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 pursue 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. From 1977, Ramshaw had over thirty exhibitions including a retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Musem in 1982.
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. When placed upon her modern stands, she is encouraging us to question what we think we know about jewellery, and to consider them as a unified sculptural object. As Ramshaw said: “Most of my jewellery is made in parts or sections, so that the owner can share in the way the piece is worn” and “how or when my work is worn is not particularly important to me. The way in which others may organise it is an open-ended extension of its use. Such a possibility for varying personal choice is interesting precisely because it is out of my control.”
The iconic ring sets, ranging from a cluster of a couple of rings on simple acrylic stands, to sets of up to 40 rings stacked on more elaborate structures, all reveal a carefully orchestrated and formally considered geometric language. We were delighted to present a selection of works from the Estate of Wendy Ramshaw in our April 2022 edition of Modern Made.
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