Four female Goldsmiths’ Fair exhibitors share their words of wisdom

This International Women’s Day, in recognition of the resilience and dynamism of the women in our community, we sat down with four female identifying exhibitors from the 2021 Goldsmiths’ Fair to discuss the powerful women that have inspired their journeys, and the wisdom they hope to pass on.

UTE DECKER, SCULPTURAL JEWELLER

Is there a particular woman figure in the trade that has inspired your practice?

Maybe not so much a single woman. There are many women artists especially those working across artforms whose powerful jewels I find inspirational, such as the Shackle Necklace by Louise Bourgeois, a metaphor for the imprisonment of women, of their suffocation within the confines of home. Or the pieces by Louise Nevelson, one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed sculptors and pioneer of large-scale installation art. Louise Nevelson, only fully devoted herself to sculpture later in middle age and often wore her powerful jewels, instantaneously recognisable as her art.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman working within this industry?

After creating pieces for nearly 20 years for myself, I set up a full-time studio and started exhibiting my work at the mature age of 40. Maybe this maturity helped.

The challenge is perhaps more subtle, sadly one could cite many more men whose work has been inspirational – because women artists are still woefully underrepresented.

Talking about provenance and ethics in jewellery however was at times met with belittlement to outright hostility. Ethics in jewellery is not just about the environment, it is equally about social, political and economic exploitation, empowerment, diversity and of course women’s rights.

Do you have any advice for women aspiring to be makers?

Be yourself. Love what you do and do what you love. Work hard, think deeply about your values, stay authentic and follow your own inspiration. This way work can be a rewarding intellectual as well as a creative journey of discovery.

MISUN WON, JEWELLER

Is there a particular woman figure in the trade that has inspired your practice?

I have always admired makers/designers who dedicate their life and relentlessly work towards their career. Needless to say, Dorothy Hogg is one of those people. She has inspired me and helped me to grow as an independent jeweller, not only during my postgraduate study under her supervision, but her career path and life has had a profound impact on me since I started working in the contemporary jewellery field.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman working within this industry?

I have not experienced many challenges as a woman in the jewellery industry. I rather feel that my gender has had a positive impact on my career path. I understand that there are many women who have experienced discrimination and are unequally treated because of their gender across many industries. However, for me, working as a jeweller has given me many opportunities to be more independent and confident. As there are more female collectors and clients in the jewellery market, my gender helps me to establish a level of trust with them quickly as there are a lot of things I could understand and associate better with them. This has given me a lot of confidence working as a professional jeweller.

Do you have any advice for women aspiring to be makers?

Believe in yourself, be resilient and celebrate who you are and what you do.

JULIETTE BIGLEY, METALSMITH

Is there a particular woman figure in the trade that has inspired your practice?

I have been lucky enough to learn directly and indirectly from many women silversmiths and makers within the industry who have been generous with their time, knowledge, expertise and good humour. Similar with women working in the adjacent trades of craft journalism and within the gallery system.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman working within this industry?

I think the majority of challenges faced by makers in the industry are the same regardless of their gender: generating income from the work, working within existing structures – and finding ways to inhabit them.

Do you have any advice for women aspiring to be makers?

Keep going. Make, make and make some more – the more you do, the better you get. Remember it takes time – be patient with yourself. Remember to take some time off!

JESSICA JUE, SILVERSMITH

Is there a particular woman figure in the trade that has inspired your practice?

Silversmith Angela Cork has always been a huge inspiration to me. When I first started my business I rented a bench from Angela, and from the beginning till now she has always been extremely generous with her time and mentorship towards me. What’s been really inspiring over the years is Angela’s can-do attitude towards everything, which has always given me a great amount of motivation and excitement towards my work. I think she’s not only an excellent craftsman and silversmith but her dedication and involvement within this industry is extremely admirable.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman working within this industry?

! I believe most of my challenges were to do with me being new to this industry.

Do you have any advice for women aspiring to be makers?

Many years ago, someone once said to me: “It doesn’t matter what road you take, just take one and keep moving. Chances are you will discover something or someone wonderful along the way.” This is a bit of advice I’ve always followed, and with some hard work and dedication things always fall into place.


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