Dreams come true for mudlarking jewellery designer Ruth Claydon at Time and Tide exhibition debut at Pyramid Gallery

York jewellery designer Ruth Claydon mudlarking for treasure on the River Thames in London

MUDLARK Ruth Claydon’s Time and Tide collection of upcycled jewellery from treasure-seeking trips to London are on show at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York.

A mudlark is defined as “someone who fearlessly embraces the hunt for treasure on the banks of the river Thames. Come low tide, you might spot a solitary figure armed with nothing but a pair of tweezers and a small pot, kneeling by the water’s edge as the tide ebbs out”.

York jewellery designer Ruth first chanced on this pastime a few years ago when crossing Waterloo Bridge, from where she espied people milling about on the riverbanks. “As soon as I saw them, I had to check it out, dragging my poor patient friends with me down to a strangely sandy spot,” she recalls.

On discovering that the Thames is Britain’s largest archaeological site, and that all that was needed was a permit, combined with patience and tenacity, Ruth wholeheartedly embraced her desire to trawl for trash turned treasure by time.

Upcycled jewellery designed by Ruth Claydon from her mudlarking finds

“It’s hard to exactly explain the strange lure of the river, but it’s something about the tranquillity I find there,” she says.

“The new layer of history being uncovered by each tide; the joy of holding something lost for 500 years; the unexpected thrill of a rough garnet beneath the rubble; the inevitable poignancy of all that goodness being quickly submerged once again by the incoming tide; the slight sense of danger; the closeness to nature; seeing London from a unique angle, and not least the fascinating characters I encounter down on the foreshore.”

Ruth designs jewellery under the label of Moth and Magpie, the magpie being known for its habit of bringing shiny bits and bobs back to its nest. “She loves incorporating her mudlarking finds into her designs, which she has been doing gradually, but this is the first exhibition where she’s devoted the entire collection to her obsession,” says Pyramid Gallery owner and curator Terry Brett.

“It’s an obvious progression from her signature use of salvaged and ancient materials used in her previous work, where each piece is made from preloved jewellery merged with ancient treasures and heirloom finds.”

“It’s hard to exactly explain the strange lure of the river, but it’s something about the tranquillity I find there,” says Ruth Claydon, pictured on one of her riverbank mudlarking sessions in London

Ruth says: “Planning a special exhibition incorporating mudlarked treasures for Pyramid Gallery is pretty much a dream come true. There are few established galleries that would take a risk with such niche designs, but then Pyramid does enjoy delighting customers with the unexpected.”

Terry Brett, a visionary gallerist who is unafraid to take risks, has embraced Ruth’s quirky work, championing her by not only giving her this first show and launching her career with a special exhibition, but also by being a mentor.

“I’d never have thought of tea staining my labels to match my jewellery. That was a brainwave of Terry’s,” she says. “It’s that level of attention to detail that makes all the difference.”

Fiona MacFarlane, who manages Pyramid Gallery, equally has played a huge part in nurturing Ruth’s practice. “Not only did I have the privilege of working alongside her for many years, but Fiona’s input has been invaluable,” says Ruth. “She’s always giving me ideas about what to make next and displaying my pieces in the most artful ways.

“It’s newer ground for me that makes my heart beat faster,” says Ruth Claydon of her Time and Tide jewellery-designs, crafted from her mudlarking discoveries

“I’ve called this show Time and Tide, after the two original craftsmen for this body of work, using pieces that in themselves are worth nothing, like fragments of copper, which I’ve formed into beads and soldered with real gold solder. I love the high-low contrast and the patina that the river has created on the ancient metal.”

Expect the unexpected, she advises. Such as? Rough garnets from the Thames set amid 100 per cent recycled sterling silver; distressed metal patinated to perfection by time and tide, then shaped into unique beads; salvaged copper wire crafted into rustic bangles. 

“I’ve been making under the name Moth and Magpie for years. The name is descriptive of the style of jewellery I love to craft, all bohemian and intricate, but this new collection is something differently. A coming of age, if you will,” says Ruth.

“Melted and mended metal, fire and gold and silver, a rustic, simple and edgy aesthetic. It’s newer ground for me that makes my heart beat faster, pieces I’m loathe to part with because I want them for myself. It’s my hope that authenticity and excitement shines through in every piece.” 

Ruth Claydon at work creating her jewellery

Summing up Ruth’s work and artistic progression, Terry says: “I’ve known Ruth since 2008, at which point she was an artist making handmade cards, small pictures, and was experimenting with turning found objects into art and jewellery.

“To me, she was a natural artist with a great sense of humour and style that was a mix of pre-Raphaelite and slightly gothic. All she needed at that time was an outlet and some encouragement. So, she came to work in the gallery and got involved with displaying and selling. I knew that the gallery would gain much if we could harness her natural talent and her quirky and flamboyant style.”

Terry continues: “Every piece of jewellery she makes has a name that reflects the origins of the ‘found’ elements or just her own imagination that is informed by something historical or exotic. The words that she types out onto information cards, using an old typewriter, are almost as important to the customer as the item of jewellery that she is describing.

