Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The 14th century structure Bodiam Castle located in East Sussex, England was built by the order of a knight of Edward II and was once a garrison for soldiers. However, the fortress was not built to sustain a heavy attack. England is also home to featured jewelry designer Anoush Waddington.

According to my research, the first known synthetic plastic, called Parkesine, was invented in 1855 by Englishman Alexander Parkes as a substitute for ivory.

Fifty-four years later while looking for a coating to cover electrical metal wires, Leo Hendrik Baekeland blended phenol and formaldehyde creating what became known as Bakelite.

Throughout the years a variety of plastics from polystyrene and polyester to polyurethanes have been used to create all manner of everyday items such as food containers, vending cups, shower curtains, and compact discs.

In the years to follow Baekeland's invention, Bakelite, would become a popular material for use in jewelry making; so popular in fact, that today authentic Bakelite jewelry is a lucrative commodity.

Jewelry designers from around the globe, including Sue Gregor (England), Yoko Izawa (Japan), Rachel McKnight (Ireland), Tarina Tarantino (USA) and Ceren Keyman (Turkey) use plastics like acrylic, Lucite, and polypropylene to create jewelry of incredible detail and beauty.

Waddington's exposure to great music and theatre, courtesy of parents steeped in the respective industries, served to cultivate a very open-minded approach to jewelry design and personal style.

Her daring style aesthetic and innovative use of non-traditional materials like polypropylene, however, pushed the limits of tolerance at her alma mater of Bucks New Uni (formerly Buckinghamshire Chilterns).

The ominous clash of wills did not deter the ambitious designer as she graduated with honors in Design, Metalwork, and Jewelry in 2000.

Her work in the fashion and film industries, working respectively as a runway model and animator, sharpened her sense for color combinations and blending eclectic forms.

Through her company Metalix, Waddington created the first polypropylene jewelry designs. The plastic was known for its difficulty to manipulate but she persevered continually working with the material until she successfully mastered its malleable properties.

The creations are highly imaginative and theatrical in their configurations. She appears to cut very thin strips of dyed plastic without cutting the strips away from the larger piece allowing the strips to hang down building a design within the cascading strips.

The ranges of pieces include brightly colored, feather-like items to semblances of billowy jellyfish tentacles and glowing sea anemones to items akin to armor and dominatrix garb. It is fascinating that someone can take an item like plastic and use it to create other items so removed from contexts we commonly associate with it.

Waddington's work certainly helps to open up the observer's imagination to see new functions for a material not regularly used for decorative purposes. If anything, her work certainly opens up an observer to the designer's incredible artistry and attention to detail.

Waddington has garnered numerous awards for her extraordinary work including the 2006 Gane Trust Award, and the 2001 Crafts Council Setting Award.

"My work sums up a personal journey comprising traditional values applied to contemporary materials. I value a freedom to combine materials where form, line, color, and movement should merge with fluidity."

Photo 1 (top right): Orange Polypropylene Neckpiece
Photo 2 (bottom left): Purple Polypropylene Neckpiece
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