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An Interview with Jeweller Zara Schofield

Zara Schofield is currently exhibiting her jewellery at The National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford as part of the Design-Nation Picks exhibition. Zara is one of the two winners of the One Year In Development award at New Designers 2019. We asked Zara a few questions about her practice, inspiration and workplace.

Design-Nation asked: Please tell us about your practice and how your business began.

Zara Schofield answered: My background is in fine art. First I studied painting at Wimbledon School of Art and then continued on to a postgraduate degree in Fine Art at the Royal Academy Schools. Since studying for my MA, I have been interested in creating pieces which cross disciplines and merge boundaries between fine art, craft and design. My jewellery pieces are the culmination of the development of my art practice. Having initially studied painting, then moving into sculpture, I went on to learn skills in traditional jewellery techniques and metalworking, alongside working with many skilled craftspeople in ceramics, gilding and casting.

All these skills have fed my practice, and from 2014 have culminated in the creation of ‘wearable collages’ like those on show at NCCD. I put no restrictions on materials or processes that can be used in the creation of a piece. These pieces do not begin with the idea of making a necklace, ring or brooch – they start as realisations of three dimensional collages and then their form dictates whether they are suited to be a necklace, brooch or pair of earrings.

Display is a very important part of my practice. My art training has made me aware of curation and the relationship between objects, space and the viewer or wearer. My ‘wearable collages’ are made to be worn, but can equally be displayed on a table or hung on a wall. I am developing pieces which hang within screen printed panels, painted reliefs, or sit within a piece of furniture I design. The idea of creating works where a part can be taken off and worn is one I’m developing, alongside the idea of the installation where the furniture, wearable object, painting, drawing or sculptural relief all relate, becoming the ‘total artwork’.

Since graduating in 2008, I’ve continued to develop my practice in my small studio in London, and have also been working for the artist Brian Clarke as one of his senior art technicians, leading the fabrication of sculptures, paintings, architectural ceramics and design pieces. This year I showed my art jewellery pieces for the first time at New Designers One Year In, launching my business as an ‘Artist Jeweller’. I hope to develop this over the next few years, so I can concentrate on my practice full time.

D-N: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

Z.S: I have been lucky enough to have had several great tutors over the years who have all been very influential, encouraging and supportive of my practice. Firstly the painter George Blacklock taught me how to question and challenge myself, working with materials and techniques which would force me to step out of my comfort zone and develop work which progressed my thinking about materiality, surface, composition and mark making. Other tutors have forced me to think more conceptually and consider the meaning of every aspect of my practice. Michael Petry once gave me a great tutorial where he made me realise the importance of considering every detail in the creation of a sculpture down to the position of a screw head. This I have never forgotten.

Within jewellery my most influential teachers would have to be Zoe Arnold and Jessica Turrell. I have been taught by Zoe over several years at Morley Collage and her knowledge and skill of so many different techniques, and understanding of how pieces can be constructed, has been invaluable to my understanding of how I can realise my works. Also Jessica’s amazing knowledge of enamelling techniques has been very influential on how I add colour to many of my pieces and how I use traditional enamelling techniques in a contemporary way.

D-N: What inspires you?

Z.S: Each piece is inspired by a place I have visited on my travels, referencing either a memory of the place or a specific observation. Influences range from the textures in a Japanese moss garden in Kyoto, architectural elements against organic structures on a balcony in Yangon, or the forms of a Corinthian column at the Pantheon in Paris. A piece can directly relate to a photograph I have taken or it can reference my memory of several forms, colours, materials or patterns from a place.

D-N: Please tell us about your design process.

Z.S: I take a lot of photographs when I’m traveling and I constantly look back at these to remind myself of a memory of a form or image I want to reference in a work. I initially make a lot of linear pencil drawings, some just quick sketches, others more considered works. These are the starting point for many pieces. They allow me to work out a composition or the underlying structure for a piece, which will then get developed though the making process as other elements get collaged together. As each piece is unique, it takes a bit of time to work out how to construct it and often involves learning new techniques and doing things I’ve never done before. I love to learn and I’m constantly experimenting. Many samples I make inform the development of a piece or get collaged into a new work.

The techniques and materials I use for each piece depend on the initial influence. If I want to reference an architectural carved form I might carve a piece of wood. A metal balustrade might be referenced through a pierced piece of silver or from formed soldered wires. I predominately use silver and copper in all my pieces and add colour through patination, painting or enamelling with vitreous enamel. I love the juxtapositions of different material qualities: the surfaces and textures created through etching, hammering or embossing with the rolling mill, against the softness of a carved piece of wood or acrylic, the glassiness of vitreous enamel against a more matt-painted or patinated surface, and the textures and qualities I can create with beading or by braiding silk threads.

