Monday, January 11, 2010


With a grandiose history of political intrigue, Ireland's Cahir Castle is a well-preserved national monument.

The 12th century structure is one of the country's largest castles where guided tours and audiovisual shows are regularly conducted.

Ireland is also the home to featured jewelry designer Rachel McKnight.

The use of plastic in jewelry making from polypropylene to acrylic resin has been a fixture for many years. The material renders pieces as beautiful and colorful as traditional materials.

Bakelite, the most well known variation, peaked in popularity during the Great Depression.  It served as an affordable, beautiful, and durable option for women challenged by the times.

Many jewelry designers of today, including Sue Gregor (England), Alexis Bittar (U.S.A.), and Yoko Izawa (Japan) continue this tradition in grand fashion. Thirty-year old McKnight adds her collections of stunning hand-dyed acrylic, polypropylene, and Perspex items into this movement of innovative jewelry.

McKnight developed an interest in exploring plastic's wearability while studying at Belfast's University of Ulster. Upon graduating, seven years ago, she started plans for a workshop, and in 2004 established one in her parents' garage.

Working entirely with hand-held instruments, McKnight cuts the plastics into simple yet expressive forms with a focus on layering and sculpting.

A recent participant in Craft Northern Ireland's Making It program, which assists new designers in their business development, McKnight is now utilizing laser cutting for more intricate designs.

The look of the pieces--the lovely pastel colors--evoke springtime; frosted glass; the mixture of sweet, colored fluid in shaved ice; and sumptuous Jolly Rancher hard candy.

Some forms are sculptural with rolling waves flowing like fabric. There are forms reminiscent of pinwheels, lace, and flowers. They all seem as though they would be soft to the touch responding to warmth of your hand.

The beautiful jewelry pieces, consisting of simple pendant necklaces, bangle bracelets and striking necklaces, are ethereal and delicate, translucent and opaque, as if they would disintegrate into a puff of soft colored powder.

Exhibitions of McKnight's work have been held in Ireland, London, and the U.S.A. In 2005, she received the first place award for non-precious jewelry in Ireland's National Craft Competition.

For more on McKnight's inventive pieces, check out Creative Choices' video interview with the designer at

Photo 1 (top right): Blue Translucent Rubber Double Leaf Pendant Necklace
Photo 2 (left): Large Pink Polypropylene and Silver Neckpiece
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