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Jewellery & Metal Alumni Go Digital on Crafts for the Sir John Soane Museum

Royal College of Art Jewellery & Metal alumni have created a series of pieces for the Sir John Soane Museum as part of a competition to enhance digital techniques in craft.

Designs, including a nostril-shaped fragrance dispenser and a light that appears to levitate, by alumni Michael Hurley, Hannah Louise Pittman, Haidée Drew, Molly Perrin, Max Warren, Maria Militsi and design duo Schram & Sandhu, will be on show in the London museum from 4 to 22 November. The seven winning pieces were chosen by an expert panel for their imaginative approach to the brief, and innovative reinterpretation of traditional techniques.

The competition, conceived by RCA Jewellery & Metalwork tutors Birgit Schmidt and Silvia Weidenbach, set out to marry the processes of hands-on craftsmanship with the latest digital technologies, and offer a prestigious platform for a new generation of jewellery designer-makers to showcase their hybrid contemporary designs.

As part of the brief, 3D scanning specialist Quod scanned the museum's bust of Sir John Soane using hand-held equipment, before 3D printing and digitally fragmenting it. The fragmented pieces were then used as the starting point for the creation of a new object created by RCA Jewellery & Metal alumni through the programme’s ‘Thinking Digital’ initiative led by Schmidt and Weidenbach.  The digital fragments, 3D printed in various materials, were given to the designer-makers who re-interpreted them into a range of products to be displayed and sold in the museum’s shop. The result was a series of playful interpretations and curious craft pieces.

Designer Michael Hurley teamed up with fragrance consultant Marianne Martin to turn his fragment from Sir John Soane’s nose into a nose-shaped atomiser that delivers a scent via the nostrils, while jewellery and sculptural designer Hannah Louise Pittman’s starting point was a section from the bridge of the nose. Her piece, Who Knows Soane Nose unveils Soane’s family secrets within a scroll hidden inside the fragment, allowing the owner to be ‘nosey’ about Soane’s family history. The scrolls sets out an extract from a damning article Soane’s son wrote about his architect father in the newspaper The Champion.

Haidée Drew has used the angular fragment of Soane’s collar to create an unconventional vase that rests against a wall and holds a single flower, and designer Molly Perrin has created a decorative piece for the home by installing a small LED light under her thin fragment from the centre of the bust, giving the illusion of levitation.

Max Warren used his fragment in to create a traditional and antique-inspired hairbrush, while design duo Schram & Sandhu have created a graphic tea towel using their pieces from the bust and fragmenting the same sections from a portrait of Soane.

Maria Militsi has recreated her fragment in a piece of wood, washed up from the shore of the River Thames. Combining traditional narrative with digital technology, she takes inspiration from Soane’s design for a bridge across the Thames that won the Royal Academy Gold Medal in 1776. Militsi has imprinted her fragment into the wood representing the scattered pieces of the bridge that could have, if constructed, once proudly transported people across the river. A Triumphal Bridge and a Boating Trip to Greenwich in 1776 by Maria Militsi is a one-off artwork that will be on sale in the Soane Museum shop.

The judging panel included Heal’s Head of Fabric and Design Pia Benham; jewellery designers Lara Bohinc, and Shaun Leane and Ben Rowe from House of Shaun Leane; curator of applied arts Sarah Griffin; artist and 3D printing expert Adam Lowe; Anna Rigby, Head of Buying, Home Accessories & Gifts, Textiles and Carpets for John Lewis; and journalist and luxury expert Lucia van der Post, selected the winning designers.

The work stemming from the competition will be exhibited at the Sir John Soane Museum from 4 to 22 November 2014. The winning designs can be purchased from the Soane Museum shop from 4 November onwards.