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We Explore Frances Wadsworth-Jones' Miniature Universe
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We Explore Frances Wadsworth-Jones' Miniature Universe

Picture of India Doyle
Updated: 9 September 2016
Ants and diamonds are not a natural fit, which is precisely why Frances Wadsworth-Jones‘ jewellery proves delightfully surprising. In her world, often overlooked objects reign – ants clamber around sapphires, slide along delicate gold chains and dance upon jumpers in brooch form. In an age where bigger seems to be synonymous with better, this playful jeweller provides a refreshing contrast with intricate detail that invites you to look, then look again. Ahead of her presentation in Rock Vault as part of London Fashion Week, we speak to the master of surprise about soldering humour with luxury design.

How did you decide you wanted to do jewellery?

It’s a funny one actually. It started when I was at school, and was assigned jewellery as an extra – curricular. I remember thinking ‘What is this? Stringing beads?’ That’s when I first started working in metal. Then I went to a foundation course and realised that although I was an artist, I was also a designer. I needed parameters and some kind of limitation to push against. So in a way I kind of fell into it. It’s the limitations and the precision in the materials that really attracts me.

Where you ever drawn to do bigger sculptures?

You know what, my life’s work fits inside a tupperware. I get really sucked into detail. It gets closer and closer and it’s really about the hidden things. I think a lot of what I make is for the wearer. It’s more about the details that wearer knows about.

Thieves VII © Frances Wadsworth-Jones
Thieves VII | © Frances Wadsworth-Jones

What was your inspiration for your early collections?

Things that interest me tend to be things that are overlooked. When I walk I always look at the floor, and a lot of things that come out in my work tend to be things that are discarded. So obviously the insects is one thing, but I’ve done stuff with stationary before and made brooches from bird shit… Those are actually my biggest things!

Why was it important to create pieces with a sense of humour?

I think a sense of joy is important. It’s funny because I’m quite a serious person, so the fact that humour is my work is kind of a funny thing. I guess the unexpectedness as well. If you’re working with precious materials there’s kind of an implicit seriousness about it. But then if you can shape that into being a bit more playful, a bit more unexpected… And it doesn’t undermine the craft, people have to respect it because it’s been laboured over. It’s a meticulous process! I work under magnification.

Atlas Pin Brooch | © Frances Wadsworth - Jones
Atlas Pin Brooch | © Frances Wadsworth - Jones

Where did the fascination with ants come from?

So, ants because… I love their scale and their behaviour. You can create a narrative that’s happening at their own scale. You don’t have to change it, so in a way it’s more realistic, and you can do such playful things. Things that disappear at a distance but are completely convincing up close. The collection is called Thieves. It’s the idea of taking quite traditional forms, like a solitaire ring, with traditional settings, but then having the ants dismantling it. The piece is dismantling itself. In a way it’s interesting, another paradox – creating nature using a machine. It’s interesting because I was resistant to using computer technology, but then when you realise it’s a tool which allows me to get that kind of detail I want. In the end it allows me to be even crazier with detail, because if you think you can zoom in on an ant’s head…

Will you move on to other insects?

The ant, I think, is my man. Insects are usually macabre, the ants are more like Dali and the surrealists. There is a long tradition of insects in jewellery, but I feel like the ant has been kind of under represented. These guys say more about me and what I want to achieve.

Atlas Ring RV | © Frances Wadsworth - Jones
Atlas Ring RV | © Frances Wadsworth - Jones

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