Jan 7, 2010 1:03 PM
In celebration of the new William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery in the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Cherry on the Cake Collection brings together contemporary designers to interpret special items from V&A's Collections as modern limited editions. The entire endeavor sounds very British in its pomp and prestige, but without it, we would've never known about the revolutionary bead work of Clara Francis. Her Spitalfields Necklace ($640) caught our eye and held us captive with marvelous woven peyote, tubular peyote and brick stitches. The equally playful Fox Necklace ($225) and Bird in Hoop Earrings ($210) are perfectly refreshing and a tad more reasonably priced. She manages to capture the whimsy of friendship bracelet and lanyard child's play while achieving something extraordinarily sophisticated. Even her understated storybook style website adds to her charmingly eccentric air. Visionary work like this makes us want to damn stranded bead necklaces to hell and turn headstrong into uncharted jewelry territory, and this is why she's made our Top of the Pops 2010.
From one airy material to the next, the Spitalfields Necklace is named for its silken inspiration from the Spitalfields district in London, where the silk and textile industry ruled the school. Francis specifically looked to the the watercolor template of this Spitafields pattern designed by the late great Anna Maria Garthwaite (1690-1763) to create her work. Of course, the most extensive Spitafields collections are across the pond, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago boast some impressive examples of this alluring vintage silk.