18th Nov - 30th Jan 2011

Hand carved Whitby jet ring with 24ct gold inlay

Hand carved Whitby jet ring with 24ct gold inlay
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Jacqueline Cullen

Whitby jet is a prehistoric black fossilised wood most commonly associated with Victorian mourning jewellery but now extremely rare. The trend for wearing jet jewellery was started by queen Victoria when she went into mourning for her consort, prince Albert. mined during its heyday rough samples are now found washed up by the tide or encased in the cliff face in the coastal area surrounding Whitby in north Yorkshire.

I have developed innovative processes and formats that celebrate rather than disguise the inherent qualities of Whitby jet allowing the natural beauty of the material to speak for itself removed from connotations of death, grief and morbidity. Responding to the rarity of the material, I hand-build collars and pendants by pegging and joining small sections of jet lined with 24ct leaving delicate threads of gold running through the finished objects tracing the breaks and joins. I am inspired by dramatic acts of nature, a placid sky ripped open by a violent storm, a volcano erupting, a cliff edge left jagged from erosion. Hiatuses inform my aesthetics and the interruption or breaking up of a bold, fluid form is central to my work where fractures, fissures and crevices are highlighted by an encrustation of textured fine gold, tiny crystals or glittering black diamonds.

With the lightweight quality of Whitby jet allowing pieces to remain infinitely wearable, my contemporary collections continue to blur the boundaries between jewellery, art and sculpture and I remain committed to introducing this ancient and sensual material to a contemporary audience. .

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