One of the UK’s most innovative jewellers, Barbara Tipple has won multiple awards in a career spanning more than three decades – her artistry focuses on both organic forms and unusual material combinations. Absolutely Weddings meets a true original
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]arbara Tipple won her first award in 1973 when she was still a college student – and it was a very big deal indeed, catapulting a young woman from Hampshire into the public eye and instantaneously giving her a reputation in international fine jewellery circles. At the age of 22, Barbara was touchingly naïve about how big a deal this was: “It was the Diamonds-International Award and I was still a student at Hornsey Art College. De Beers and Harry Oppenheimer were involved – I was very provincial and simply didn’t know who they were”.
While she may have been naïve about the fine jewellery industry, Barbara did know from quite early on that she wanted to be an artist. Born and raised in Hampshire, she attended Portsmouth College of Art – originally with a view to being a portrait painter. Her first major inspiration was found in the galleries of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the great treasure house of the decorative arts. She was particularly inspired by the Japanese artistry at the V&A, as well as some of the more random but beautiful objects – armour and objects in bronze. But it was the museum’s exhibition of the work of Austrian-born London jewellery Gerda Flöckinger in 1971 that inspired Barbara to train as a jeweller.
Winning her first major prize opened doors, but she turned her back on a career with Graff after a number of years because the kind of jewellery she wanted to create was something a bit different. Her love of natural and organic forms inspired her approach, which is to work with both precious and unusual materials. Many of her pieces seem impossibly complex – her who’s who in the Goldsmiths’ Directory describes them as “tortuously difficult” to create, while Lucia van der Post in the Financial Times has described aspects of her work with jewels and metals as: “monumental”.
She travels the world in search of inspiration and unusual gemstones. Having won the Diamonds International Award now three times, she is a past master with precious stones. But she also loves high quality gems that are less commonly seen, such as tourmaline and spinel, or unusual combinations such as diamonds with moonstones. Barbara is passionate about the possibilities, especially when she finds a really unusual stone, but it is never about its value in isolation (and certainly not the ‘bling’ factor), but the possibilities when it is combined with metals and other stones.
Her Mayfair store has a workshop downstairs where her equally talented husband David Ward – a renowned Master Goldsmith – works with her to realise the final vision for each piece. At first glance, some of these pieces look deceptively simple, but there is always a level of intricate workmanship that tests the limits of artistry and demonstrates Barbara’s continued desire to blur the line between fine art and fine jewellery.
Barbara Tipple: awards and recognition
- Diamonds-International Award, 1973, 1984, 1998
- Goldsmiths’ Craft Council London Annual Awards, 1993
- Special collections De Beers and World Gold Council, 1994
- Membership Diamonds-International Academy, 1998
- Diamonds: Nature’s Miracle Award, 2004
Barbara Tipple, 1b Albemarle Street, London W1. barbaratipple.co.uk
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