Thursday, 29 March 2007

Water, Water - RSA

This is the piece I submitted for the RSA design competition we entered last November. The title of the brief was 'Water, Water' - I took a rather indirect approach to this and decided to consider the phrase 'Still wters run deep'. I used a combination of old tainted paper, imagery and gold leaf under a layer of sandblasted perspex set in silver. The result was a personal piece which I hope hinted at the notion of hidden secrets and stories untold.

Water Water, RSA submission.

This is my very first attempt at silversmithing, which I used as a submission for the RSA competition. Although the larger bowl has a more overall fluid feeling to it, I actually prefer the smaller one as you can cusp it comfortably in your hand, and it just simply appeals more to me. Hopefully this is just the beginning of more yummy bowls and objects!

Friday, 23 March 2007

Jack Inspired Lindsay
After researching into Jacks inspirations I was motivated to create my own piece of work using the same ideas of memory, relationships and emotions.

I recently met a childhood friend that I have not seen for years and it sparked of memories of the long summer days when we used to play on the field beside my house and make daisy chains. This broach is dedicated to that friend and the long happy days of summer that felt like they went on forever.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Jack Inspired Fe

After researching Jack Cunningham's own inspirations I was thus inspired to create a piece personal to me, but using the same creative stimulus. Cunningham's piece 'crossing' is based upon a loved one of his that has passed over, he uses jewellery as a means of expressing himself, not just as a simple momento.

The brooch I created is a tribute to my dad's father, and my mother's mother. I thoroughly enjoyed making this piece as often within design, I feel constricted by ergonomics and practicality. Expressing yourself via jewellery was not something I had thought to do previously.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Jack Inspired - Robyn

Inspired by Jack's use of found materials, I went on to create this neckpiece. I loved the nostalgic aesthetic created by the pottery; it's floral, feminine pattern, it's crumbling edges, it's unusual shape. You are immediately aware that this fragment was once part of a whole, and is thus rife with memory. In setting the piece in silver, it takes on a sense of preciousness, whilst I felt the pearl gave it a slightly more elegant, feminine touch.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Inspired by Jack
Inspired by Jack's unique narrative voice and eloquent style, we designed our own pieces........

The Happy Ending
What make's Jack's work so succesful? undoubtedly his high standard of craftmanship and ability to remain true to his style despite a lengthy career play a big part, but what truly defines the unfaltering appeal of his narrative jewellery is its versatility. His pieces don't merely tell us a story, they allow us to give him one back. Far exceeding the conventional associations with mere adornment, in Jack's jewellery we find a vessel in which to instill our own meaning, expel our own troubles, and seek our own comfort.

Narrative Qualities - Colour, Icon, Metaphor

In the creation of his narrative voice, Jack utilizes within his pieces a number of symbols to evoke memories of past experiences and emotions. An example of this can be seen in 'Mask'(Left). Here the house form is used to suggest our innermost private space, leaving us to question the relationship between the two figure - Why might one be on the outside and what secret liest behind that mask? Other recurring themes within his work include the sycamore seed, which signifies 'renewal and growth, flight and fecundity,' and the kit form, which hints at our relationships with others - how we all fit together. Colour also plays an important part in the process, although each persons emotional response and interpretation will vary depending on the meaning or private memory that they choose to attach to the piece.

Narrative Qualities - Composition

The manner in which Jack arranges the objects within a piece is of upmost importance in establishing a clear narrative. A good example of this can be seen in his 'Crossing' brooch.

'Crossing'. Silver, moonstone, found objects, silver plated sycamore.

'Wether physically or cognitively, every minute of every day we make a journey through time and space - 'Crossing' is a memento mori, a commemorative piece that tells of the journey made by a family member into the afterlife.'

Jack Cunningham

His placing of the ruler below the cross gives indication of the life cut short, whilst the length of silver tube and the distance put between the objects suggests a great sense of mourning and perhaps a fear of being alone.

Narrative Qualities

'I would describe narrative jewellery as a wearable object that contains a comment or message, which the maker strives to communicate to the audience through the use of visual representation.'

Jack Cunningham on his work.

The defining character of Jack's work is that he chooses to work exclusively in the brooch form. This means of creative expression effectively allows him a broader area - both literally and in the conventional sense - in which to explore and portray personal narratives and stories. But aside from this, and perhaps most importantly, it puts his pieces in a place where thet demand to be seen, allowing for wearer/viewer interaction. Placed in such public view, his pieces must communicate easily, and this is done with consideration to a number of design factors.


Fabricated from silver sheet and wire, a number of techniques are used within Jack's pieces, each of them complimenting his style and subject matter. These include the setting of both found and precious objects, casting, gold and silver plating, and electroforming.

'Love Nest II' silver, moonstone, ruby and gold plated sycamore.


A key factor in Jack's unique style lies in his choice of materials; in conjunction with silver, semi- precious stones and some 'ready mades', Jack uses found objects. Most of these are sourced on his travels, wether it be fom the bustling streets of Paris, or, in the case of his earlier work, the secluded Sanna Bay. His unusual combinations, evident in 'Dunure' (left), which incorprates quartz, mocha stone, a pebble, and a gold plated sycamore, work together like individual words in a sentence or miniature moments in time, piecing together to form a whole - each of them playing a part in cementing the memory.

'Dunure'. Silver, rutilated quartz, mocha stone, pebble and gold plated sycamore.

Design Process

Jack's pieces develop and take form as a result of, and only after, a period of personal research and information gathering. He records in an 'ideas sketchbook' any initial thoughts and preliminary drawings. An important point to note is the impulsive and direct quality of Jack's sketches - often appearing on train tickets, cheque books or other available scraps, a need to record a thought the second it occurs is paramount to ensure his ideas remain fresh. He also gathers inspiratoin through the use of a camera and the jotting down of words and phrases relevant to the experience or moment he is capturing, effectively creating a dialogue and a basis upon which to construct his piece.
An example of one of Jack's 'ideas sketchbooks'.


Jack's pieces stem from a desire to explore our personal emotional responses to issues such as life, death, family relationships, sense of place, our recollection and our memory. These interests, particularly that of a sense of place, are further influenced by his love of travel, which sees him spending considerable time in both Paris and Japan. More recent work has seen Jack delve deeper into human emotions, exploring our relationship with a piece not merely as the wearer, but looking also at the link that is established therefore with the viewer, and inevitably the maker.
'In the Garden' brooch 2003, silver, wood, paint, coral, moonstone, pearl.

Telling Tales

The Narrative Jewellery of Jack Cunningham

Jack Cunningham is unquestionably one of Scotland's most renowned and influential contemporary narrative jewellery designers. His hand crafted pieces - each of them steeped in a style that could belong to no other - can be viewed in galleries and exhibitions across the country and beyond, winning him over the years a number of reputable awards and commissions. In this blog, we are going to explore Jack's work in more detail to gain a greater understanding not just of his working processes and techniques, but ultimately to establish what it is that makes his pieces so utterly timeless.

An early image of Jack Cunningham.

And so the story begins.............