We spoke to third year BA Jewellery Design student Evie Armstrong Clarke about how she has been preparing for this year’s Degree Show. We’ll be checking back with Evie in a few weeks to see how she’s getting on.
Evie’s work has previously won her a collaboration with Topshop and she will be presenting at a jewellery seminar in July as part of the Alexander McQueen retrospective, Savage Beauty. For her current project, The Daily Grind, which she will exhibit at Show Two, Evie has been designing secret jewellery for city businessmen.
How has your work developed since we last spoke?
Evie: We last spoke when I was in the midst of building the pieces so really it has just been a matter of finishing everything off. I had to speak a lot to my tutor about the finishing details, they turned out to be a lot harder than I expected! Once I had set my pieces and made them I still needed to add the tiny details, little metal features or pearls, it was those bits that were really hard. A lot of the work was also portfolio based. It was quite strange because you go a lot from being very involved in the physical side of things to then having to immerse yourself in writing, evaluating your work and creating digital portfolios, you have to give your brain time to switch between the two.
I also gave a talk at the V&A about my work. During the build-up to the conference I was so nervous, but when it actually happened I got some really good responses. People said that they really liked my work and they responded really well. It was nice because I always think that I make my work because it is fun but it wouldn’t be applicable to the commercial side of the industry but people were asking me if I was making the pieces to sell. It was really encouraging to get that sort of feedback.
Did any of your pieces change from how you had originally planned them?
Evie: Yeah! The metal elements became a bit more prominent because I was trying to bring out a sense of luxury rather than having the concrete as the main focus. I felt that adding those elements wasn’t my strongest point so it was nice to re-learn the processes and challenge myself.
Did you enjoy the collaborations that you’ve been working on?
Evie: They were really fun! I had one very full on day when I was running around London with these concrete shoes going to four different photo shoots. I lost sight of what an average day looked like. I would definitely like to work with the people I collaborated with again. One girl in particular I thought had a really great aesthetic. You could really see the niche that she was going for and it is one that I am probably the most interested in. They were all really brilliant to meet and it’s nice to know that I could work with them in the future.
Have your post-degree show plans changed at all?
Evie: I see myself with the aesthetic of other people. I feel like I have found my niche working with menswear. I feel quite comfortable with this and I see a real gap within that market for adornment. Whatever I do, I am always going to make sure that I dedicate time to my own creativity and practice. How many people get to study what they really want to do and get to do that after University too?!
Can you tell us about your project?
Evie: Towards the end of the second year I did a project with Topshop that was about the architecture around Bank and the emerging London skyline. I started going back to Bank and taking pictures. I got caught up in rush hour one day; everything seemed very grey, controlled and industrial.
Seeing all the businessmen walking together I began to make a comparison between them and a tailored army. In a café I noticed a man who underneath his suit had some crazy, bright socks on. From that I had in my head an idea to design secret jewellery for the city businessman. I decided that I wanted to design jewellery that would fit around a suit in subtle, hidden ways using materials inspired by the Bank area, but with a twist.
Tell us about the build up to the Degree Show.
Evie: I spent a lot of time in tailors to explore the suit as much as possible and I experimented with my own concrete/resin mix to create a material that was flexible but not brittle. I also interviewed businessmen who told me about certain office traditions and subtle codes of dress within their offices.
Once I got this base of research the processes just grew organically through trial and error and especially talking ideas and methods through with my tutors. I also began collaborating with tailors from LCF who were working on concepts that I really liked. I find collaboration a really fulfilling aspect of the creative process.
How are you preparing for the show?
Evie: Right now I am just sorting myself out day by day. With such a huge volume to work on for a show and with such a large audience, you’re never going to feel completely done. I am just trying to really concentrate on my 15 pieces.
What is the general feeling within your programme towards the Degree Show right now?
Evie: At the minute we are all in the midst of the final stretch, we all have our heads down and are totally focused on our own work. It’s a little bit daunting as the show is tangibly close now. From my own point of view, I am really excited about that end point and having 15 pieces that I can be really proud of. The trouble is your head wants to get to that point before you are actually done.
How does the Degree Show differ from other shows you’ve worked on?
Evie: I think this exhibition is a lot more exciting. We have all got to the end of our degree together and are all displaying our final work that we’ve been building upon for the past year. It’s work that is totally our own and it’ll be shown to such a vast audience.
What aspect of the show are you most looking forward to?
Evie: I think the sense of showing something that you are proud of will be the main result. I think if anything, everyone is a bit like, “I can’t wait for my mum to come down and see my work”! At the end of the day everyone just wants to please their mum.
What are your post-Degree Show plans?
Evie: I really want to take the chance to put some effort into my website, get my portfolio looking good and give myself some time to reflect. It’ll be a blank canvas where I can work with people who really excite me and who I haven’t had a chance to work with yet. I have met people throughout these three years who have very similar work and ambitions to myself. It will be really exciting to have that time and space to focus on these ideas once the Degree Show is over.