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It is well worth the trip if only to see the centrepiece of the collection, the most magnificent and extraordinary model of The Sheldonian Theatre which was created by Vicki Ambery-Smith to mark the 350th anniversary of the theatre’s construction.

Oxford glistens in gold!

Esther Lafferty reviews a series of exhibitions focusing on the work of particularly exciting and notable goldsmiths and silversmiths at Woldstone in Woodstock
"There are only selected pieces on show at Woldstone including a Radcliffe Camera brooch and napkin rings inspired by the University College and St John’s College"

Woldstone, Oxfordshire’s only dedicated contemporary jewellery and silverware gallery in Woodstock, has been working with international designer-makers who create sensational top-end pieces to wear close to your heart and gently building a reputation for excellence here in Oxfordshire.

Named from wold (n. field, open countryside) and stone (n. piece of rock; this shaped or polished; precious stone), this gallery brings the brilliance of the world’s most precious gems to this Cotswold town. Now, 18 months after first opening the doors, Director Bronwen Jameson is introducing a series of monthly Spotlight exhibitions to focus on the work of particularly exciting and notable goldsmiths and silversmiths and showcase particular elements of their ethos and talent. And so, for December, visitors can see the designs of three contemporary goldsmiths Catherine Mannheim, Sarah Pulvertaft, and Vicki Ambery-Smith, who bring together their diverse approaches for this exhibition.

Catherine uses traditional techniques with warm gold and hand-picked gemstones often creating a deliberately-imperfect geometry that, rather than having a rigidly fixed design from the outset, has evolved in the making process. Look out for, in this exhibition, sliced aquamarine in hexagonal flowers that are hinged so they dance beneath the ear. Contrasting with this organic flow, Sarah’s intricate pieces in silver and gold, which are carefully created in her Charlbury studio, incorporate rows of kinetic elements; her signature is the movement and form of the apparently rippling or undulating surfaces.

It is however the Oxford-inspired work of renowned architectural silversmith Vicki Ambery-Smith that immediately catches my eye. There’s a good reason why she has an international reputation for her unique style of jewellery and silverware: each of her trademark pieces is based on architecture and these minatures take your breath away.

The pieces on show in Woodstock are from a collection Vicki created to celebrate Oxford’s landmark buildings. She spent her childhood here, cycling daily past Oxford’s striking cityscape and she returns regularly. This intricate series is perhaps particularly meaningful therefore, giving an insight into the original inspiration for her architectural leanings and her trademark style. ‘Growing up,’ smiles Vicki, ‘I thought I would be an architect and theatre designer and now I would say I am a theatrical architect!’

There are only selected pieces on show at Woldstone including a Radcliffe Camera brooch and napkin rings inspired by the University College and St John’s College, and hanging Christmas decorations of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on The High. However, it is well worth the trip if only to see the centrepiece of the collection, the most magnificent and extraordinary model of The Sheldonian Theatre which was created by Vicki to mark the 350th anniversary of the theatre’s construction.

This exhibition runs from 6th December-24th December at Woldstone, 25 Oxford Street, Woodstock. For more details visit woldstone.com.

- Esther Lafferty

 

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