his analysis of late 20th century artists who investigate ways of engaging the individual within a community-based collective through their work. I will show how collaborative practices and the investigation of ‘new formal fields’ are informing the crafts today. This paper describes how relational aesthetics informs my own practice by focusing on four areas of enquiry. These consist of: an examination of the relationship between maker, viewer and the craft image; the social relevance of patina in the re-presentation of an exhibition object by the use of macro photography; the recording and presentation of social and bodily elements that relate to the worn object; and the role of display methods as a narrative tool. These areas of investigation are developed in symbiosis with my practice, concluding in an exhibition that is rooted in the theoretical framework of relational aesthetics from which the concept of immersive aesthetics is defined.