We speak to Hothouse 2017 maker Eliabeth Jane Campbell about the challenges of enamelling, collaboration and balance
Elizabeth is a jeweller working with ceramic and enamel, taking inspiration from concepts of balance, repetition and geometry. Her ideas are often developed ideas through photography and collage, while her use of vitreous enamel is crucial to many of her designs.
Elizabeth has been selected for Hothouse, the Crafts Council's Talent Development Programme for emerging makers. Find out more about Hothouse
What first got you interested in making?
The ability to think of a design, work through the making process and culminate your ideas into the creation a tangible object has always given me so much satisfaction. It’s hard to pinpoint a certain time when I first became interested in making – instead I feel making is simply part of who I am.
What in particular drew you to working with enamel?
Enamelling is very methodical process and this really appeals to my way of working. I like working through each stage for the process – working towards my imagined design...and yet there is still always an element of unpredictability and experimentation – what goes into the kiln may not come out as you imagined!
Enamelling can be difficult, and often temperamental (much like myself), but it is such a wonderful technique which can add so much – texture, surface finish, pattern, and of course colour. Enamel excited me more than any other technique and continues to inspire me.
Your process of using vitreous enamel on hand-carved ceramic is unusual. Could you explain your process?
For my degree show and the following graduate collection I was keen to demonstrate the incredible possibilities of enamel and my interest in pushing the boundaries of material relationships. Instead of using metal, I used hand-carved ceramic as the canvas for my enamelling, enabling me to make much bigger pieces of enamelled jewellery that were still light and comfortable to wear.The hand-carving process meant each piece in the collection is unique, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of carving each form to create my very 3-dimensionally pieces before enhancing them with colourful vitreous enamels. My ongoing interest in material relationships means I am now looking to other materials to help me develop and challenge the technique of enamel.
Tell is more about the Edinburgh University commission you worked on with Hamilton and Inches?
The collaborative project with H&I was during my final year at Art College in 2013. We were asked to submit designs for a ceremonial mace for McGill University in Canada, and myself and two colleagues were finalists. We worked together to create the final design and my contribution was the head of the mace – I designed it to incorporate red enamelled maple leaves. To achieve this I hand-painted a maple leaf design which was etched into the outer silver bowl which would become the champlevé design. Red is a challenging colour as it can burn easily and the size of the piece made for an extra challenge, however I was thrilled to successfully complete the design which was then polished and assembled in the H&I workshop in Edinburgh. It remains the largest object I have ever enamelled.
Which project are you most proud of so far and why?
I have been very lucky to be involved in some fantastic projects so it is hard to choose one as my proudest. I feel proud to be a jeweller; I love my job and feel very blessed to have such a fantastic job where I get to make stuff and show it around the world, meeting fantastic people on the way.
What do you hope to get from Hothouse?
I’m thrilled to be part of Hothouse, I’m hoping to be a sponge for the coming year and soak up every drop of information I can get. I’m most excited to develop my creative business skills and become more confident about presenting and speaking about my work.
You have mentioned that you’re interested in ‘visual literacy theories’ - can you tell us more about this?
My inspiration stems from concepts of visual literacy, and specifically, the idea of balance. Using these visual literacy theories we can break down our ‘ways of seeing’ into the simplest form including shape, colour and pattern. For example; balance can be represented by a square straight on but by tipping the shape off centre it then represents unbalance. I try to communicate a personal sense of balance through my work using geometric shapes, composition, colour and materials, creating simple contemporary jewellery.
You can see more work from Elizabeth and follow her at the Crafts Council Directory