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Close up of a pewter ring in the form of people standing in a boat.

Student-designed ring inspired by the refugee crisis wins first prize at Pewter Live

Written by Sarah McLean
Published date 28 November 2019

A ring designed by a student to raise awareness of the refugee crisis has won first prize in a European design competition. Designer Liberty Lin, a student on BA 3D Design, which is now called BA Product and Furniture Design at Chelsea College of Arts, designed the piece early this year inspired by the powerful images of refugees she saw in the media.

“My personal interests in political issues and jewellery design were the initial motivation of making the refugee ring” she said. “I have always been interested in the Syrian refugee issue and have a great sympathy for those people. For me, the most symbolic image of their struggle was one of people traveling over sea, so I chose this to transform into a piece of jewellery with the aim of raising awareness of the issue of immigration.”

Chelsea College of Arts Pewter Ring
College of Arts Pewter Ring

Working with the casting process, Liberty chose pewter as the material for the ring due to its low melting point and shiny surface. Describing the process, Liberty explained: “hot rubber liquid was poured into a hollow tube with an aluminum ring sample inside to create the mold. I melted pewter into liquid which I then poured into the mold. Once this solidified, I removed the ring from the mold and that was the finished piece.”

After the ring was made, Liberty’s tutors recommend that she submit the piece to Pewter Live, an annual design competition run by the Worshipful Company of Pewterers, a 600-year-old traditional guild which promotes the design and sale of traditional and contemporary pewter products in the UK.

It comprises of two separate competitions with one category specially for students. “There were various categories to enter including one for jewellery and fashion, and the refugee ring fit in perfectly with this year’s competition theme of peace.”

College of Arts Pewter Ring Mould Making
College of Arts Pewter Ring Mould Making

Jason Cleverly, Course Leader, BA Product and Furniture Design, encouraged Liberty to submit her work: “The annual Pewter Live student competition is a fantastic opportunity to connect Design students with the Worshipful Company of Pewterers, one of the oldest livery companies in the City of London. The competition aims to enhance the recognition of pewter as an attractive, versatile and useful material by inviting new emerging makers to reconsider and rethink its application.

“Liberty developed her piece as response to growing concerns around the treatment and plight of migrant refugees. Through her practice Liberty is interested in how jewellery can convey a range of political opinions and present these for reflection in audiences. It really heartening that The Pewterers company clearly acknowledged Liberty’s unconventional approach and intention by recognising her through the award.”

A woman and a man pose for a photos with a certificate against a white backdrop.
Liberty Lin receives her prize at Pewter Live 2019. - Credit: The Worshipful Company of Pewterers

Liberty received £300 and first prize in her caterogy for her piece.  

The Worshipful Company of Pewterers’ Laila Zollinger, one of the judges for the awards this year, commended that Liberty’s ring made quite an impression on her. “Our theme for 2019 was PEACE, and the interpretation of this was left entirely to the artist’s creativity and imagination.  However, 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which was the official end of the First World War.

“Therefore, the ring for me represented the futility of war and its repercussions - causing thousands to become refugees and risk their lives again in the search for peace.  In addition, the craftsmanship was first class - to produce such a poignant piece in such fine detail takes a lot of hard work, thought and dedication.”

Find out more about BA Product and Furniture Design