Old and the New, Art and the Craft

A recent news report on the new David Hockney-designed stained glass window in Westminster Abbey stated, “There’s the art and then there’s the craft”.

Hockney designed the contemporary looking window, celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, on an iPad. Then, Glass masters at Barley Studios in Yorkshire lovingly created the 20ft by the 6ft window, known as the ‘Queen’s Window’, using traditional techniques.

This got me thinking about how that phrase is applicable to artists and designers right across the board. Whether it’s a stained glass window, a sculpture or a piece of jewelry, a good designer who wants to make a success of their work, need to understand the mechanics of how their designs are made.

When it comes to jewelry design, a piece has to be wearable and feel comfortable, as well as look stunning and make a statement. A piece of jewelry can be playful or it can be elegant, but nevertheless, it’s about the tactile feel and also how it looks on your body.

Jewelry is all about personal statements, expression and luxury combined with traditional techniques and craftsmanship. A good designer needs to command both artistic and technical skills, which is why they turn to professional modelmakers and laser cutting companies for technical drawings, CAD’s, 3D printing and prototypes. They also have to work with goldsmiths for any metal casting, stone-setting, engraving, and enameling.

I investigated further and visited a leading laser cutting London business that’s proud to have long-term clients such as jewelry designers Tatty Divine and Rosita Bonita. I found out that it’s quite common for jewelry designers to work alongside a trusted laser-cutter and the working partnership is a dedicated one that runs hand in hand from one season’s collection to another.

Maybe this partnership has grown from the fact that laser cutting offers a repeatable manufacturing process. It is also a scalable process, delivering quantities from one-off bespoke items to 1000’s and is much quicker than hand fabrication.It actually works out to be cost effective too because of low set up costs, minimum charges and offers a level of quality control, which is essential to any manufacturing business.

This marriage between artist and technician brings about another key factor too – communication. Smooth communication between the designer and the craftsperson is essential in bringing about trust and translating the ‘art’ and identity of a piece.

I came to the conclusion that traditional craftsmanship, whether laser cutting, model making, carpentry or glassmaking is an essential cog in the artistic creative wheel. The marriage of old and new, the artist working with the technician, giving us art exhibitions, installations, contemporary furniture, and jewelry.

So, next time you’re at an art exhibition looking at a sculpture, visiting the Queen’s Window in Westminster Abbey or putting on a funky necklace just maybe pause and think about the craftsmanship involved behind the scenes.

Unsung talent helping the talented sing…

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