“The ‘mudlarking’ was a natural progression for Ruth. She is now incorporating artefacts that you simply wouldn’t find at a car-boot sale. Somehow, she makes old corroded bits of metal into precious artefacts and tells or gives them a story.”

Ruth Claydon’s Time and Tide exhibition will run until “at least the end of October”.

Finders, keepers, or not in the case of Ruth Claydon, who makes jewellery pieces “I’m loathe to part with because I want them for myself”, she says, but part with them she must at her Time and Tide exhibition at Pyramid Gallery, York

Ruth Claydon’s Free Spirit jewellery collection goes on show at Kentmere House Gallery from Thursday evening

Bridge Over Troubled Water, jewellery, by Ruth Claydon

IN a new venture at Kentmere House Gallery, York, Ruth Claydon’s jewellery show will be launched on Thursday (22/7/2021) from 6pm to 9pm.

York designer Claydon’s Free Spirit collection will be complemented by the sensitive and intricate paintings of York Minster by Susan Brown, the gallery’s resident artist from West Yorkshire.

On display too will be work by the regular stable of artists at Ann Petherick’s gallery in Scarcroft Hill, as well as artists’ prints.

“It’s the perfect match for a gallery selling original art, as each of Ruth’s pieces is completely unique, made using mud-larking finds and interesting artefacts, along with her own vintage and pre-loved jewellery gathered over the years,” says Ann.

York Minster, window detail, mixed media, by Susan Brown

Claydon’s Free Spirit collection is a creative collaboration with Conscious Apparel, an ethical clothing brand launched in York last year. Prices for her jewellery range from £38 to £128.

“I’ve always wanted to design in response to a clothing range,” says Ruth. “What makes this such an appropriate match is that all of the clothing is ethically produced, and some of their dresses are also crafted from upcycled sari fabric and thus completely unique.”

“At Thursday’s launch, customers have a chance to view and try on the jewellery at the same time as seeing the gallery’s range of original art, with prices from £150,” says Ann. “And with Simon & Garfunkel playing, in a nod to one of Ruth’s paintings being called Bridge Over Troubled Water, what could make for a better evening?!”

Regular opening hours at Kentmere House Gallery, 53, Scarcroft Hill, York, are: every Thursday, 6pm to 9pm; first weekend of each month, Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 5pm. “But we are happy to be open anytime, although we suggest ringing in advance, on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825, if you are travelling any distance. Or you can take a chance on ringing the bell if you are passing.”

Cluster, jewellery, by Ruth Claydon

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY TWENTY

Gin Anyone? A sketch for our times by Geraldine “Geri” Bilbrough

TODAY should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying safe at home. Tomorrow too.

This is not a call for a foolhardy Trumpian dropping of the guard on Covid-19, but a forlorn wish that York Open Studios 2020 could have been just that: York Open Studios. Instead, this weekend and next weekend will be York Shut Studios.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the opportunity to meet 144 artists at 100 locations, banished by the Coronavirus lockdown, CharlesHutchPress is determinedly championing the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios are being given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home and studio addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead. Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Furthermore, look out for plenty of the 144 artists still showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online. Holtby studio painter Kate Pettitt, for example, is penning a daily blog at facebook.com/katepettittartist/. “Visit the YOS website and take your own virtual tour at yorkopenstudios.co.uk,” she advises.

Fran Brammer: Founder member of York Textile Artists

Fran Brammer, textiles

FRAN left behind Worcestershire for Yorkshire to teach art and design, then textiles, until succumbing to the allure of a historical costume-making course.

She now works as a textile artist and tutor, specialising in personal landscapes “drawn” using freehand machine stitching that she produces for sale, exhibitions or private commissions.

“My work is created by building, then cutting away layers of found fabrics and stitching,” says Fran. “The images explore individual experiences and histories both large and small.” 

In her teaching capacity, she hosts workshops, demonstrations and talks focusing on freehand machine work and creative textiles.

“The images explore individual experiences and histories both large and small,” says Fran Brammer of her textile work

Fran, a founder member of York Textile Artists, writes on her latest blog: “If you are a bored creative, feeling a bit isolated and frustrated, try out the York Textile Artists public Facebook page.

“We are planning to post challenges and projects for you to get involved with, some as daft as a brush, others more proper and ‘textiley’. If you don’t do Facebook, go on to our website, yorktextileartists.com, and sign up for newsletter. We have plans.”

As for how Fran’s artwork is responding to the Coronavirus shutdown, she writes: “All of the current pieces are tied to opportunities lost due to social distancing…so time to start anew and work with the restrictions.

“This has no deadline, no purpose or goal, it just is. It is about being in the landscape, about being alone with that landscape and how perception shifts, given time and space. Interpretation and response rather than fact.” Read more at franbramm.wordpress.com.

Geraldine Bilbrough at work on an illustration

Geraldine Bilbrough, illustration

INSPIRED by music, film, stories and human emotions, using pencil and sometimes watercolour, before re-touching digitally, Geraldine tries to capture beauty and feeling within her thought-provoking images.

