Wearable optical toys: How Victorian devices influenced a contemporary jewellery maker

Back in January I was doing research into Victorian Optical Devices for my degree show work at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. I had chosen to base my jewellery collection on Victorian optical devices and combine them with song lyrics to produce what I refer to as ‘Wearable Optical Toys’.

At the time I only knew a little about these intriguing devices and wanted to gain more insight into how they were made, what materials they are made from and how they worked. I contacted the National Museum of Scotland in the hope that they could help me out in some way.

I was lucky enough to get in contact with curator Tacye Phillipson. She gave me some background information on some of these devices, many of which I had no prior knowledge of. Tacye then arranged for me to visit the museum stores and view some of these items.

Curator Julie Orford was kind enough to show me around. Being able to examine these items up close and actually see how they are made was not only fascinating but also invaluable to my design work, allowing me to translate these optical devices into wearable objects.

Here are a few photographs from my visit to the museum stores.

Peep show
Peep show
Peep egg
Peep egg

After my visit I set about designing for my degree show collection. Here are some pictures of some of the items I came up with.

Zoetrope Ring Stands (2012)
Zoetrope Ring Stands (2012). Based on the song ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’ by The Mission. Tops are spun to animate butterflies inside. Rings are removable and can be worn.
Phenakistoscope Spinning brooch (2012)
Phenakistoscope Spinning brooch (2012). Again based on the song ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’ by The Mission. Spin wheels in opposite directions to animate butterflies.
Peep Show Brooches (2012)
Peep Show Brooches (2012). Based on the song ‘Through Glass’ By Stone Sour.
Peep Show Brooches (2012)
Peep Show Brooches (2012). Peep Show has three separate brooches.

Without being able to visit the museum and actually get to see these optical devices I think I would not have been able to fully appreciate how these objects worked and I am very thankful to both Tacye and Julie for being so helpful. My visit also helped to affirm that a career in a Museum is something I would like to pursue.

If you are interested in seeing more of my work the Duncan of Jordanstone Art School Degree show opening night is 18 May from 6pm-9pm. And there after the Degree show is open until 27 May. Please come along and see some amazing creations. You can find out more at the Duncan of Jordanstone Degree Show website and also at my blog.

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