Essex Crystal Project – the work and the stories

Companions, or Self Portait with Budgie: I had a budgie as a child. It lived in my room and would nestle against my neck and nibble my ear. I loved that budgie

My Essex Crystal Project presents a sort of personal mythology. It combines fragments of family snaps, strange creatures and classical references into strange little jewelled mini worlds.

I’ve adapted and added to techniques inspired by antique Essex Crystals – tiny reverse intaglio gems painted with animals and plants. I’ve posted about them previously here. The main work is cast with the relief on the back, then engraved and enamelled before the front is cold-worked into an optical dome and the back is gilded.

Our Lady of the Waters, or My Sister in a Cagoule: My sister’s house flooded in 2015. I have a picture of her from around that time, kitted out in her cagoule, with a quirky little smile on her face. She looks like a mischievous, outdoorsy Virgin Mary

To finish off, I’ve used goldwork and crystals and pearls to stitch them into larger-than-life gems. My pieces’ main elements are cast and engraved rather than entirely engraved so I guess that technically they’re not Essex Crystals, but that was the starting point. so the name for the project has stuck. I’ve created a new thing that used the visual language of the crystal and adds my own content.

Sean: My cat Sean was my first subject for an Essex Crystal. Then he died before I finished it. It became very Victorian; a memorial to my cat

The idea first took shape on an Artists Access to Art Colleges placement at National Glass Centre in 2017 and I showed the pieces in the process of development as part of the ‘Discuss’ Section at the recent Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in Manchester in October 2019. Anyway, the work so far is all here with their stories attached. I hope you like them!

The Jungle Out There, or Boy in a Tiger Onesie: For several years my nephew was inseparable from his tiger onesie. We got a new one every year. When my sister brought her new kitten home, he bristled up at the sight of the boy-sized tiger in front of him.
Birdseye View, or The Girl and the Goldfinch: My nieces and nephew love to climb trees. I guess it’s an adventure, or it could just be because they’re there. I imagine that they also get a different view from up there
Balancing Act, or Girl in a Shell: There’s a famous painting: The Birth of Venus. It’s all very stylised, very symbolic. One holiday, my niece spent some time trying to stand on her Dad’s shoulders in the pool. A balancing act, but graceful nonetheless.

And to finish off, I’ve included a link to a little video on Facebook of the work at Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, in the ‘Discuss’ section – a conversation space to explore work in development. The pieces come to life once you walk around them, and this gives a feel for how that happens.

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