This York illustrator and designer has been drawing all her life and considers art her biggest passion, creating detailed illustrations, often based around portraiture with an occasional hint of fantasy.

A portrait by Geraldine Bilbrough

“I enjoy nothing more than finding inspiration for new work and discussing ideas with other creatives,” her website profile says. “When I’m not drawing, I love to travel and explore new places, eat my way around cafés and restaurants, visit art galleries and learn French.” Learning French will have to hold sway for now, but roll on a return to those other joys, Geraldine, whenever that day may come.

2020 would have marked her York Open Studios debut. Cast an eye over geraldinebilbrough.com.

“The thing about jewellery is that it’s never practical,” says Ruth Claydon

Ruth Claydon, jewellery

HOW would Ruth Claydon sum up her jewellery? “Old, found, turned around,” she says, picking the title Moth And Magpie for her brand of re-purposed cast-offs mixed with ancient treasures, in acknowledgement of how her instincts match both.

“My ideal Magpie-upcycler scenario is discovering a vintage or antique piece of jewellery and taking it back to my studio whilst I’m still giddy with excitement to create new jewellery from it straight away,” she says on her mothandmagpie.com blog.

Sharp-eyed Ruth sees the potential in re-working cast-off old jewellery, making a virtue of the unwanted by merging it with heirlooms and ancient finds such as salvaged Roman glass beads and metals. In doing so, she makes old into new, modern designs, enhanced by techniques such as hammering, melting and enamelling.

“Old, found, turned around”: Ruth Claydon’s definition of her jewellery

“Because the thing about jewellery is that it’s never practical,” her blog contends. “It’s not about what will ‘do’. You absolutely have to love it. It’s emotional. It’s the icing on the cake. It’s as personal as perfume. It’s about how it looks, but even more it’s about how it makes you feel.”

A light carbon footprint sparks joy for Ruth. “Because I want to wear things that have also made other women feel special,” she says. “Because I want to create value from individuality, exclusivity from design, and if an Elizabeth Taylor diamond winks at me across a room, I can twinkle right back knowing that pinning down my glamour is as complex as the history entwined in the piece I am wearing.”

Find out more at mothandmagpie.com.

Jacqueline James with her large and sturdy Swedish floor loom

Jacqueline James, textiles

JACQUELINE creates one-of-a-kind, custom-dyed, hand-woven rugs and wall hangings, mainly contemporary in style, using natural and durable materials in geometric patterns and stripe rhythms.

Born in Dumfries, Scotland, she grew up in the Pacific Northwest, USA, before moving to York in 1982. From 1985 to 1988, she studied woven textile design and construction at Harrogate College of Art and Technology, where she focused on rug weaving.

In 1989, Jacqueline established her weaving studio in York, since when her textile work for commission and exhibition has blended traditional techniques with contemporary design style.

“Everything is made by hand on my large and sturdy Swedish floor loom,” she says. “Inspiration for new designs comes from everywhere, especially all the colours and patterns I see in nature, landscapes and architecture.”

Geometric patterns by Jacqueline James

Jacqueline’s work is in public and private collections in Britain and North America and her major commissions include weaving for York Minster, Westminster Abbey and the British Library. “I particularly enjoy designing and weaving bespoke commissioned work from private clients, interior designers, architects and places of worship,” she says. 

“For me, weaving is a lifestyle occupation which gives me a great sense of purpose. I adore the tactile qualities and the rich colours of the threads I use and find the action of weaving very engaging. 

“Rug weaving is the perfect vehicle for my visual interpretation and expression. As a rug weaver, I feel privileged being part of the international weaving community and continuing an important heritage craft tradition.” Discover more at handwovenrugs.co.uk.

Jean Drysdale: Designing sculptural objects, wall pieces and items to wear

Jean Drysdale, textiles

JEAN has worked in felt textiles since leaving modern language teaching in 2007.

“I was drawn firstly by the apparent simplicity of a process that produces wonderful results,” she says.  “Then I looked further, researching the great history, breadth and the depth of the felt-making tradition.”

In 2011, she completed a City and Guilds course and since then she has developed her felt-making process to create highly textured sculptural objects, wall pieces and items to wear.

Textile with style: The work of Jean Drysdale

“Now I delight in achieving a contemporary result through use of wide-ranging and ever-evolving techniques,” says Jean. “I work with unspun sheep’s wool fibre, ranging from British and European rare breeds to fine Australian merino. The felting process bonds the wool with silks and other natural fibres.”

She likes to explore texture, form and colour. “I use traditional and contemporary wet-felting and hand-dyeing techniques and enjoy contrasting colours which migrate and transform during the process,” says Jean, who has exhibited in York, Leeds, North Yorkshire and Scotland, including at Helmsley Arts Centre and Kunsthuis Gallery at The Dutch House, Crayke. More info at jdrysdalefelt.co.uk.

 TOMORROW: Harriet McKenzie; Harriette Rymer; Steve Williams; Sam Jones and Gerard Hobson.