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How do we translate the digital into physical?

November 17, 2009

Reading Phase 2.0 in Design Week got me thinking about the digital world and jewellery.

‘With digital technology so embedded in our daily lives, designers are now free to move on and embrace the challenges of interactivity and user-generated content. Mike Exon explores the potential of this brave new world’

The Post-digital world has now embraced many art disciplines. It is not just restricted to the graphic designer or interactive media designer. Other disciplines are now learning how to harness the ‘D’ word into their own area. But how do we use it to make jewellery more interesting? How do we make our work stand out in an exhibition or gallery?

‘Users are having a more active role, in terms of designing their own objects and being a part of the creative process.’

Is this the way forward for jewellers? Allowing users to be a part of the design process? My masters project, Bitter Sweet, did just that. It puts the customer at the heart of the process, enabling them to be a part of every stage of the design process.This picture is a result of  working with the user at every stage of the design process.

Does it work? Do people value the piece more? Are they willing to pay more for such a unique piece, a piece that they have co-created? Is this the way that jewellers can use digital world to make them stand out?

Using the social media tools on offer to you, you can show the design process and tell the audience your story. But that is only if the user is interested in looking you up. So how do you marry the two together? How do you combine the digital and the physical so that when the user views your work they can see the story too?

I put the question to you. If you were exhibiting your jewellery in a gallery, how can you filter what you say on the internet into the physical gallery space? How can you tell your story that you tell on the internet to the audience viewing your piece in the physical world?

It’s something I have been asking myself for a few days now and I’m not sure of the answer yet . . .

11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 18, 2009 12:32 am

    Hi Kate,
    thanks for commenting on wenovski. Here is my take on your question:
    I dont think that the translation from digital to physical needs to be “literal”. Imagine a ring simply flickering away the frequency of your tweets or an amulet visualizing the growth and activity of your facebook network with thin spidery lines. Imagine the crystal of the piece becoming the key to a personal data storage (like crystals in supermans cave… going a bit off-topic here). Imagine the piece becoming alive itself, telling you the stories it has experienced with its owner, projecting a recording of what it has seen. Jewelry isnt something that is traditionally cocreated by many people – it is something personal. So why not keep it personal and have it reflect the stories and people around its owner instead?

    • November 22, 2009 6:45 pm

      You make a very good point Ahmet, but I’m not sure if I want to embed the digital into the jewellery. I hope to create a space. A space that completely exposes the jeweller as a maker. A space that allows you to show off your skills as a jeweller, ie the final pieces, but also a space that shows the ‘behind the scences’ of a jeweller. The process, the sketches, the feelings, the prototypes.

      I want to create an exhibition that does just that. Marries the two together so you end up marketing yourself as the full package, not just someone that sits at a workbench churning out beautiful objects. But someone that is a designer. Someone that has a story to tell.

  2. November 20, 2009 4:16 pm

    i would love to read more about the article published in DesignWeek, unfortunately: “This content is only accessible to subscribers of Design Week.”
    could you upload a saved PDF page form the website or somehow another solution

    regarding the visual interpretation of this digital conversation and gathering of memories and stories, your thesis project is as well a prefect illustration of what can be done. Basically, your collections of memories and stories can agregate in a single piece of jewell collecting styles, images, and time and melting somehow more and more.
    I like very much this concept.

    People collect souvenirs and even more precious jewells from parents and grandparents in order to keep memories alive somehow as triggers to undertsand who they are and what they made off.
    But usually old jewelleries ends up fully melted in new basic precious material to rebuild a complete new piece of design, and therefore often loosing the original meaning of this gender’s history and story transmission.
    Tracks and paths forging together to build up roots on new creation can be sustained and creative too.

    • November 22, 2009 6:46 pm

      Hi Olivier,

      Thank you for your comment. My previous degree show work was about the translation of people’s memories into a single piece of jewellery, using music as a common language. The piece took on the subjects memory and relayed it back when it was worn or touched or viewed. But the piece could take on another dimension because it could interpreted by other people and take on another story/memory.

      What I want to do this time is try to promote the jeweller by merging the digital and physical. The piece of jewellery that you showcase is a representation of the jeweller and their skills etc. But how do they represent the story behind the jeweller. Taking it literally.

