Narrative jewellery with Jo McAllister

Ref: SLW13360

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About this course

Produce a piece of jewellery that tells a tale, conveys a message and creates dialogue. Use an object, text, music, memory or imaginary conversation to inspire, develop and refine ideas through discussion, thinking and making.

Course Description

Jewellery is an ancient and enduring means of communicating status, affiliation, beauty, utility, humour, wealth, etc. Narrative jewellery embodies the tale its maker wants to share, creating dialogues with wearer and viewer.

Professor Jack Cunningham writes that narrative jewellery comprises, “relatively speaking, small objects that have the potential to speak of large issues, make bold statements and question accepted values. Like a piece of poetry, this is the art of condensing, of distilling thoughts and ideas into a reduced visual representation.”

This course will help students to discover and develop ways of thinking to enable the making of narrative jewellery.

Discussion on the first evening will centre on various approaches to narrative jewellery; what it means to you; sources of inspiration; ideas and possible starting points.

A piece of narrative jewellery may be complex in its ideas yet simple in its construction, or vice versa. You will design to your own piece and level of technical ability; you may wish to bring particular materials to work with or items to incorporate. Other materials may be sourced through the college shop.

The making aspects of this course are metals (mainly silver) based; and incorporating additional media, elements and objects personal to or provided by you.

The essence of what interests you will be defined through questioning and discussion with your tutor. Throughout the course you will work individually, collectively or in small groups as appropriate.

You will be working from sketches, notes, collage or models before starting to work in the chosen materials.

What emerges and develops will be refined; suitable ways of making, and treatment of your materials will be decided upon in discussion with your tutor.

The direction of ideas and the different ways in which they may be approached and translated in three-dimensions will be discussed and developed with guidance from your tutor.

Discussion of refinements or observations that emerge will enable assessment of how best to use the time available to achieve the desired outcome as pieces move towards completion.

By the end of the course you will have:

• worked from sketches or writing, found objects or other inspirations to develop narrative concepts

• Refined initial ideas to formulate a personal approach to narrative

• Developed and progressed ideas and ways of thinking through discussion, sketches, notes and making

• Used mark-making, practical methodologies, varied materials and techniques

• Created a piece of narrative jewellery


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • Some wet and dry emery papers to share amongst the group.

What students need to bring

  • Think about the message you want to convey or the story you want to tell, and bring notes, sketches and materials to communicate that message or story, e.g. an old letter or a piece of fabric.
  • Any specific items you may wish to incorporate (consider scale) e.g. a gemstone, a broken or unworn sentimental jewellery item.
  • Please bring any materials that you may wish to use that are individual to your current practice or approach to jewellery making that may be used within the jewellery workshop at West Dean.
  • Any particular tools that are integral or individual to your current practice.
  • The College has basic jewellery kits for your use while you are at the College.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Silver can be purchased from the College Shop which stocks a range of sheet, wire, rod, tube and findings. These will be available in set sizes and lengths suitable for a wide range of projects.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Jo McAllister

Jo is an award-winning studio jewellery artist. She has worked in and with the landscape using wild tools since 1999, on her BA at The Cass followed by an MA. She is a regular exhibitor at Goldsmiths’ Fair.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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