The body is an amazing fleshy vessel to inhabit. Interview with Rachael Colley by Klimt02

Interview  /  Artists
Published: 12.10.2021
Rachael Colley Rachael Colley
Edited by:
Edited at:
Rachael Colley. Pendant: Sha-green, 2021. Citrus fruit peel, sintered aluminium, fabric cord.. 5.5 x 2.5 x 46 cm. Photo by: Rachael Colley. Rachael Colley
Pendant: Sha-green, 2021
Citrus fruit peel, sintered aluminium, fabric cord.
5.5 x 2.5 x 46 cm
Photo by: Rachael Colley
© By the author. Read Copyright.

My work enables me to communicate facets of the physical challenges I face and re-frame them by presenting them back onto the body as contemporary jewellery.
Tell us about your background. What were your first influences to be creative and become an artist and what has drawn you to contemporary jewellery?
I've always loved the outdoors. Exploring nature, going on walks and collecting organic materials, are some of my earliest memories of feeling and being creative. I remember, as a child, preferring to play on my own, spending time gathering feathers, crushing up rocks, making mud pies and searching for conkers.
I'm fascinated by the body as a site for exploration - it's an amazing fleshy vessel to inhabit. Much of my work is underpinned by my own bodily experiences, as a sufferer of the auto-immune disease systemic sclerosis. My work enables me to communicate facets of the physical challenges I face and re-frame them by presenting them back onto the body as contemporary jewellery.

What are your general thoughts on the contemporary jewellery world, (education, market, development...), where do you see chances and where are dead ends?
The contemporary jewellery world is full of fantastic possibilities – it's an exciting world to be a part of as it becomes increasingly more global in its reach and outlook. I have seen very inspiring work from artists based in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. By comparison, the UK market feels conservative and relatively restrained, very much on the periphery of the contemporary jewellery world. However, I acknowledge that there's also an interesting challenge presented in that position, which I'm aiming to explore and question through my creative practice. 

Thinking about your career, what role do technology and the digital play in your artistic development & communication?
Sha-green jewellery series has been developing since 2018 and in its most recent iterations, the denatured citrus fruit peel has been encapsulated in sintered aluminium frames and laser-welded in position. The sintered frames secure the material in place, which helps prevent damage and warping, an issue that affects the untreated citrus fruit peel material. A range of other attachment methods have been explored; however, the sintered aluminium frames complement the material well, in their structural strength and light-weight wearability.
Gordon Jones of explains that "Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), also called selective laser sintering (SLS), is a type of additive metal manufacturing or 3D printing." Designs are created using specialist computer-aided design software and saved as a stereolithography file (STL) ready to be processed for sintering in metal. The DMLS manufacturing process programs a support structure from the build plate, from which the components are secured in position. It's possible to select different build support structures (round, cross-hatched, etc) and to shift and change the position and orientation of components on the build plate. Each layer of metal powder is sintered (welded together) by the laser and then another layer is added and the process repeated, thus creating the component over time. After the process has been completed, the remaining metal powder is removed and recycled, to be used again in the next build.
In the development of the Sha-green series, I had the opportunity to experiment with the build support structure. Instead of concealing the manufacturing process, I enjoyed highlighting it as a design detail, making a feature of these 'witness marks' and showcasing the ways in which the randomly placed cylindrical supports complimented the surface texture and pattern of the citrus fruit peel.

How has your work changed over the past few years and what are you excited about these days? 
My work has had the space and time to develop over the past few years since I started working part-time at Sheffield Hallam University in 2017. The institution has supported my research and this encouragement has seen my creative practice gain momentum.
I have been consistently aiming to draw together the strands of my practice across cutlery, jewellery and sculpture, all of which are underpinned by the connecting thread of food. I wish to work towards holding more interactive events where the public are invited to participate by wearing and using the pieces (Covid permitting).
I recently gained grant funding from Goldsmiths' Centre in London to undertake training and mentoring with a range of Sheffield based metalwork masters. I'm excited to receive such excellent specialist support and hope that this Career Catalyst Grant enables me to develop a new body of work and forge ahead into the future.