      Social media can act as a platform to market the jeweller as something more, more than the finished object that is on display. But what I’m hoping to achieve is to create a showcase that promotes the jeweller by presenting the physical and the digital. Therefore generating the whole story of what a jeweller is and what they can do.

      Your concept of jewellery retaining memories and stories is one that can be done without the jeweller. Jewellery passed down through generations will gather stories and memories but it is down to the keeper/wearer to interpret these and relay them to onlookers.

      Most of my work is pivoted on trying to story-tell, narrate peoples memories into contemporary pieces of jewellery that holds resonance to the wearer but can be seen as beautiful objects to any passers by.

      Your comment leaves me thinking so thank you very much.

  3. November 22, 2009 11:07 pm

    Hi Kate

    I think someone who wants, and takes the time, to have a particular piece designed will usually have a reason for it, so getting ‘their story’ into it is just as important as ‘ours’ is in the development process. I think that could be just as personal as getting tattooed, at least for me.


    • November 23, 2009 1:04 am

      Your comment resonates very highly for me! Being tattooed and having a piece of jewellery designed for you is just as permanent. Trying to involve the ‘client’ in the process is just as important.

      Makes me think that that the space that I am trying to develop should involve the wearer as well, not just the jeweller. The world of the jeweller evolves around the wearer so why not include them.

      Thank you Dougie

  4. November 25, 2009 3:30 pm


    This post has made me think… a lot!! I personally get too caught up in the looking at sources, designing and making jewellery… I hardly ever give time to thinking about issues such as the ones you are bringing up on this blog… and I should…they’re so relevant especially to today’s students/designers.

    My dissertation was on the subject of craft and the internet… looking in particular at social networking/blogging and how it benefits the craftsperson/designer. It was actually great to research…although I couldn’t find much actual information on the link between craftspeople and the internet it was very interesting to speak to people all over the world and see how enthusiastic they were about using the internet not only for promotion, but for every aspect of their work.

    As you said in the previous post, the internet is just a tool. However I think we should be learning how to use it to our advantage maybe as part of the degree course? It does advertise itself as more of a design course, but in the years I’ve been doing it we haven’t been given much help with how to go about promoting ourselves/setting up after uni. Maybe that’s still to come… but it’s halfway through my last year already…I think this is something that should be taught or at least talked about all the way through! Although we will be designers we will also be businesspeople…the course doesn’t seem to account for that. Will this be something that Vanilla Ink will address? I’d like to know more about it…

    I’m very interested in the concept of presenting both the physical and digital… wonder how this could be done without just chucking a computer next to the piece?! At the moment it seems all you can do is have a website/blog address available for people to look up after… but it would be awesome to combine both somehow. I’m interested to see if you come up with a solution for this..! I’ll be thinking about it…

    Sorry for the long and possibly off topic post…it takes me ages to say what i think!!!

    Holly (:

    • November 29, 2009 4:35 pm

      Hi Holly!

      Thanks for your comment and I’m so grateful for it and don’t apologise for the length because they are all valuable points you’re bringing up!

      It’s really hard to break the makers bubble and force yourself to outside the ‘bench’ but there is no point in chaining yourself to it if you’re not going to tell people about it or show it off. Of course there are the conventional ways of doing this. Exhibitions, craft fairs, stockists, business cards. But it doesn’t stop there and I guess your ‘traditional’ jewellers are maybe not up to speed with the potential of the internet being your FREE online marketing tool.

      Your dissertation sounds like it will be a good read. It is a very interesting topic to cover and will hopefully feed into you as a jeweller, which is always a good thing to do. Unlike me who went for body modification! Like I’ve been telling the third years, your dissertation should be another string to you bow.

      I’m glad that you have similar opinions about the course and how it should be training you to be a business person not just someone that can make jewellery. Vanilla Ink is looking to bridge this gap and teach you the other skills that are necessary to being a jeweller. I would really love to come in and tell you guys all about it. Maybe after christmas when the dissertation and christmas fair is out of the way. Would that suit?

      As for the digital Vs physical. It is something that I am researching for my designer in residence exhibition so maybe it’s a case of wait and see…

      Kate :)

  5. December 17, 2009 8:18 am

    Hey! That sounds fab, I would love to hear all about it and I bet everyone else will too. After christmas sounds good, let us know when you are free! (:


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