Naomi studied 3D Design at undergraduate level, then obtained an MA in goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork and jewellery at the Royal College of Art in London in 1993. She became known for catwalk jewellery collaborations with designers including Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen and Anne Valerie Hash. Since 1999 she has made work to commission for international exhibitions.
Her conception of jewellery is a way to reveal planes, spaces, hidden places and attitudes on the body. It uses materials that show entropic change and proposes new boundaries for contemporary jewellery, privileging the relationship between flesh, object and the absence of an object. She has worked with ice, chocolate, glass, metals, rubber and synthetics, more recently exploring moving images to display her work. Film loops and lenticulars (a development of holography) invite an audience to focus on precise anatomical areas as jewels in their own right. By combining craftsmanship with new media and exploring recurrent themes such as fragmentation and isolation of the body, Naomi pushes boundaries between art and accessories, creating objects that occupy a middle ground between art and design.
Her most recent exhibitions:
Super Bodies 3rd Triennial of Contemporarary art, fashion and design, Hasselt, Belgium
Washed Up Selfridges, London
Transparent Man Stichtglas National Glass Museum, Leerdam, The Netherlands
The Art of Fashion / Between Flesh and Cloth Kunst Museum, Wolfsberg, Germany
Glass Works Galerie Zand, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
In-between SHOP Show Studio, London
Vanitas Stichtglas National Glass Museum, Leerdam, The Netherlands
Museum of Small Things Selfridges, London
The Art of Fashion / Installing Allusions Museum Boijmans, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Skin Deep/Blow Life Fort Asperen, The Netherlands, Stichtglas National Glass Centre organised exhibition
La Prima Donna Della Moda iTaliana ‘Simonetta’ Galleria Costume di Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Italy
Out of the Ordinary; spectacular craft The V&A, London – toured UK until 2010
Alchemy; Contemporary Jewellery from Britain British Council exhibition, toured the Middle East
She lives in London where she teaches at Central St Martins and The London College of Fashion, but she also lectures and runs workshops in Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands.
I met Naomi for the first time in London after the Runway Rocks Show for Swarovski. During the show, her piece, a fantastic pink crystal bubble cap, surprised me for its amazing shape, the wonderful use of crystal stones and the daring use of rubber, especially in that vivid colour. It was only by meeting Naomi in person, working with her, sharing with her ideas and thoughts that I discovered the great woman she is: a designer but also a woman of great taste, fantastic energy and a lovely sense of style and aesthetics. We often meet in Geneva , at HEAD University, where we both teach and it was there, during a lunch break by the lake that I interviewed her.
Define your style in five words:
Anatomy-focused, sensual, fluid, intimate, clean.
How did you become a designer? Do you remember a specific tale to tell?
It seemed like the natural thing to do. As a kid I was always interested in drawing, making shapes, creating objects. My parents encouraged my sisters and I to follow our own interests, so it was automatic that I followed the arts in education. I simply never imagined being involved in any other vocation. As soon as I finished my studies at the RCA in London I fell into collaborative projects on catwalk. It was a buzzing time in London back then, and being a Londoner and having been to art school I guess I knew a few good people who were part of the creative wave that came out of London in the early to mid 90’s. At the same time I was invited to teach at a college where I studied in my late teens. Balancing the teaching jobs with collaborative projects (not so well paid) was a good lifestyle. It allowed me to pay my bills and still have the freedom to develop my work. In some ways not much has changed, regarding my work balance, but over the years I have had freelance design jobs, not only teaching.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Somewhere between my love of materials, process and the body….and people. I think I am driven by sensuality of objects, anatomy and emotions. Working with other craftsmen is a privilege. I never tire of watching gifted hands at work making my drawings and ideas come alive.
Hand sketches, designs, mock-ups … what is your way to visualise your ideas?
For me the beginning is ALWAYS sketching, drawing, thinking through line on paper. These can then be refined accordingly. The next stage depends on the project. I make mock-ups when I need to present to a client, as it is the best way to illustrate an idea. From experience I know I cannot always rely on others understanding my drawings to the extend that I do, so a model helps. I see models as 3 dimensional drawings. However, when working on exhibition pieces and collaborating with other craftsmen and model makers there is an integral understanding of fabrication and process so models are not always necessary. But that kind of understanding and working relationship takes time to cultivate.
Which city reflects better your characteristics and why?
Probably London. Although I am a Londoner I have enjoyed living and working abroad very much. But in the end for me London has a good balance of traditions and contemporary culture. It’s a multicultural city, rich and open in attitude. That acceptance for difference is very precious to me; you can be who you want to be in London. There are many places and people who nourish me, in any number of moods, with the exception of the weather! London does not offer good weather….which leaves me melancholy too often. On the other hand, being such major city means it’s never hard to reach the rest of the world.
What suggestions would you like to give to a young designer starting a career in jewellery?
Look and listen to what is happening now in the design world. It is important to grasp an awareness of how design is moving forward and where you can exist within that. Make sure you are clear about your own vision, so you can be distinguished from the many other designers in the world today. Also enjoy and value what you do.