Joanna Harris MacNeil is an established jewellery designer who works extensively with enamel.
We interviewed Joanna to find out a bit more about her practice and what inspires her designs.
What led you to start making jewellery?
I was living in London about to start a Phd in Genetics when, with 6 months to wait I did a gemology course with Gem A in the UK. I met jewellers, they invited me into their studios and recommended a jewellery making course. I was hooked.
What has been your educational path?
Science mostly for years but in 2008/9 I did a Diploma in jewellery at London Metropolitan University, following that a 2 year Diploma at NMIT in Melbourne and currently I am ¾ of the way through a Masters in Visual Art (Gold and Silversmithing) at ANU.
Do you derive your inspiration from a particular source?
My eyes, my hands, the process of enamelling and fabrication and the part of the world that I inhabit at the time of making.
What is your creative process? Do you start with drawing, an object, an image, make models…
All of the above at different times but I do find that a little time spent really looking at the world around me stimulates ideas. I often start with a drawing and if it’s a really new design I make a model to see how it all fits together.
What led you to the technique of enamelling?
While I was studying in London I was lucky enough to be taught by Joan MacKarrel. I’ve been experimenting ever since.
What brand of enamels do you use?
I use Thomson lead free enamels when I use opaques. Barbara Ryman recently introduced me to Japanese Ninomya transparents.
Could you tell us more about the techniques you use in enamelling?
I mainly work with opaque enamels. If I sift enamels I build up layers and grind them back until I achieve the result that I want. If I paint with enamel I use a variety of brushes, pencils and quill pens to draw on the enamel surface.
You employ a limited colour palette in your enamelled pieces, why do you choose these colours?
The body of work that I have was inspired by a visit to the grave of my Great Grandfather in France. I was surprised by my emotional response to this and as a result created enamel pieces that are intended to evoke poppies, trenches and simple hand stitching. There is a hole, a piece missing from each item that I make, this represents for me the effect that the death of my Grandfather had on my family for generations.
How has your work evolved since you began?
I began making flowers and setting stones. My idea of jewellery has broadened significantly since then and my work is more geometric and a bit abstract. Having said that I do paint flowers sometimes.
Has chance ever played a role in your work?
What is your studio like? Do you work alone or share a space?
My studio is in a semi-converted double garage at home. I work alone. I find it hard to concentrate when other people are about, they are always doing interesting things that distract me.
Which jewellery artists do you admire and why?
Jessica Turrell is a truly experimental British enamel artist whose work I have always admired. Barbara Ryman is an Australian enamel artist, also with an experimental bent, whose work, love of learning and willingness to share knowledge is inspiring.
What are you planning to explore in future work?
I would love to make my own enamels. This would appeal to both the scientist and the enamellist in me.