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An interview with Design-Nation member and metal artist Jacky Oliver

Collect Open (at Somerset House from 27 February – 1 March) presents an important platform for new ambitious craft-led installations from 12 selected artists and collectives. This year we are thrilled that three Design-Nation members are amongst those selected and one of these is Jacky Oliver. We caught up with Jacky and asked her a few questions about her practice, workshop and inspiration.

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

Jacky Oliver answered: I create work for exhibitions, commissions and undertake residencies. Teaching is also an important part of my practice.

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

J.O: I have had the most amazing range of tutors from Pierre Degen on my degree at Middlesex, Onno Boekhoudt was a really supportive lecturer at the RCA, Andrew Smith was inspirational when he introduced me to blacksmithing, John Norgate’s skills and patience have been brilliant and Elizabeth Turrell introduced me to enamelling.

D-N: What inspires you?

J.O: Delving through archives, maps, historic papers, talking to people, personal histories and handwriting. Experimenting with different techniques and processes.

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

J.O: I like the piece to inform itself, the process of making, looking at research and discussing ideas with people. I make numerous models, sketch ideas and test out lots of ideas before I eventually arrive at the final piece.

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

J.O: I think that preparing to take part in Collect Open has taken me completely out of my comfort zone. Creating the work has been a great opportunity to produce the first really thorough body of self-initiated work I have done since I graduated. Balancing the creative process with funding and sponsorship applications, writing press releases and other logistical planning has been a steep learning curve. I have enjoyed using this project it as an opportunity to develop ideas through different ways of working. As well as working through ideas in numerous sketchbooks and models and the usual processes: soldering, enameling and etching that are part of my usual process, I have also been exploring printmaking and working in glass.

D-N: What is your workspace like?

J.O: My workshop is a ram-packed space with an immense collection of tools; so finding space to work is tricky. Sometimes the only space that can be found is outside overlooking the woods and the chickens and ducks kept at the bottom of the garden.

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

J.O: I promote my work on social media, but up until now that has been it. Taking part in Collect Open has really made me start thinking about promoting my work much more.

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

J.O: Meeting deadlines and technical challenges as I am always learning new techniques and wanting to incorporate them into my work. Trying to find time to do everything I would like to do is difficult, I am balancing my own practice with teaching, working for Cox London and my family.

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

J.O: Undertaking some really interesting residencies, learning new skills and tackling interesting subjects in my work.

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

J.O: I’ve been collaborating with Graeme Hawes, combining his blown glass and my forged metal. We had our first collection shown at Collect by Vessel London in 2018. It has been great working together and sharing ideas, problem solving.

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

J.O: Not being a maker isn’t something I could imagine. At one point I studied horticulture wondering if that might be an alternative. Although I love working with plants and I think that knowledge from the horticulture course will inform a body of work at some point when I have time.

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

J.O: I joined Design Nation to take part in some of the great exhibitions that it organises and to meet other members. I have only recently joined but from the first regional meeting I felt that there was a real sense of being part of a community, sharing ideas, learning and supporting each other. The mentoring that has been part of the membership was also a good opportunity to reflect on where I should be taking my work.

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


Collect Open

Collect 2020

27 February – 1 March

Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA


Fifty Bees 4

8 February – 14 March

Black Swan Arts, 2 Bridge Street, Frome BA11 1BB


‘The Future of Craft’.

London Craft Week

30 April -3 March

Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, London SE1 9PH


‘We are Commoners’

Touring Exhibition

Opening September 2020

The MAC (Midlands Arts Centre), Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH


Image by: Barbara K Photography

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Clare Edwards


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