10 June 2010

Future Jewellery

Speaker: Hazel White, University of Dundee: Crafting the Idea

If your jewellery had another use, other than just being an attractive accessory, what would you make it do?

Jewellery designer and Programme Director of the Masters of Design Programme at the University of Dundee Hazel White let us in on her research into this very question. Telling Tales is a project that uses jewellery to explore digital scrapbooks with the specific intention of making communication easier for older people who are less mobile.

Hazel began introducing how her relationship with jewellery developed. While studying for her MA she explored whether jewellery could become permanent parts of our body. She gave us the example of a wedding ring that can be surgically screwed to your finger…painful yes? Necessary…not sure… The Future of Craft? Maybe!

But rather than exploring ‘permanent jewellery’ her research took her down a more anthropological approach,looking at the significance of charm bracelets so see how people react to their jewellery. After gauging opinions following a six week test the types of answers people came up with were about monitoring, similar to how ‘baby monitors’ work i.e. their jewellery could be doing a job. Sounds strange that the jewellery function comes first and the function second but it’s also a refreshing concept. The use that would appeal to me, would definitely be the ‘Oyster Card’ approach, but could something so useful be attractive too or is it like how a lot of ‘organic cotton clothes’ are actually quite ugly, they are ‘good’ but ‘bad’ at the same time.

Hazel’s work led her to her project Hamefarer’s Kist based on research she has undertaken with older people in the Shetland Isles. Her concept is a knitted remote control. Whereby a person has a box of knitted cushions, each cushion represents a person and when that cushion is lifted up they can receive an up to date ‘photostream’ from Flickr of that person, making it an easy and accessible way to keep in touch with relatives without the complexities of using a computer that actually aren’t very useful for people with mobility issues.

Overall verdict?
Wow! I can honestly say that other than a t -shirt I’ve seen in Argos that tells the times in LED lights across your chest, I have never thought of jewellery other than in an artistic/fashionable sense. I have made and sold bracelets that double up as money pouches and belts that have pockets on them but they are very typically functional. Giving jewellery such a personal meaning opens up a whole new world. The future of jewellery is truly sci-fi and as for knitting being part of the grand scheme of things – perfect. Everyone’s knitting these days and this application is taking it to the next level.

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