Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins first met in 1961 whilst studying at the University of Reading, and after a whirlwind romance, married a year later. Throughout their careers they collaborated and influenced each other, shared a studio for 35 years, whilst still creating hugely successful independent reputations in modernist jewellery design to international acclaim.
Their first major collaboration occurred in 1963 with a joint exhibition of their work of stabiles and sculptures and in these early years in the 1960s they made ‘Optik Jewellery’ inspired by Op-Art, using Perspex which they sold through fashionable boutiques such as Mary Quant’s Bazaar, alongside self-assembly paper jewellery which gained substantial media attention, catching the mood and spirit of the Swinging Sixties.
Overall their concept, which was to remain the same throughout their careers, was to make visually arresting, well-designed and fashionable jewellery out of inexpensive materials.
Ramshaw’s signature designs include her stacking ring sets, customarily set with semi-precious gems on stands to be displayed together, and considered in the whole as sculptural works of art. In 1972 it was a revolutionary idea and the concept won her a Design Council Award for Innovation. Alongside this Orbit¸ displays the sculptural element ever constant in her repertoire, displaying her lifelong fascination with geometry, intersecting circles and lines.
The sculptural elements in Ramshaw’s work, also takes effect in Watkins jewellery but he takes it in a different direction preoccupied with the relationship between body and jewellery. Landlines is typical of this and Watkins's work in general, an example of the diverse materials he employs, combined with a strict structure and minimalism, producing works of vibrant colour and exciting forms. Watkins went on to head the Royal College of Art Jewellery department and designed the medals for the 2012 London Olympics.
Together and independently Ramshaw and Watkins pushed the boundaries of British and international jewellery design, and they should be considered as much ‘artist-designer-sculptors’ as jewellers. To this day their work remains a joy with a dedicated and faithful following the world over.
We are delighted to be offer examples of both maker’s work in Modern Made: Modern & Post War Art & Design, alongside a wider collection of modernist and artist’s post-war jewellery at The Mall Galleries in London on 23 October, and welcome further selected consignments.
A leading auction house in Modern, Post War and Contemporary Design, we hold specialist live and online Design auctions in London and Edinburgh that are known for their international reach and strong prices.
The sales cover all the major movements from Pre-War French and British Modernism and Art Deco, to works from the Mid-Century and Post-War, including Italian and Nordic Design, European and American Modernism, Studio Craft through to Contemporary Design, Glass and Studio & Contemporary Ceramics.