Amy Stringer: 12 Brooches of Amsterdam
16th November 2019 - 11th January 2020
A year long project inspired by jeweller Sarah Chapman’s annual incentives. Yorkshire jeweller Amy is creating one brooch per month throughout 2019 as an exploration of ideas, techniques and materials. The concepts for each piece have come from a solo trip to Amsterdam in 2018 where Amy spent three inspiring days in the beautiful city. Each design is strongly directed by a certain material or technique that Amy wanted to explore, whilst reflecting an inspiration or emotion from her time in Amsterdam. The collection is a step away from her usual cement filled designs, and focuses on a broad range of traditional and none traditional techniques and processes.
January 2019 Silver, copper, embroidery thread, enamel and steel pin.
"The frosted finish is one of my favourite things about the brooch, it gives the piece such a bright yet subtle glow."
"The January brooch is inspired by a trip along Amsterdam’s canals. The boat, bright lights and reflections all played a part in the development design. The embroidery thread runs across the back of the brooch in neon colours, like the bright lights of the canal. I love how the colours gently reflect across the frosted silver. I wanted to make sure the brooch pin was an integral part of the design, and not just put on the back for the point of making it wearable; the pin fixes into the same sheet of metal as the embroidery threads run through. The brooch has a frosted finish with speckled enamel detail on one side." Read Amy's blog post about the January brooch here.
February 2019 Gold plated silver, oxidised and distressed. Granulation ripples, gold plated reflections.
"I knew this was going to be a very experimental piece, and didn’t want to lose any of the gold plating detail by starting to mess with it, so pushed on to oxidising. This turned out to be the best decision. I initially painted oxidising solution carefully around the windows of plating and then layered, rubbed, layered, rubbed until I ended up with this beautiful deep oxidisation with distressed details."
"The February brooch is inspired by the reflections of light and buildings in the Amsterdam canals. I really enjoyed putting this brooch together. Experimenting with granulation and gold plating has lead to unexpected outcomes and happy accidents. As I don’t have much experience with gold plating I was unsure how my blocking lacquer efforts were going to come out, and initially I wasn’t too happy with the results (and also forgot to take a picture..) I had hoped for clean lines but the solution had seeped underneath in places and gave more of a distressed shaping – you can still see this around the windows of the finished piece." Read Amy's blog post about the February brooch here.
March 2019 Blackened brass, cement, steel brooch pin
"I love this design and feel so inspired by it and how many different ideas and variations you can create from this one concept."
"I have done a lot of research into historic jewellery with my most recent collection ‘What is Precious?’ and a similar design often crops up, a large gemstone surrounded by smaller gemstones. So this is where the inspiration for the shape of the brooch developed from. Six brass domes surrounding one central dome, each detailed with cement. The central cement dome contains white cement with a dash of blue pigment to reflect the beautiful Delftware colours. I chose to detail the six domes with white and red cement as a reflection of the buildings these tiles would have originally been found in, and can still be found iAlthough this piece has only just been created, I really didn’t want it to feel new. I wanted it to feel old, worn, like the tiles I had admired. The cement is imperfect, the blackened brass has been distressed, there is nothing clean about this brooch." Read Amy's blog post about March's brooch here.
April 2019 Silver, copper and cement
"Whilst wondering around the city looking for somewhere to eat during my trip, I stumbled upon this designer studded street, and this stunning building. The top layer of fading brick into glass immediately struck me, and I’m not ashamed to say I think about this building on a regular basis "
"This months brooch is inspired by the beautiful Chanel building on Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat, Amsterdam city centre. A sterling silver mirror finish brick contrasts beautifully next to textured and oxidised copper holding a red cement brick. This design is one I thought about for months, it’s one of the reasons I fell behind with the project. I tried several different combinations, cement, copper, silver, resin, I remade the brooch and added elements and took away. I thought I had finished, with a large four cement and two resin brick brooch and headed on the May’s design. But it continued to bug me, and I continued to mess with it. Then whilst looking at one of the off-cut’s I felt inspired to try a mirror finish, something I never usually include in my other work. I suddenly realised how much I had over thought the design, over used processes, and that simplicity is all I needed." Read Amy's blog post about April's brooch here.
