Narrative jewellery with Jo McAllister

Ref: SWE33513

Book now

Places available

About this course

Design and make jewellery that tells a tale, conveys a message or creates a dialogue. Use personal objects, text, music, memories or imaginary conversations 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 between wearer and viewer.


“Like a piece of poetry, this is the art of condensing, of distilling thoughts and ideas into a reduced visual representation.” – Professor Jack Cunningham


This course will help you 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 your piece to your own 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 story you wish to tell, or the message you wish to convey 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 work from sketches, notes, collage or models before starting to work in you chosen materials.  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.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.  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

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).


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)

General Information


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.

Courses of interest

Silver jewellery – stacking rings

23 to 25 Aug 2024 | West Dean
Places available
Tutor: Laila Smith |
Suitable for all

Soldering for jewellers

17 Sep 2024 | West Dean
Places available
Tutor: Laila Smith |

Developing jewellery techniques – forging and twisting

27 to 30 Sep 2024 | West Dean
Places available
Tutor: Sarah Macrae |

Introduction to plastic smithing

4 Oct 2024 | West Dean
Places available
Tutor: Bronwen Gwillim |

Interested in a career in metalwork?

Our Foundation Degree in Metalwork will enhance your employment prospects, give you the skills to set up as a self-employed craftsperson or allow you to continue to higher education. Encompassing both silversmithing and blacksmithing, you will learn practical skills, material properties, placing your work in a broader context and historic metalworking techniques. Find out more