Jewelry x Humanity

Photo courtesy of Simon Harrison

Photo courtesy of Simon Harrison

Are robots a good thing if they contribute to making our life devoid of human contact? How do you prefer your coffee brewed? By a human pair of hands who will tailor it to your taste, or by a robotic arm that will “serve” you what some engineer in a sterile office decided is the coffee combination liked by most people in Canada? Wouldn’t you say that a cup of coffee is enjoyable when served with a smile and chitchat, even if the brew is so-so?

My point is, the humanity of Made-by-Hand is irreplaceable. The human element of a product is often more important than its intrinsic qualities.

I am a very tactile person. I hug, I kiss, I stroke, I make things with my hands (admittedly with no talent). I need to work with my hands to let my mind wander, zone out, relax, travel on its own. Some people do their thinking in the shower or running, I “think” with my hands. That’s probably why I am in awe of makers.

Photo courtesy of London Craft Week

Photo courtesy of London Craft Week

On the Made-by-Hand humanity spectrum, jewelry goes one step further. By its very nature, jewelry is in direct contact with the body and de facto merges two human stories: that of the artist and the wearer. In complete osmosis. There is a profound, deep, more confident pleasure in wearing jewelry with a human connection.

There is a moment in the jewelry gift-giving process that we tend to forget but is so important. After opening the gift, marvelling at it and immediately putting the piece on, the story of how it was picked for you comes out. “I know that you love blue. Initially I went for a necklace — but I know how much you love rings. The artist made this just for you. It was quite the adventure to get your ring size without you knowing what I was up to! Do you like it?”

Jacqueline Ryan

Jacqueline Ryan

And you do — the blue is irrelevant. It’s the human touch in the making and the giving that matters.

Photo courtesy of Lucy Depford

Photo courtesy of Lucy Depford

Don’t underestimate the bond between the maker and her piece. She puts her whole in it, labouring for hours, even days, weeks or months over the task. She starts, then leaves it on the bench for a while, walking past it, handling it, then putting it down, sometimes even talking to it, until the intangible connection with it is so balanced and perfect — feels so right — that the next move is instinctive and requires no thought. Not surprisingly, makers can be quite picky when it comes to who will wear their pieces.

I have kept one of my mother’s brooches in a box for over 20 years now — its design makes it difficult to wear. I can’t think of a better objet to keep that human connection with her — it was always on her lapel (like Madeleine Albright, her mood was often signaled by her brooch).

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I spent 20 years looking for the right maker to convert the brooch until I met Ruth Tomlinson at Goldsmiths’ Fair in London last year. It’s not so much her artistic style that attracted me to her (although of course it’s gorgeous) as her personality — quiet but strong, really listening to me. I know the end result will reflect my vision. Ruth knows how to take unworn and underappreciated jewelry with sentimental meaning and reconstruct it into a contemporary creation. She documented the process for another client in this video.

We are visiting Ruth’s atelier in London on May 12th — if you want her to work on one of your pieces, do bring it with you. She is delightful; you will really like her.

Ruth used to have her studio at Cockpit Arts, an incubator for craftspeople. The creative space is home to 170 makers. Their Holborn location is tucked away on a rather unassuming street. Our visit will be lead by the fabulously knowledgeable and passionate Ute Decker — you can watch my interview of Ute in this video.

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During our London trip (May 7th to 14th), we are visiting a myriad of makers, galleries and venues. The experiences will be exceptional, making memories for a long time. Fashion, interior décor, metalsmithing, painting restoration, embroidery, perfume, globe making... it’s endless.

Through my partnership with London Craft Week, we are accessing an amazing diverse and rich program. We can attend lectures or visit exhibits, go to films or wine tastings, take part in a workshop or enjoy high tea. So much to discover, learn and enjoy.

I have reserved the last day of the trip for you to enjoy London as you wish — a spot of shopping maybe? I’ll share my best-of list with you.

Meals, accommodation and activities are all taken care of — you just have to show up! And if you can’t make it, please share with your friends. Maybe one of them would love to travel with a small group of fun, energetic ladies.

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I’m coming to London!

Reach out to book your spot.