• Open the museum's jewellery box and find out about the fascinating stories these objects tell.

Wedgwood and jewellery

  • by Rebecca Klarner

Black basalt necklace by Wendy Ramshaw

Theme

‘I frequently refer to my use of the lathe as not unlike the potter’s use of the wheel. The way in which thinking and feeling suggest a series of shapes seems to be similar. The lathe is a liberating tool enabling me to work with greater speed and accuracy and allowing me to spend more time developing ideas.’ Wendy Ramshaw

This necklace was made by the English jewellery artist Wendy Ramshaw in collaboration with Wedgwood in 1982. The beads are made of black basalt lathe-turned to forms of spheres, hemispheres and cylinders, threaded onto silver with a drum shaped silver fastener hallmarked WR.

Wendy Ramshaw was born in 1939 in Sunderland and trained as an illustrator and industrial designer and as art teacher. At the beginning of her career she earned a living lecturing and teaching, drawing, illustrating and designing and printing fabrics, but making jewellery had always been a sideline. Its fascination to Wendy Ramshaw originated as early as her childhood when she used to make trinkets out of scraps of fabric.

Her first jewellery developed out of exercises for copper engraving and in 1964 she made her first steps towards commercial jewellery in launching her first pieces of Optic Art together with her husband David Watkins. Only three years later she should develop the first example of a multiple ring set; the type of jewellery she became best known for.

Several exhibitions and awards were to follow and in 1978 she started to include ceramics in her work, which were mainly modelled by the artist herself. With this development the metal used in her jewellery became less and less prominent. As she already contributed to a series of small loan exhibitions of work by artist-jewellers in the Jewellery Gallery of the V&A she seized the chance when she was asked to take part in a second series allowing her to develop her use of ceramics. She approached Wedgwood to collaborate and they immediately agreed. Results of this partnership included one-off pieces, as well as multiples and Wendy Ramshaw especially appreciated the opportunity to work with ceramic bodies such as black basalt, as she later said: 'The collaboration with Wedgwood, a generous form of patronage, afforded the chance of using the famous black basalt so highly regarded by the first Josiah Wedgwood. This clay was reputed to have the most excellent turning properties, so I began the collaboration with optimism.'

With its edgy, clean and simple shapes and the sober colouring, this necklace mirrors perfectly the taste of the time, but still combines material and craftsmanship that was appreciated back in the eighteenth century. This was underlined through the necklaces’ manufacture which used  a replica of a lathe Josiah Wedgwood installed in his works in the eighteenth century.

Catalogue

During the early 1980s artist-jeweller Wendy Ramshaw embarked on a collaboration with Wedgwood which resulted in the 'Wedgwood with Wendy Ramshaw Collection'. The jewellery was fabricated using black basalt and jasper in various colours. The ceramic elements were created in Barlaston and subsequently turned and assembled by Ramshaw in her studio. The collection was launched to co-incide with a retrospective of Ramshaw's work held at London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 1982-3. The collection was comprised of both limited and unlimited editions.