Q&A: Jacqueline Mina (DES RCA) OBE

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Jacqueline Mina is one of the most significant goldsmiths in the UK today. Known best for her precise technical ability at the bench, meticulous crafted construction processes and predisposition of surface pattern using precious metals and fusion inlay. Her pieces have an unmistakable aesthetic with thoughtful use of form, line and pattern always interrogating the interplay of the surface to create wearable timeless pieces.

As well as a practicing goldsmith, Mina was a lecturer at the Royal College of Art from 1972 until 1994 and was an important influence on many practicing jewellers today. She has been recognised with solo and retrospective exhibitions throughout the UK, most notably ‘Dialogues in Gold’ shown in 2011 at the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths followed by a UK touring exhibition ‘Touching Gold’.

Her work is held in many public collections including the National Museums Scotland; Victoria & Albert Museum; the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York; The Crafts Council; The Goldsmiths’ Company and Leeds Museums and Galleries.

A significant artist goldsmith, Jacqueline Mina has had her work recognised as winner of the Jerwood Prize in 2000, for "consistent innovation and a significant contribution to contemporary jewellery… for subverting and taking precious metal techniques to the extreme", and also awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours in 2012. She answers the Benchpeg Q&A.

What’s your name, and what do you for a living?

JM: Jacqueline Mina… as an artist-goldsmith I design & make unique items of jewellery and objects in precious metals, mainly gold & platinum, for exhibition and to commission.

How did you come to work in the jewellery industry?

JM: I studied at Hornsey College of Art from 1957 for 5 years, with silversmithing as my main subject. Subsequently I was offered a place at the Royal College of Art on condition that I took up jewellery – silversmithing (in 1962) being more of a masculine pursuit! I was so keen to go to the RCA that I accepted, even though I didn’t really consider jewellery to be a serious endeavor – akin to millinery or Christmas decorations in my 20 year old mind!

How would you describe your work to someone who doesn’t know it?

JM: One-of-a-kind jewellery in textured gold, often incorporating a platinum surface decoration and sometimes involving titanium, using traditional goldsmithing techniques in unorthodox ways to create pieces evocative of ancient jewellery in a contemporary, sculptural, individual style.

What is your creative process?

JM: I work directly in precious metals, experimenting to achieve an unexpected result, and then I develop the idea to create a small series before I move on to another idea. It’s the opposite of scientific!

Where do you love to shop?

JM: I don’t actually shop – much – it would take up too much of my precious time! However, I do love markets – my favourite being Venice’s covered fish market….. just to gaze at the variety of colours & shapes, and admire the spectacle: the arches and the curtains drawn back, and the boats delivering their catch straight from the lagoon - and think about how it probably hasn’t changed much since it was established in the eleventh century.

What is your inspiration?

JM: Lifedrawing is my favourite 2-dimensional expression & study and, although I don’t make figurative jewellery, many of the curves, angles, lines & textures I use can be traced back to this source. The Natural world in general offers up a wealth of inspiration, although I would never presume to imitate it.

What piece of jewellery do you most treasure?

JM: A beautiful brooch by my one-time student at the RCA – the brilliant maestro Giovanni Corvaja. My husband commissioned it specially and secretly to present to me at the breakfast table last year on our 50 wedding anniversary and my 74 birthday – February 5. It incorporates eloquently the numbers 2, 5,10, symbolic of the date and number of decades of our marriage. 

What piece of jewellery do you most desire?

JM: Of all the cultures of antiquity that have left extraordinary examples of their gold-work, I most admire the elusive Etruscans – their confident and joyful use of form and the minutiae of their granulation technique is absolutely breathtaking. It is difficult to choose one example from the wealth that exists in museums around the world, but this dragon-like fibula, with its granulated animal decoration would satisfy my desire to own a piece! Just a dream, though…it’s safely tucked away in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

If you could only be remembered for one thing in your working life, what would it be?

JM: My  necklace “Ecstasy”. It was one of three necklaces I made specially for my solo exhibition at the CAC Gallery (Crafts Advisory Committee, now the Crafts Council) in Waterloo Place, London in 1975.

What would be your advice to someone starting out in the industry?

JM: Have an ambition and follow it through. Find your own voice and trust it. Be consistent and persistent and aim high.

The Benchpeg Proust Q&A

  1. What’s your favourite work of art?
    JM: Almost impossible to choose! As well as the Art of ancient cultures such as the Greeks, the Egyptians, the pre-Columbians and so on, my education in the 60’s taught me to love the Art of 20 Century artists, many of whom, such as Picasso and Braque, were still living. I have taken great pleasure in following the career of David Hockney since our student days and many of his iconic works are etched into my psyche. But I think it is the spontaneous and joyous qualities in the work of Matisse that I respond to most, and his lithograph L’Odalisque with Striped Pants actually inspired some pieces that I made in the 80’s.

  2. Who from past or present would you invite to a dinner party for the evening?
    JM: Ravel, Chet Baker and Martha Graham.

  3. Do you have any pets, if yes, what is their name?
    JM: No pets now, but I have had many cats, and I love cats…. Minou & Zazie were the last pair. I now get my cat-stroking fix by occasionally looking after our daughter’s two – Oscar & Coco.


  4. What is your most treasured possession?
    JM: People are not possessions but what I treasure above all else is my family.

  5. What would you consider a perfect day?
    JM: To step out with my husband Michael through the French windows of the Wash House BnB in Orford for breakfast in its sunny meadow, delivered in a basket containing delicious artisan bread from the Pump Street Bakery in the village. Then to take our easels and art materials to find a spot near Snape Maltings to draw from the landscape for a couple of hours. A well-deserved lunch at Butley’s Oysterage (to include oysters, of course!) then, after a little nap, to visit The Red House in Aldeburgh, home of the composer Benjamin Britten and the tenor Peter Pears, now a most interesting museum recording their life’s work. Back to the Wash house to freshen up before going to a concert by Cara Dillon at Snape Maltings followed by a late dinner at the Lighthouse restaurant in Aldeburgh….then falling happily beneath the feather duvet in our cosy BnB.

  6. Is there a favourite journey, trip or voyage you hold dear?
    JM: Yes – one that gets repeated almost every year and reassuringly doesn’t seem to change - to Venice, usually to celebrate our anniversary in February and to meet up with old friends who emigrated to Italy. The Fortuny Palazzo with its faded dévoré velvet drapes made a huge impression on me and I was inspired to produce a whole series of works, during the 80’s & 90’s, in which I attempted to recreate the effect in metal using platinum gauze fused to oxidized 18ct gold. I called it ‘platinum fusion-inlay’.

  7. What is your greatest achievement?
    JM: To have my work recognised in 2000 as the winner of the Jerwood Prize. 

  8. What advice would tell your younger self?
    JM: Probably the same advice as I always told myself, through thick & thin, through impecunious times, through lonely times (working on my own), through times when precious metal went out of fashion as a medium for contemporary jewellery…. “keep on keeping on”!

  9. Can you sum yourself up in one word?
    JM: Positive.

  10. What motto do you live by?
    JM: DO IT NOW!


Current exhibition
Jacqueline Mina’s work is currently showing as part of a major retrospective exhibition at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, in the exhibition ‘Jacqueline Mina At 75’. The exhibition runs from 3rd August – 2nd September 2017


Jacqueline Mina is represented by the Scottish Gallery:




Rebecca van Rooijen


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