Wendy Ramshaw (1939- 2018) was one of Britain’s most celebrated jewellers, known most notably for her instantly recognisable ‘ring sets’. Born in Sunderland on 26 May 1939, Ramshaw’s path was set at age twelve after a visit to the Festival of Britain, which took place in the summer of 1951, and inspired her to pursuit an arts education. She began her studies in 1956 in fabric design at Newcastle’s College of Art, followed by the University of Reading where she studied for a teaching diploma and met her partner and fellow artist David Watkins. She then attended the Central School of Art and Design from 1969- 1970, where she undertook postgraduate studies in jewellery.
Early in her career, while making ‘self-assembly’ paper jewellery, Ramshaw was noticed by fashion designer Mary Quant, who started to stock her pieces from the early 1960s. By 1970, she had achieved widespread acclaim with her first solo exhibition in London’s Pace Gallery, where she presented several pieces that became her signature deconstructive, sculptural style. Her work also encompassed designs for textiles, screens, and gates such as the New Edinburgh Gate in Hyde Park, which showed her capability to transfer her geometric style into much larger commissions. From 1977, Ramshaw had over thirty exhibitions including a retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Musem in 1982.
Ramshaw was honoured with many accolades throughout her long and innovative career: in 1993, she was awarded an OBE for services to the arts and then in 2003, she was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Ramshaw’s pieces are of seminal importance in the development of modern British jewellery, and her approach offers us a new approach to look at and appreciate jewellery, placed upon her modern sculptural stands, and encouraging us to question what we think we know about jewellery. Her work is held in many public collections internationally, such as The Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
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