Five Minutes with Caroline Broadhead, CSM

We recently announced a very special collaboration in Pearls with the BA Jewellery Design course at Central Saint Martins (CSM), the creative arts institute of the University of the Arts London.

This week sees the start of the second set of degree shows at CSM, which are a celebration of design and the final year students' work. Later this week, we will also be announcing the winner of our prize for the Best Use of Pearls amongst the final year Jewellery students.

Here, we take five minutes with Caroline Broadhead, who is the course leader at CSM, to ask for her views on jewellery and pearls.

Caroline's own work in jewellery has explored the use of textiles and developing her work into garment form. She has exhibited extensively in the UK and internationally, including recently in the Unexpected Pleasures contemporary jewellery exhibition at the Design Museum, London.

Tell us a little about yourself and your role at CSM?

I am Course Leader, which means I have responsibility for the overall direction and management of the 3 year course. I also teach across the years, though mainly I am involved with the final years, along with the Year 3 tutor, Lin Cheung.

What does ‘jewellery’ mean to you?

Jewellery can be superficial or significant; an accessory or fundamental; mean nothing or everything. The subject can be interpreted widely, as it represents what we value.

It can be a spatial, formal construction relating to the physical body; as something worn close to the body it can relate to the emotions; it can indicate our relation to materials and what we do with them; it can be the means of expressing identity and reading that of others.

What influences have inspired you in your own design, can you give us an example?

A very obvious example was when I travelled to Africa in the late 70s and saw Masai jewellery being worn, colourful, bold designs that dominate the body. I also observed the women weaving baskets in the markets and both those came together later in woven nylon work. Other than that, it is a combination of a lot of different things.

What should come first in design - material, form or function?

I think that the best designs are those where these work together. Some people start from a particular material, shape or function and take it from there, but everyone has a different process and there is no failsafe formula.

What trends in current jewellery design do you like the most and least?

I am very supportive of the growing awareness of ethics and sustainability in the jewellery world.

What do pearls mean to you?

They are beautiful and organic.

What are the opportunities today for using pearls in jewellery design?

A string of pearls is an iconic piece of jewellery and pearls, as such, are ripe for experiment and questioning to extend their potential.

What are the main challenges for a new jewellery designer starting out?

Gaining the relevant experience of how to run a business is something that takes time and it is easy to make expensive mistakes. Each person has to find out what the appropriate context is for their work and how best to promote, sustain and develop it.

What is the best advice that you give to your students?

Have faith in yourself, don’t stop working.

What is your favourite part of the working day?

The first bit, when I feel I can get through all the things on my To Do list!