Jewellery designer Jane Gowans is Dundee’s latest discovery

Dundee based jewellery designer Jane Gowans. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
By Ruth Walker

PERHAPS most famous as the city that built and is now the final resting place of Captain Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic exploration ship Discovery,
Dundee has been the butt of many a joke. But if you haven’t been paying attention, you might not have noticed it is undergoing something of a renaissance.
Perhaps most exciting is the fact the V&A chose this city (pop 150,000) not the more obvious fashionable destinations of Edinburgh or Glasgow as the site for its first outpost outside London. A dramatic dockside space that will showcase Scottish design as well as provide a venue for major international touring exhibitions, work is due to begin on the building next year, with an opening date set for 2015.

The project has brought a new confidence to the city’s creatives, and people like Hayley Scanlan, billed by Vogue as the country’s “coolest young designer”, and worn by the likes of Marina Diamandis and Erin O’Connor, are proud to wave the flag for Dundee.

Jeweller Jane Gowans is part of that new breed of successful, home-grown, home-based talent.I’m Dundonian by birth so it’s very exciting to see the development over the last couple of years,she says.It really has come into its own. Having graduates such as Hayley – seeing them do well and having ambition all seeps into that.

The 26-year-old Duncan of Jordanstone graduate insists that, as a result, there is no longer the need for young designers to make the long, expensive journey to London to seek their fortune.

With social media, you’re never that far away,she says.I like to visit London and I have PR and marketing there, but one of the things that inspires me is to stay here and be successful from Dundee. Also, from a financial point of view, the overheads aren’t as high, so it makes business sense too.

Having graduated in 2009, her work is for sale across the UK, as well as in Dundee Contemporary Arts. It recently also took a high profile slot in Edinburgh’s Harvey Nichols as part of the store’s Great Scots celebration, alongside Jonathan Saunders, Christopher Kane, Holly Fulton and William Chambers. Quite an achievement considering she didn’t know what area of fashion she wanted to focus on when she started art school.

Jewellery wasn’t necessarily the set path,she says,but I always wanted to be creative. I was interested in fine art, illustration, textiles, even graphic design. Then I was advised that ‘If you want to work three-dimensionally, jewellery is a really good way to go.’ That’s what inspired me most that tactile, constructed approach.”

In those early days, her inspiration was not necessarily jewellers, but those who had built successful businesses, such as Jonathan Saunders and Holly Fulton, “people who had taken that Scottish talent and made something happen with it.

Working with silver and gold vermeil (18ct gold-plated silver), and with semi precious stones (in the future it would be great to work towards a higher luxe product,she says), she finds excitement in the everyday. Her last collection, Geology Rocks,was all about the Scottish landscape and rock structures and naturally occurring forms, but adding an element of the extraordinary to make it more exciting.

Her most recent Captain’s Collection, which will be on general sale in January, was inspired by an old photograph of her grandfather when he was in the Royal Navy. “I wanted to look at the tools of his trade, how I could link that with what I do now as a maker. So I started looking at things like compasses and ropes and things that would be their everyday tools.

What could have ended up looking chunky and heavy instead has a fine delicacy about it.I want it to be wearable,says Gowans.I always have the customer in mind and I like to create something that’s minimal but still striking to look at.

So, what kind of jewellery does the jeweller wear? She giggles.I don’t wear anything. I’m either in the workshop, or in my spare time we’re building a house so I’m up to my knees in mud. I kind of feel they’re more like little pieces of art anyway; I like to think of them more as items than anything else.

Twitter: @ruth_lesley

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