Nicky Lawrence

Nicky Lawrence

Medium: Wearable Sculptures

How the coral reefs of Sulawesi in Indonesia inspired Nicky's work.

What are you working on at the moment and where do you find ideas for your work?

I am currently working on silver neckpieces for an exhibition with Continuum (former MA and PhD students from the University for Creative Arts) at the Oxo Gallery in London. The neckpieces are part of my Wearable Sculptures collection.

Most of my work draws attention to the plight of the coral reef. These pieces comprise an organically shaped silver neckpiece, with a glass and metal nudibranch (sea slug) suspended from it. For many years in the 90s, I dived the pristine coral reefs of Sulawesi in Indonesia and would sketch the underwater scenes I witnessed. My dive log became a tribute to the fabulous, the glorious and the downright weird. When, many years later I dived off the coast of Egypt, only to discover broken and bleached reef and far fewer reef inhabitants, I was deeply shocked, and that sense of shock has never really left me.

What medium do you use in your practice and why?

I work in glass and metal. When fusing glass through metal I use copper as it is cheaper and, given that 1 in 3 pieces are successful, this is an important consideration. However, I enjoy working in silver and use silver, when I am attaching glass, using cold connections (rivets, bezels etc). I particularly like combining glass and metal – the vibrant colours of the glass contrast well with the textured or highly polished metal. Perhaps it is also a throwback to the symbiotic relationships that I see underwater.

What motivates you to make work, who do you believe has influenced your career and inspired you to start?

I love making things with my hands. I came to jewellery late in life. I have always made things in my spare time, whilst working as a teacher. However, I finally made the transition in 2016, undertaking the MA in Jewellery at UCA Farnham. My former tutor, Rebecca Skeels, was instrumental in pushing me just a little beyond my comfort zone. After my MA, she encouraged me to give talks, organise my first pop up shop, apply to exhibitions and to take part in October Craft Month. Thanks, Rebecca, for being there and believing in me!

If you could name one, what is your favourite piece of work you have created, and why?

The nudibranch with long tentacles, tipped with dark red, sat on a clear blown coral reef is my favourite. The coral is awash with bubbles, whilst the nudibranch sits, as they do, looking ridiculously beautiful. It brings back happy memories of diving the coral reefs of Indonesia.

If you can name one, what is your proudest achievement?

Giving a talk about my work at the Goldsmiths Centre, alongside 3 other well established European jewellers at the Private View of the Connections/Connessioni exhibition in 2019.

What is the most indispensable item or tool in your studio?

I would have said the hydraulic press as that was the machine I used most to shape my metal forms while I was at UCA.  However, since setting up my own workshop, I haven’t managed to source one within my budget. Currently it’s a raising hammer to forge my silver neckpieces, but I also need a torch, to anneal (heat) the wire and a stake to hammer on.

Where is your favourite place to see art / craft?

Collect Art Fair is without a doubt my favourite place to see contemporary arts and crafts. It’s held every year in London and attracts galleries from all over the world. I need at least a day to look around and talk to all the incredibly diverse and talented artists.

Why Farnham as a place to practise your art / craft? What is it about being part of a town that is special?

Farnham has a special place in my heart. It is the reason that I am now an artist. When I moved back from Ethiopia, to Liphook, I really missed the craft scene. Rebecca Skeels was running a jewellery workshop at 318 Ceramics and the rest is history.

Being part of a community of makers is… hugely important to me.  A lot of artists work on their own and need to have the help and support of others to develop. Personally, I really grow as an artist when I’m around other artists. Leaving UCA was a real blow for me but establishing Making Matters with fellow UCA graduates has really helped fill that void.