Every part of a piece is usually hand crafted by me, as I enjoy the act of making and it’s important to me that the artist’s hand is seen within the work, giving it that unique quality. However in two of my most recent works have I used laser cutting to create an element. In those cases hand-piercing didn’t give me the feeling of the mass produced quality I wanted to contrast with the more organic/natural forms within the piece.

As display is becoming more important in my work, the creation of a piece does not always finish in the making of the wearable object, but also incorporates the making of a panel for it to hang from or piece to accompany it. Some of my drawings I see as pieces in themselves, a shadow or partner to the jewellery piece. This is also the case for some of my photographs. If a photograph has directly influenced a piece it becomes part of the story and is placed within the box with the jewellery as a diptych. Some pieces may include both photography and drawing. Other drawings may not directly become jewellery pieces but exist as supporting works within a series of art pieces, continuing a visual conversation.

D-N: What is the best thing to have happened in your business to date?

Z.S: Exhibiting my art jewellery pieces for the first time in June at New Designers One Year In was an amazing experience, as I had such a great response. Winning the One Year In Development Award which has led to the showcase at The National Centre for Craft & Design – such a great opportunity and hopefully a start to other interesting things happening next year.

D-N: What is your workspace like?

Z.S: I have a lovely little studio in North Acton, London, which is part of an artist’s studio complex of about 25 of us, including painters, sculptures, textile designers and carpenters. It’s my own creative heaven, where I can lock myself away and have time to enjoy what I love doing. And it’s just down the road from where I work for Brian Clarke four days a week, so I can fall out of his studio and into mine in the evenings to catch up on anything I’ve got to finish or when I just need time to reflect.

D-N: Do you work hard on your PR or do others help you to market your business?

Z.S: I wish I could get someone to help with this but sadly, I’m sure, like many other makers, I can’t afford to. It is something I really need to get to grips with and work on next year as I’ve never really had to do it before. I’ve suddenly become aware of how much time you need to spend on your PR and marketing and I’m hoping that I will get better at this with the help of my business mentor Patricia van den Akker from the Design Trust and being part of Design-Nation.

D-N: What are the main challenges in your practice?

Z.S: At the moment it’s time. Having enough time to make work and do everything else that goes into a business when you also work four days a week for someone else is hard. The cost of living and working in London is high, and I’m at the beginning of trying to make my business work, so I can spend more time doing what I love.

D-N: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?

Z.S: I would love to be showing around the world and be recognised for the work I make. I constantly love to learn and work with new people, so would love to collaborate with other makers, artists and curators and have the opportunity to do some residencies to focus on research or a particular body of work.

I hope that I can grow a business that in time will allow me to work solely for myself and make work which excites me and hopefully inspires others, remaining true to my craft and aesthetics.

D-N: If you could collaborate with someone new who would that be?

Z.S: I love to learn how to work with new materials and techniques, so it would be great to do a collaborative project with a textile and fashion designer, producing a collection of garments which incorporate textile print, construction and jewellery elements. I also love to work on different scales, and have always been interested in furniture design. It would be great to work with a furniture maker to produce a collection of sculptural, domestically functional and wearable objects which focus on the materiality of wood and metals using the traditional crafting techniques of each material

D-N: If you weren’t a designer what would you like to do?

Z.S: If it weren’t for my love of art and design which pulled me in the direction of going to art college when I was 19, I would have probably become a contemporary dancer and maybe choreographer. I trained in classical ballet and contemporary dance up until the age of 20 and still love to go to contemporary classes when I can afford to.

D-N: Why did you join Design-Nation? What is helpful about being a member?

Z.S: I was lucky enough to win the membership this summer, as part of the New Designers One Year In Award, so I’m very new. I’m looking forward to being part of the community of makers and the support, encouragement and inspiration that it will bring. I’ve already met so many great people and it will be good to have the opportunity to exhibit in group exhibitions and join some of the subsidised group stands which Design-Nation organise at selected national shows.

D-N: Do you have you any exhibitions, commissions or events coming up that we should know about?

Z.S: I’m showing at the moment in Design-Nation Picks, at the National Centre for Craft and Design. I also have work at Gill Wing Jewellery in London as part of their Christmas show.


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Laura Jacometti



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