May 2019 Silver, brass and a steel brooch pin
"I’m delighted with this brooch, it’s one that I thought about the least. If there’s one thing this project has taught me, it’s how I over think designs, and my very best designs are the ones I do quickly."
"The inspiration, has taken a more personal route. I took my solo trip to Amsterdam in a time of huge change for me. I had just come out of a 5 year relationship, one that I grew up in. Heading to Amsterdam alone was my way of showing myself that I could travel alone, be on my own, survive on my own, thrive on my own. When I started this project, I knew I wanted to include a more personal note into one or two of the designs. I recorded a lot of words and kept a sort of personal come creative diary, the view through the window of the brooch contains a selection of these words. The window shape is taken from the perspective of a window in the beautiful Rembrandt house. Stamping silver is an age old technique, and works brilliantly with text. Having the view of words through the window has given an almost graffiti effect, which I didn’t anticipate and absolutely love. The text also looks as good on the back as it does on the front. The whole brooch has been tumbled to give a beautiful matte texture to the brass and silver." Read Amy's blog post about May's brooch here.
June 2019 Silver and thread
"Walking through the Stedelijk Gallery (crying with happiness) around every corner was another surprise. Including this amazing stairwell, the striking words and bold pops of colour really drew me in."
"June takes inspiration from this stairwell, as well as continuing the personal text theme. The irony for me whilst making May and June, is that I have been going through a similar process of emotions again, so it felt very fitting to make these brooches now. I re-made June 3 times. The first time, I had a weak solder joint which I didn’t discover until after I thread the strings. The second, I decided the silver frame was too thin being 0.5mm and so i upped to 1mm. Also in the first two makes, I tried several different ways to hide the thread knots. I tried several different designs, and obsessed over making the design ‘neat’. I couldn’t get the finish ‘right’, I change the brooch back twice, I couldn’t get the piece ‘right’. And then I remembered what my previous 5 designs, particularly April, have taught me – stop over thinking! I took a step back from the brooch and realised, why am I trying to hide the knots, can’t knots be neat? Don’t they represent the words? Why am fussing over the finish, isn’t it already fitting? And here we have June." Read Amy's blog post about June's brooch here.
July 2019 Silver, Ruby & Citrine
"For anyone who has been keeping up with the inspirations behind my designs for this project, it should come as no surprise that this design has a heavy influence from Amsterdam by night."
"In July, I took a stone setting class with the brilliant jewellers Mark Veevers and Adele Taylor. Stone setting is a side of jewellery design I have never really explored until this year, teaching myself bezel, claw and crown settings using Anastasia Young’s ‘Guide to Gemstone Settings.' I went to Mark to specifically learn flush setting, also known as a Gypsy setting. I felt I needed some real guidance to get the hang of this process, rather than just pictures in a book! (no matter how good the book may be). So technique was a real steering point for July's design, I wanted to include flush settings and whilst scrolling through my trip’s photographs and sketches, nothing felt more fitting for the setting than these beautifully lit bridges. The structure and the lights of the bridges I walked across and sailed under are the real essence of this brooch, even though it is designed around the specific stone setting technique." Read Amy's blog post about July's brooch here.
August 2019 Silver & steel
"The design of August is directly inspired by the beautiful gables found throughout Amsterdam, topping almost all of it’s buildings."
