The collector: Zoe Robertson, Jewellery Designer & Course Director for BA (Hons) Jewellery & Silversmithing at the School of Jewellery, Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, UK.
The collection: Brooches.
The story behind the collection...
I have a growing collection of brooches. They are made by contemporary jewellery designers and students. On the course we have a module called “Entrepreneurial Design” or more commonly known as “the selling project” This project is basically live business studies where our students form a company, to design, manufacture and sell their products to the public. Each student has a role within the company, and each student designs and makes their own collection related to the company brief. This project takes place just before Christmas and is the perfect opportunity to collect really exciting work. I love it!
A fair proportion of my brooches come from this project. I feel it’s really important for me, and them, to buy, wear and therefore showcase their work. Unfortunately I can’t afford to buy everything. It’s been really delightful over the past few years to see how students value this; they get quite excited to see me wearing their work! And of course I adore wearing it.
This has now become an important part of my daily work routine and I will choose something to wear each day from the collection. In some way, I feel like I am a talent spotter. Will my collection become the valuable antiques of the future? What gems do I have?
If I am still here at retirement age I imagine exhibiting this collection, it would be a fantastic archive and history of jewellery within that period. My friend and colleague Terry Hunt recently curated an exhibition called “All Golds” which celebrates the jewellery school’s alumni of 40 years.
Other brooches come from friendships with other jewellers. We often swap work, which is a great way to add to the collection. Some are presents and I buy other pieces which I like the aesthetic of. My husband is also a great contributor to my collection, he makes experimental pieces too!
My own practice as a jewellery designer also extends my collection; I often try out my new work to see how people at the school react to it. You can view my work at www.zoerobertson.co.uk
Zoe's own designs
Each brooch has a particular aesthetic, though I am drawn to pieces which reflect my own personal interest. I am interested in how other people interpret the brooch. I enjoy their three dimensional quality’s and prefer those that do not have a flat back or traditional brooch fixing.
I have been collecting them for about 5 years since I started work at the school of jewellery in 2006. I try to keep them in the bedroom, on the wall in a display case, and on my dressing table, though they keep migrating around the house and end up in peculiar places. At times they also end up in the washing machine when I have forgotten to take them off my clothes!
They are all favourites as they remind me who made them. I guess the one I choose to wear is the favourite of the day. This year’s cohort will be selling their work around Birmingham next month. I’m really looking forward to their private view night!
I also collect badges (I think brooches are the grown up version!), 1950’s swimming hats, inflatable barbie furniture, fun plastic radios, and cameras, though these are smaller collections at the moment, oh and plants, yeah lots of plants.
My collection is not yet out of control but I would like it to be. I think I would like one for each day of the year! So if you want to donate you are more than welcome.
Images © Zoe Robertson and used with her kind permission.