We interviewed professional jeweller and short course tutor, Anastasia Young, about her work in the Short Courses exhibition as well as her wider practice and inspirations.
© Anastasia Young
What is your full name and what short course/courses do you teach?
My name is Anastasia Young and I teach courses in Experimental Jewellery, Stone Setting in Silver Jewellery, Jewellery Making for Beginners, Jewellery and Wax Carving, Soldering Masterclass (Weekend), Tube Setting (Weekend) and Flush Setting (Weekend).
The courses I teach are very practical, allowing students to learn as they get to grips with the possibilities (and limitations) of the materials being used. I use set projects as a framework for the courses which allows beginners a supportive environment, and also gives intermediate students the chance to push things a bit further when they are ready.
Most of the projects are made in silver, although we use a range of materials throughout the courses, from acrylic and resin to copper, textiles and of course gemstones!
How did you come to work in your field/discipline?
I didn’t plan on becoming an artist initially – in fact I started a science degree – but when that didn’t work out, I applied to a Foundation Diploma course and it was there that I was briefly introduced to metalwork techniques. I have always enjoyed making things and drawing, and the miniature scale of jewellery attracted me enough to want to do a BA in the subject. I was lucky enough to be able to study at CSM and then take an MA at the Royal College of Art; my practise has evolved naturally and I have never had a plan for what I think I should be doing!
I started teaching Short Courses whilst I was doing my Masters and started teaching part-time on the BA Jewellery course not too long after; I attribute the breadth of my knowledge to having to find things out so that I could teach them! This knowledge has allowed me to write three technical jewellery books which have gone on to be translated into seven languages. I am still constantly learning though, and think that one of the best aspects of jewellery-making is that there is always something new to learn in terms of techniques, materials, history, culture and theory – it is a very large subject field.
I am also on the Board of Directors of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery, which is a members’ organisation dedicated to the promotion of contemporary jewellery. We organise exhibitions of members’ work, conferences and publish a bi-annual magazine of which I am the Technical Features Editor.
Tell us about your work.
My time is divided between teaching and my own studio practise, in which I work on private commissions and project-based or exhibition pieces. It was never my intention to become a commercial jeweller, although I do sell jewellery and jewellery-making tools through my online shop.
My jewellery is usually influenced by one of several recurring themes – the most prominent of which is mechanical forms. I am probably best know for my Machina Collection, and it is this style that I am usually commissioned to make. For this work, I am recycling components from broken machines such as cameras and cassette players by transforming them directly into silver or gold, and combining them with handmade elements and semi-precious gemstones. I have a very particular aesthetic for this work and like to use chemicals to colour the silver to give it a sense of age.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m between two projects at the moment. I’ve just started writing my fourth technical jewellery book which is about a particular metalworking technique that my partner Paul Wells (also a Short Courses tutor) has been developing. It’s already a fascinating project, as Paul is breaking new ground with his technical processes and I am excited to see it develop further.
I am also finishing up the collaborative project that I have been working on with photographer Lindsay Cameron – The Lily Holds Firm. We started the project in 2013, and I don’t think either of us imagined that it would take nearly five years to complete! Using nineteenth century funeral cards as our starting point, we have recreated scenes depicted on the cards. This has meant making physical representations of many of the objects illustrated in these engravings, to scale, and combining them with found objects to build dioramas which we have photographed.
More images of the original cards and the pieces I’ve made inspired by them can be explored at www.thelilyholdsfirm.com.
Tell us about the work you submitted to be featured in the Central Saint Martins Short Courses exhibition.
The pieces I have in the exhibition are all from the project The Lily Holds Firm. The Hearts on Chains were made for Card Number 2: The Sacred Link. This piece is the focal point of the whole image and it took several months to complete. Every heart is formed from flat copper sheet, and every link in the chain was made by hand from twisted square brass wire – these are the techniques which I am demonstrating in the video accompanying the exhibition.
The Glory Bangles are made from cast epoxy resin which I have custom dyed. I created them by taking a mould from chandelier crystals, allowing me to recreate many copies in a range of colours. These pieces are used in many of the images in the project, usually blending into the background, so it has been interesting to see them displayed as pieces in their own right.
© Anastasia Young
Which piece of creative work, in any discipline, do you think everyone should see and why?
I tend to enjoy immersive environments more readily than isolated artworks in a gallery context. I find inspiration in collections of objects or curated spaces because I can relate to the narratives behind and between the pieces more readily when they are in conversation with each other. Places that allow you to soak up the atmosphere, such as the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Dennis Sever’s House or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston are just perfect.
If you like what you see, take a look at one of Anastasia’s many amazing courses! There are upcoming dates in her Experimental Jewellery, Stone Setting in Silver Jewellery, Jewellery Making for Beginners, and Jewellery and Wax Carving courses. If you enjoy her work, why not pay a visit to her website, or follow her on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.