Renate Kriegler, 'Thando' 2000, Gold Virtuosi International Jewellery Design Awards, 2000
Darcey Bussell modelling: Renate Kriegler, 'Thando', Gold Virtuosi International Jewellery Design Aw

Kriegler, Renate. Thando. 2000. 18k gold and black rubber, hand-crafted. Winner: Gold Virtuosi International Jewellery Design Awards, 2000

Darcey Bussell modelling Renate Kriegler's winning set for the World Gold Council's press campaign.

 

Photographed by John Swannell

Styled by Hilary Alexander

Hair and make-up by Jonathan Malone

A Love Story

 

In 2000, my final year as BA Fine Art (jewellery design) student, I entered my designs for the World Gold Council's first ever Gold Virtuosi International Jewellery Awards.

 

I translated my sketches into hollow 3D paper and card models, which I photographed on a model and then touched up by hand to represent gold. I thought that the paper models were proof of the ‘executability’ of these forms, but boy did they trick me! When I touched up the images, I also corrected the shapes a bit by altering outlines and shading, so the submitted designs were in fact quite different from my original paper models - albeit closer to my original design idea - but it didn't register.

 

So, after a few weeks I received notification that my designs were shortlisted and that I am now required to submit the real thing to enter the next round. Trying first in copper, my approach drew on my paper models again - a far cry from where I was hoping to go. Oh! and the biggest surprise? Try to translate the weight of a paper model into 18 carat gold... We are talking half a Kilo of gold here! Oops! My parents bravely financed the whole thing, but clearly this is not where my problems ended: I had no idea how to realise my designs.

 

I was clumsily tinkering away at the 4-armed 'cross' pendant piece when this guy called John appeared out of nowhere like a genie and casually made some very helpful suggestions. Still assuming full responsibility for my project, I started to approach John now and then for more of his apparently rich knowledge.

 

John encouraged me to create proper technical drawings to illustrate my vision for the piece, and for the first time I was able to really demonstrate where I was trying to go. Now understanding my design better – and showing great respect for my crazy wishes – John then thought of an ingenious reversed-engineering solution. There was a fantastic fly-press in the workshop, so if we could make a good 'punch' in the desired shape, we could press the piece in two halves. Also in making the 'punch' tool, John made use of what was already in the workshop (and sadly hardly ever used): a big and mean lathe. John turned the tool in components (in brass) and helped me to assemble them - which was not a simple task, because it had to withstand the force of the 12 ton press! After many trials and many presses, two good halves emerged and I could finally assemble the most perfect piece ever.

 

John also guided me in choosing a process for making the bangle. Because this piece was 3-sided and therefore less symmetric, we couldn't replicate the process used for the cross pendant. John suggested carefully hand-making the model in plaster of paris, and then generating a female mould from this in liquid steel, followed by the male part poured into the female one. Liquid steel?! Never heard of this before, but John even directed me to a supplier (Take note, this is 12 years ago and in South Africa. Not so many suppliers of things there, and internet was still a joke...) and prepared me to ask for the right thing when I get there. This of course also worked out great!

 

Pity it was 2000. Additive manufacturing would have empowered me as designer and student to resolve the design much sooner, and even possibly to execute the making myself! It was a massive feat to make this piece by hand and I would never ever have managed it without John. There was no one else around who could help me do this. 

 

You guessed it; this story has a happy ending: I won the competition and enjoyed much media coverage to propel me into my professional career. Five years later I got married to John, and today we give you: 3D Creative Workshops!

 

Renate Kriegler Edwards, Edinburgh, 2012

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