"For August I really wanted to re-visit another technique I haven’t used in years, etching. Etching is a process which erodes the surface of the silver to leave a pattern. I started by blocking out the areas I didn’t want to erode with a laquer similar to the one I used for the gold plating process on February’s brooch. I wanted the brooch to feel aged to reflect the buildings it’s design is inspired by, so I wasn’t looking for perfection when painting on the detail. I enlisted the help of Andrew again (this man knows everything about everything) as I hadn’t etched in years and caution should always be taken when getting the hazardous chemicals out. We started with a solution of 1 part Nitric acid to 4 parts water, but after 5 hours not much erosion had occurred so we switched the formula to 1 part Nitric 3 parts water for another 3 hours, giving the end result. The brooch works in reflection, with the steel wire creating the silhouette of a stepped, angular gable as well as containing on of the most important parts of a brooch, the pin. Whilst the etched silver half reflects a more aged, curved design. The silver half this finished using a brass polishing wheel, giving it an aged colour and midway between satin and polished finish." Read Amy's blog post about August's brooch here.
September 2019 Silver, Rose Gold & Peridot
"I have been dipping my toes into using gold this year with different commissions and I wanted to bring these new ideas into the brooch project. I love the colour combination of silver and rose gold, they compliment each other so beautifully even in such a simplistic design such as this."
"September; just 3 brooches to go! This project has been such a joy and such a burden all at the same time. The brooch pin is such an integral part of a brooch, you can’t design a brooch without one, otherwise it would simply not function in the way you intend. I really wanted to highlight this, and design a brooch where the pin is the main feature, and September is my outcome. Without the rose gold pin, you couldn’t wear the September brooch. The pin weaves into the fabric and holds the design in place on the body. I felt the striking rose gold and silver combination really reflected how striking I found the red and white brick buildings in Amsterdam. When I was going through the photographs I took on my trip, I had photographed several buildings, including a view from inside the Stedelijik Museum, in the same style. This style of architecture influenced the materials and shape of Septembers design. The added detail of a Peridot stone was nothing more than because I wanted to. I felt the design needed another element, and I had a beautiful Peridot waiting to be used, and a need to practise my square stone setting, nothing more nothing less. The end of the challenge is just three brooches away and 11 of the 12 will be coming with me to SIERAAD Arts Fair in Amsterdam, 6th-10th November. I cannot wait to show these brooches within the beautiful city that inspired them, it’s going to be such a treat." Read Amy's blog post about September's brooch here.
October 2019 copper dome, copper bar, silver tube and red thread with a silver pin back.
"In 2017 I exhibited at SIERAAD Arts Fair for the first time, it was this trip to Amsterdam that ignited my love for the city. The October brooch is inspired by the Westergas building that many events including SIERAAD are held."
"October is the last brooch I have completed before exhibiting at SIERAAD again this year, I will be taking all 10 brooches with me to be showcased in the city that inspired by them and hopefully sell to the lovely people who see there own connection and meaning in them!" Read Amy's blog post about October's brooch here.
November & December 2019 - We're sad to say that this project will not be completed this year but like with many of our talented makers sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day. We hope you enjoy the ten completed brooches on display until the 11th January and don't forget that you can buy the pieces on display too.
Here's an extract from Amy's final blog post on the project:
"I always find myself reflecting, as we all do, at this time of year. I started the brooch challenge as an opportunity and almost an excuse to go back to the drawing board and explore multiple jewellery and metalwork techniques that I had either never done, or hadn’t done since university. An excuse to really design and explore. It was the most over ambitious project I have ever set myself.
I knew I would learn a lot from this project, in fact it’s the reason I wanted to do it, but this was not the lesson I was anticipating to learn. I was hoping to rediscover techniques, find new direction and improve my skills. Instead, I have learnt my limits. For now, this project will go unfinished. And that’s OK; (Something I have not been able to accept until about 2 days ago). Maybe I will finish it one day, maybe I will come back and extend it, I don’t know, and that’s OK. Right now, I need to rest, I need to concentrate on my Masters, I need to start the new year (and decade!!) with positivity, acceptance and a whole new action plan.
A big thank you to everyone who has supported this project, the wonderful ladies at The Craft Centre and Design Gallery, and to those of you who have bought a brooch. I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved with these pieces, and they mean an awful lot to me. They will continue to be available to purchase from The Craft Centre up to 11th January and on my website after 11th January and you never know, maybe one day we’ll get a November and December, just not this year.
Thank you, and Merry Christmas!"
To read more click here.