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Staff of the BA Jewellery Design course at Central Saint Martins are pleased to present 'Countercurrent', an exhibition of work in response to the premises and archives of the yacht-chandler Arthur Beale in Shaftesbury Avenue.

Arthur Beale, London’s last remaining Yacht Chandler, at the heart of Covent Garden on Shaftesbury Avenue, plays host for the London Design Festival to an exhibition of work by some of Britain’s major contemporary jewellery designer makers, staff of Central Saint Martins BA Jewellery Design. Seeking inspiration from the ropes and sailing tackle retailed by Arthur Beale, these designers have brought their creative imaginations to play on the robust materials, forms and objects of traditionally crafted chandlery to produce their more delicately sculpted precious objects of embellishment and adornment.

Entitled Countercurrent, the exhibition brings into collaborative confrontation two differently evolved sets of craft skills and traditions. Those applied to yacht chandlery are amongst the earliest of human manual techniques, applied prehistorically to the easing of the hardships of survival in the production of functional rope and tools, which later became vital to mercantile industry. Arthur Beale originated in the 16th century on the port of London’s bustling Fleet river as the workshop of rope maker John Buckingham. Moving in the early 20th century to its current premises, adjacent to London’s west end theatres, enabled consolidating it’s move into theatrical chandlery, providing rigging and mechanics for stage sets. As well as supplying equipment for mountaineering and transcontinental expeditions over the past 150 years, it has diversified more recently into exhibiting marine art and collaborating with fashion designers using macramé and frogging to decorate garments in major collections. Countercurrent is the newest venture of the owner, yachtsman and theatrical chandler Alasdair Flint and his business partner, Gerry Jeatt.

The skills of Central Saint Martins’ staff have been formed in relation to the avant-garde aesthetics of contemporary artist craftwork. The staff team is led by Caroline Broadhead whose work includes some of the major iconic images in the New Jewellery movement in western art and craft in the late twentieth century. The movement sought to challenge conventional uses of jewellery as body adornment indicative of status and wealth by requiring wearers of the pieces they made to subject their bodies to the often physically contorting demands of the pieces themselves, which were often treated also as free-standing sculptures. Whilst not abandoning the sense of functional application of craft techniques and skills altogether, the contemporary aesthetics represented in their work are combined with a sense of imaginative, explorative play around the idea and function of objects.

The multiple stocks of rope, marine chandlery and other objects at Arthur Beale provide them with metaphorical resources to stimulate their work. Think of the skipping rope, look for strings of pearls, entwining bracelets and necklaces, the heft and slump of hawsers and cables looped over and around the body. Just as inspiring is the transformative potential of chandlery objects – linking shackles, the smooth movement of transferring weight around a pulley. These are just preliminary indications of what promises to emerge from this creative and unusual confrontation, which is certain to produce one of the more unusual, interesting and varied design features of the festival.

Staff of BA Jewellery Design, Central Saint Martins

The BA Jewellery Design course at Central Saint Martins is intensive, lively and diverse. We consider that jewellery is a microcosm through which to explore and express responses to the world.

The course values an open-minded approach, experimentation and risk-taking, along with more traditional skills. We encourage jewellery design to be explored, questioned and tested out in a number of guises and contexts and with skill and imagination.

One hundred and twenty students are tutored by twenty-five practicing designers, artists and researchers with a range of expertise and experience that is unparalleled. The eleven BA Jewellery Design staff representing the course at the London Design Festival are: Caroline Broadhead, Lin Cheung, Naomi Filmer, Melanie Georgacopoulos, Katy Hackney, Giles Last, Marlene McKibbin, Maria Militsi, Max Warren, Silvia Weidenbach and Scott Wilson.

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