You may have seen a story last month in which the Duke of Edinburgh complained about "those infernal clasps" on necklaces. "You fiddle with them for hours, then they suddenly come undone and they fall on the floor but you have no idea why."
The comment was prompted by his being shown a picture of the £250,000 Jerwood necklace, made from gold Pacific pearls, black onyx, diamonds and a blue star sapphire, that is in the the Fitzwilliam Museum.
The Duke was visiting an exhibition being held at Bentley & Skinner, the jewellers on Piccadilly. He was accompanied by Sir Roy Strong.
So, who is so eminent that they can hold an exhibition at one of the world's most prestigious jewellers -- one that warrants such important guests? And, to whom would the Chairman of the Jerwood Foundation turn to commission a £250,000 necklace?
The answer is Jocelyn Burton. She is, in the words of Mark Evans, the managing director of Bentley & Skinner, "...indubitably one of Britain's foremost living silversmiths". The good news for us is that she is also one of the most important makers of bespoke lights.
The alabaster wall light above is classical. We would maintain that no-one understands the classical language better than Jocelyn. Her work is underpinned by an innate sense of harmony, scale and proportion.
The candle stick below shows her working on a small scale. It was commissioned for someone whose passion is shooting. Notice the extreme delicacy of the work, reproducing so many textures. Notice also the apparently carefree, yet harmonious, arrangement of the hunting attributes:
Now look at this:
When I present Jocelyn's work using a Powerpoint presentation, I ask the audience how big they think it is. Then I show it in situ. Since this is a post, I can't spring this surprise on you, but, anyway, here it is...
...the point being that if the proportions are right, the size cannot be determined unless there is something else (a ruler, a person) with which an object can be compared.
In fact, if you come to us wanting some large outdoor wall lights for such a building, there is no-one else we could go to. It is not just a question of design; the finished product has be equally sound from a technical, lighting and engineering standpoint. Jocelyn works with a group of specialists that includes casters, chasers, jewellers, engravers, polishers, spinners and turners, but also engineers and lighting experts.
By definition, the work being commissioned does not exist until after the client has approved it. Yet, a lot of money will be at stake and there may be other concerns. For example, the reason why the Jerwood Foundation commissioned the Necklace was to incorporate pearls and precious stones in the Jerwood Collection. If the work was badly done, justice would not have been done to them, and they could even have been damaged in the process.
Jocelyn deals with how to let the client know what they are getting by creating the most beautiful 1:1 drawings of what she intends tomake. Here is the rendering of the outdoor wall light that we have just looked at:
Her draftsmanship ensures that it is wholly faithful to the finished object, as I'm sure you'll agree.
You have already seen many ways in which you can re-assure your client that she'll be the right artist for the job (if she is). But there also is another way. Besides her reference list, the awards she's won &c., Jocelyn's most potent "sales aid" is Jocelyn herself!
In the words of Sir Roy Strong, "Jocelyn Burton is one of life's originals, an explosive, opinionated, bubbling being, all of which is amply reflected in her work. Everything is very exactly and technically perfect. Her drawings for commissions rank as works of art in their own right."
Her life story is therefore an exciting one.
When she chose to be a silversmith, the craft was dominated by men. She really had to fight to be taken seriously as a silversmith. This was not so long ago -- the late '60s. It is by being as good as she is that she has played her part in enabling craftswomen to be taken as seriously as craftsmen.
She began her association with the Middle East after she won the De Beers International award for diamond jewellery in 1966 (while still a student). In the publicity photo taken at the time that shows the winning necklace, she is wearing an abaya that was given to her father by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
Later, “I was invited to exhibit some of my work at the very first luxury trade fair in the Gulf that was hosted in Dubai in 1976. I travelled there with Algernon Asprey and the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and met Mohammed al Maktoum bin Rashid for the first time. Algernon had been one of the first interior decorators in the Guild to build palaces and grand houses.”
In the 1980s, she produced further work for the Middle East and she was commissioned to create many designs for the Sultan of Brunei, including a malachite barometer and an exquisite rose quartz cabinet.
“I’ve always had a deep appreciation of Arab art and architecture, particularly mosques and calligraphy, and I feel that there is still so much to learn about the culture in this regard. I also really enjoy applying my creative skills towards the interpretation of a client’s wishes.”
By the way, these quotes are taken from a very good interview with Jocelyn, The Queen of silver Linings, in Women Talking that can be read here.
You can see more of her work on her website -- besides lights, tableware, centrepieces, trophies (including cricket's Pataudi Trophy, currently being played for in India), jewellery, church silver, drawings and prints.
But let's finish by looking at some more lights!
Thank you, Jocelyn.
This will be the last post to Fine Lighting News in 2012. You could say that we saved the best till last!
We wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Merry New year.