Stephen BottomleyACJ Member Poppy Porter wrote the following conference report on her blog. Thank you, Poppy!

Last week I was treated to three days of inspiration courtesy of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery. I joined the ACJ at the beginning of the year and decided to attend the conference to get to know some members and learn new things.

The conference took place in the gorgeous surroundings of the West Dean College and was a full three days of talks and workshops.  One of the talks gave delegates a little more insight in to the history of West Dean which, to my surprise, had been founded as a college dedicated to the arts and crafts by Edward James a renowned collaborator with Surrealists such as Dali and Magritte.  The college also provided us with fabulous food.

For me there were several stand out workshops and talks over the three days.  I participated in three workshops; first a Mixed Media jewellery making session with Professor Robert Ebendorf, specialist in mixed media jewellery, which allowed free thinking and a playful approach to sketching out ideas using anything to hand to help develop ideas or create something interesting in its own right; second a workshop on use of line in a three dimensional, textiles context with artist Michael Brennand-Wood participants explored layering and creating of patterns using 2D lines to create 3D forms in a variety of ways during their idea generation and finally a workshop learning electrolytic etching techniques with Dauvit Alexander.  Electrolytic etching uses the same equipment as anodising titanium so it was a real eye opener that I can use equipment I already have for a very different technique.

The program of talks was extensive and included an international array of speakers.  Sophia Bjorkman spoke on the subject of “what is jewellery?” and the approach to that question her Stockholm gallery Platina takes, the question was of course was intended as a thought provoking idea and she presented many answers. She asked for emails about our own thoughts on “what is jewellery?” - my incomplete and ongoing answer was this:  Jewellery is: personal, public, displayed, gorgeous, luminescent, wants to be held and work and has a story.

Delegates were given the engaging perspectives of American delegates Courtney Starrett and Phillip Renato on remote collaboration.  They covered the myriad new technologies available to the contemporary jeweller including mass customisation and collaboration across distance using digital techniques.  Despite being real advocates for this style of working their conclusion was that while digital technology is a hugely useful tool there really was no substitute for meeting with your collaborators face to face.

Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins gave a conversational overview of their lives at the forefront of contemporary jewellery, the variety of their interests and curiosity over the years were wide ranging and they showed how that had influenced their work.

There were several more technical talks by Jessica Turrell covering her innovative work in enamels, Trish Woods on her extensive research in to colouring pewter and Coilin O’Dubhghaill on Irogane, Japanese alloys and traditional patination techniques

The evening pin swap and social was fun as everyone tried to work out who had their pin and whose pin they had picked from the lucky dip.  I have a striking tomato-apple pin by Kathie Murphy which was attached to a news item about an apple that was red all the way through that described the pin perfectly.

All in all I was so glad I went along to the conference, it reminded me of what and who is out there in the world of contemporary jewellery and also what amazing techniques people are investigating, pushing the boundaries of the traditional to create new jewellery.