I have been in London for a couple of days and while I was walking through the gorgeous V&A museum I discovered this wonderful jewelry designer. David Watkins‘s jewelry is described as architectural and minimalist- two parts I really like a lot. It is graphic, spare and clearly about the spaces between. It ranges in form from huge, flat, coloured plastic circles to gold wire square grids and looks more like 2D sculpture than jewellery. Much of it appears almost impossible to wear; yet as one of Watkins’ key preoccupations is how jewelry works on the body, it isn’t. As Watkins is concerned with both the wearer and the viewer, its purpose is to frame or be framed by the body.
Watkins began his career as a jazz musician and a sculptor, working on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, all of which seems to have influenced his later creations. He was first attracted to jewellery in the early Seventies when modern jewelers were more preoccupied with skill than radical ideas. Taking an unorthodox approach to the craft, Watkins’ view of jewellery is as wearable, miniature sculpture, rather than precious ornament.
Watkins has led the way in exploring such non-precious materials as paper, acrylic, neoprene, colorcore, steel and aluminium. Some of his pieces making a cross between pharaonic and art deco aesthetics and postmodern iconography.
He was one of the first jewellery designers to use a computer, appreciating early on that he needed to do so to inform himself of the possibilities and explore their full potential. His work, which involves the repetition of forms, has been facilitated (or indeed made possible at all) by 3D computer modelling and CNC machining. Even after retiring as professor and head of goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork and jewellery at the RCA he continues to investigate new materials and processes and has been immensely influential to a generation of students.
He explores classical proportions, basing his work largely on the circle, in any material, or its components. Bizarrely his basic forms are reflected in the hugely ornate ceiling of the Silver Galleries, where his work is displayed in an exhibition he himself designed. It fights hard to compete with the excesses of its surroundings.
When some of his early pieces were included in a 1975 show at the V&A, Watkins said he felt as if he had ‘transgressed’. This show of one of the pioneers of contemporary jewellery started off in the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales and is long overdue at the V&A. The transgression is the V&A’s in not inviting him back for a retrospective much sooner. With bold and varied displays, though, this show makes amends. ( via Blueprint)