Would you keep this ephemeral necklace intact or would you prefer to wear it and reveal its hidden treasure? And what if there is nothing to reveal? Its secret could rather be the emotional value one adds to it…
This is the conundrum posed by Swiss contemporary jeweller Julie Usel in this month’s featured work, Theodora. As with much of Usel’s work, there is more to Theodora than meets the eye. The work is ephemeral – its fragile outer shell will literally erode away if worn. But to reveal what? Usel’s work creates a tension between the desire to keep the object intact or reveal its hidden secret. We cannot tell you what lies beneath Theodora’s fragile and elaborately decorated surface – and that makes the work both intriguing and alluring.
Theodora is the first work to be created by Usel following her recent graduation from the Royal College of Art in London. Usel’s graduation project explored the anxieties experienced during the creative process; reflecting elements of creation, destruction, metamorphosis and evolution. It included Getting to the Gold, a series of precious jewellery rings encased in valueless materials, such as cellophane and dried potato.
Usel’s use of cellophane and potato relates back to earlier jewellery projects, Potato Rings and Real-Fake Pearls. The latter is a collection of pearl jewellery created by building up layers of cling film. From a distance, they are indiscernible from real pearls.
As an iconic item of jewellery, the pearl necklace provided the perfect focus for a body of work which won Usel a prestigious ‘Swiss Federal Design Award’ in 2008.
Through the use of non-precious materials and experimental techniques, Usel used Generic Pearls to subvert perceived values of the pearl necklace. Key pieces included laser-cut plastic and cellophane, alongside silicone and porcelain – all designed to challenge our perception of this classic jewellery item.
About Julie Usel
Julie Usel is a contemporary jeweller born in Geneva, Switzerland. She graduated in 2012 from the Royal College of Art in London with a Masters degree in Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork & Jewellery.
Usel had previously attended Le Arti Orafe jewellery school in Florence for one year, before undertaking her BA (Hons) in Jewellery at the University of Art and Design, Geneva.
Usel’s awards include the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation (Rolex) prize, which she used to launch a collection of laser-cut stainless steel rings called Trace of Lace. She won a Swiss Federal Design Grant with her Generic Pearls collection.
Usel’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in London, Switzerland and Germany. Following her recent graduation from the RCA in London, Usel aims to establish her own workshop and continue exhibiting her jewellery internationally. We wish her every success for the future.
More information …
Photo credits: Julie Usel
- On 29th January 2013