‘Contemporary’. There’s that word again. Used more often than it should be to describe design, art, jewellery or fashion that has no wide audience; little impact on our mass-produced society and slim to no chance of mass market exposure – therefore ending up adorning the walls of some ‘contemporary’ gallery. In this instance it was the Design Museum and the medium was jewellery.

Being a keen semi-pro jeweller, we found it VERY hard to find anything positive to say about what was on show – unexpected, yes, pleasurable? No. We’re all for experimental design but stringing (literally) broken bottle necks together and calling it a necklace is a mockery of the jewellery industry. We wanted nothing more than to spit and stamp all over the word ‘contemporary’. Of course we are not denying the craftsmanship that is clearly visible in a lot of pieces, we are however asking: could the designers’ obvious talents be put to better use?

Oh wait, we do have something positive to say about this exhibition: the panel discussion at the end of the tour. Solange Azagury-Partridge was on the panel looking rather bored and stiff ‘discussing’ the whole ‘contemporary’ aspect of jewellery. So we cheekily asked her if she planned on designing a contemporary range anytime soon, and so as not to offend the curator (who was VERY enthusiastic about her work and contemporary design, bless her) she diplomatically and gently answered “I’d like too, some day, maybe…” (Solange we were reading between the lines here).

Unexpected Pleasures is on until 3 March. For more information [click here]

Words by Amina Khan & installation photos by Luke Hayes.

Britton Scampi

Camilla Prasch, Mega, 2009

Fritsch Steinhaufen, 2004

Felieke van der Leest, Yellow Kelly, 2008

Ganch, yellow dust brooch

Kiko Gianocca, Who Am I, 2008

Karl Fritsch, Screw Ring, 2010

Pierce Sex Offender necklace

Stofer pearl bracelet


Caroline Broadhead, veil, 1983