Meet the designer: an interview with Frances Wadsworth Jones

by Cecily Motley on

Meet Frances Wadsworth Jones. She’s a designer, academic, artist, and a multi-disciplinary talent who has mastered execution on all scales. She has challenged our assumptions about pearls, about humour in jewellery and what it means to be able to express an idea in different forms. We spoke to Frances about her brilliantly irreverent new collection, “Screw You”.

In her last blog, she gave us an insight into what it’s like to be a woman in the Jewellery industry. This one’s devoted to the Screw You collection...

When did you start working with pearls, and what drew you to them? 

I have been working with pearls for a long time now - in fact, they have been the basis of a number of my collections. I love to take tradition and use it to play with expectations. Because pearls are usually so ‘well behaved’, it is very easy to surprise people. I also find them very beautiful.

Why do you think pearls have held onto their prim and proper rep for all these years?

Because of their beauty and, until relatively recently, their rarity and expense, we are used to seeing pearls as a string that involves very little by way of design. This makes them classic but it also makes them ‘safe’. They also largely live in our consciousness as heirlooms, often worn by an older generation that we think of as (whether it is true or not) old fashioned and more conservative than ourselves. I do think this perception is changing though.

What does your creative process look like? Are you big on moodboards and sketches, or do you build on a specific reference point? 

Moodboards have never worked for me. I think this is because my collections tend to come from an idea rather than a particular look. It is all quite cerebral until I start to design and then sketching becomes a huge part of the process. The design will often keep developing as I begin to work with and learn from the materials.

You use screws throughout your Motley collection. Why did you pick them? 

Women are often told what it is to be feminine, so combining a pearl with a traditionally masculine motif like a piece of hardware seemed like a way of challenging that. I love creating narrative and to screw through a pearl seemed like a suitably irreverent gesture.

If you could own any famous pearl, which would you pick?

Vermeer's pearl earring

Who’s your favourite rebellious female figure, dead or alive? 

My straight talking, cartwheeling, Ducati riding, lawyer of a mother.

Who, or what, do you wish you could say ‘Screw You’ to?

Sadly, there are many irresponsible people in positions of extreme power that I would dearly love to say ‘Screw You’ to right now.

I think being rebellious is all about confidence and conviction. What makes you feel confident, no matter the day or mood?

Being prepared to fail and knowing that if you do, it really doesn’t matter. 

There’s a global pandemic-shaped elephant in the room. Has it impacted your creative juices?

It hasn't impacted my creativity but it has impacted my ability to actually make work. I desperately miss my studio but also know that the best way I can help right now is to stay at home. In the meantime I find my creativity is spilling out in other ways.

It’s a tough time for creatives. Have you got any tips on how people can support small independent creative business or cultural institutions?

Right now we are all just trying to get by, whether we are creatives or not. I think the really important thing is to think about how we can support small businesses and cultural institutions when this is all over and in the long term. The choices of how and what we buy will be even more important.

The jewellery industry is very traditional and in desperate need of a shakeup. Do you think things are changing fast enough?

In short, no. 

What’s the first thing would you save in a fire?

My husband! 

What do you throw into the flames?

My phone

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