Design Crafts Student competition with The Association for Contemporary Jewellery


Year 2 and 3 students from the BA Design Crafts course at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Swansea College of Art have just taken part in an exciting live project connecting to the Association for Contemporary Jewellery, Mission Gallery Swansea and The Crafts Council (who are education sponsor for the ACJ touring exhibition).

Design Crafts Student competition with The Association for Contemporary Jewellery

Students responded to a brief set by ACJ to create a piece of jewellery (in the broadest sense of the word) in direct response to their touring exhibition ‘Meanings and Messages’ which showed at the end of last year in Mission Gallery. Design Crafts staff and students were involved in the set-up of the show which led to this exciting opportunity also to be co-judged by The  ACJ, Mission Gallery and Crafts Council’s Stephanie Jong who has recently moved on to join the team at The British Museum.

UWTSD’s BA Design Crafts Lecturer, Anna Lewis said:

“Here at Design Crafts we always embed live projects in year 2 and 3 to enhance the student learning experience and build external links and professional skills. This year is our biggest project yet and it is such an exciting opportunity for the course to work with major craft and jewellery bodies that are internationally renowned.

“The students loved the project and we had a very broad range of responses in materials like glass, ceramic, metal, fabric, wood, resin, enamel and shell. Students really pushed the interpretation of what jewellery actually could be both in value and material but also scale and its relationship to the body. As a team, we were so proud of all student responses and hard work, and grateful to our three external judges for their incredible support.”

The winner of the overall competition was 3rd year Zach Dunlap for his ceramic and crystalline rings, and runner up was Molly Ashton for her series of shell and glass body pieces.

First place winner Zach Dunlap who is an experimental potter said:

“I was so shocked and happy to win. Making jewellery was out of my comfort zone as I am focused on ceramics but I loved the challenge to make on a smaller scale and to consider how the pieces might be wearable.  I wanted to challenge myself to innovate using glaze and crystal effects using waste hard drives. Every year in the UK alone, 13 million hard drives are decommissioned and destroyed. The platter (shiny disc) is actually made from a combination of silica, cobalt and magnesium among various other rare earth metals. Using this knowledge, I discovered stable melting/cooling point that would result in the most visually appealing use of this disk.

“Using an obsolete waste material contrasted with porcelain, the rings are about the physical embodiment of memories and using them to adorn the body. These hard disks at one time would have undoubtedly contained countless holiday photos, porn, business data, sensitive details, communications between people, CV's, videos or music. The memory is now embedded in the jewellery.  The processes I investigated here I am using to push my glaze experimentation but on a vast scale for my degree show vessels, it’s the attention to detail in jewellery which will influence me in the ceramic studio. The professional advice I receive through this will be invaluable as I am about to start my own business when I graduate.”

Design Crafts Student competition with The Association for Contemporary Jewellery

The judges commented on Zach’s important subject matter, excellent material exploration and innovation through ceramics – and equally beautiful outcome worn between the fingers.

Molly Ashton was a close runner up and judges reflected on her innovative material experimentation with shells and glass creating beautiful form and shadow. They encompass the circle of life “vulnerability, permanence, layers, delicate and organic”.


Design Crafts Student competition with The Association for Contemporary Jewellery

Molly adds:

“This was an amazing project where I explored new materials and processes focusing on naturally found materials such as shells, these were a bi-product from a local fishmonger and otherwise would have been discarded. I wanted to celebrate the material, its natural beauty and its relationship with other materials like glass and elevate them into large scale body adornments. One major inspiration was the notion that in nature shells are naturally broken down to make sand, a raw material that’s used in the manufacture of glass. This circular relationship ensures that nature is at the centre of the work”.

A major part of the project was a collaboration with the BA photography department and 3rd years Katie Davies and Simon Fudge who shot the pieces being worn on the body. Students styled and even modelled the work and worked as a team to create amazing imagery. A series of photographs of Molly’s work taken by MA photography student Laurentina Miksys were even published in the French fashion magazine ‘Malvie’.

The judges also wanted to commend several students in year 2 and 3 for their innovative designs including Hannah Davies for her ceramic and chain teeth, Tazmin Baldwin for her enamel copper key necklace, Elwyn Barnes for his carved ceramic horse pendant and Nancy Farrington for her intricate folded fabric neckpiece.

Lecturer Anna Lewis stated: 

“At Design Crafts we teach the students that the presentation of the work is as important as the work itself and can make or break its perception. Jewellery needs to be seen on the body to make it come to life and enhance the story and symbolism. Some of the work crossed over into a fashion realm and it was exciting to see this interpretation in such a contemporary publication, what an amazing addition to the portfolio of both students involved.”

The aim of the ACJ is to celebrate and highlight the innovative work carried out by jewellery artists at a National and International level.  They strive to push the definition of what jewellery can be and the meaning and symbolism it can hold. This is an idea that is held closely in Ba Design Crafts and this competition really challenged the students to explore what possibilities body adornment could have for their own practice and across media.

Joanne Haywood, a well-respected jeweller and maker and Exhibitions and events manager at ACJ commented:

 “As judges, we were all so impressed with the quality of entries from the students, it was a very difficult decision to pick a winner. The work was varied, well made and had thought-provoking concepts underpinning the ideas, congratulations to you all especially the winners Zach and Molly”

The prizes for the winners include a feature in the ACJ findings magazine, a Makers showcase at Mission Gallery Swansea (from March 25 – May 6) and for Zach an invaluable one-to-one mentoring meeting with the head of Craft business Caroline Jackman at the Crafts Council.

Design Crafts would like to extend their thanks to all judges and collaborators (Joanne Haywood, Rhian Wyn Stone, Stephanie Jong and Caroline Jackman) and Congratulations to all students taking part.

Design Crafts Student competition with The Association for Contemporary Jewellery

Note to Editor

For more information about Design Crafts, Mission Gallery, the Crafts Council and Association for Contemporary Jewellery please view online:

Further Information

Lowri Thomas, Principal Communications and PR Officer

07449 998476