Q&A: Stephen Bottomley

Reading Time: 

1 min {{readingTime}} mins

Stephen Bottomley is a Jewellery Designer, Academic and Researcher and will take up position as the new Head of School at the School of Jewellery Birmingham this Spring. Formerly he was the Head of Department and Programme Director of BA & MFA Jewellery and Silversmithing at Edinburgh College of Art. Up until recently he was also Director Post Graduate Research in the School of Design, the Chair of RAFT an Interdisciplinary Network at ECA and on the Board of Craft Scotland. Stephen's jewellery is represented in collections at the National Museums Scotland, British Museum, South East Arts Collection and Royal College of Art. He has an MPhil from the Royal College of Art. He has been He answers the Benchpeg Q&A.

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

SB: Stephen Bottomley. I am an academic and a designer / maker. After Easter this year I will be the new Head of School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University.

How did you come to work in the jewellery industry?

SB: My first training was on a foundation course and adult evening classes in Hastings, Sussex with a very knowledgeable retired trade jeweller Len Cole. I quickly fell in love with the subject and went on to a degree at Farnham in Surrey and then set up my first studio after with a Princess Youth Business Trust Award in 1990. I sold small batch production work through the Conran shop and one-off or ltd edition Art Jewellery through Electrum Gallery in London, Dazzle and the Oxford gallery, among others. I taught part time from 1992.

After ten years of self-employment and part-time teaching I returned to study on a MA at The University of Brighton followed by a MPhil at the Royal College of Art under Professor David Watkins. I took my first full-time academic post in 2004.

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

SB: My jewellery explores precious and non or semi precious materials with techniques both old and new.

A continuous thread is the balance of geometric design through the lens of a modernist with an interest in process and new technologies.

Rhythm, pattern and movement have become recognisable design traits in my work and for the past decade have increasingly introduced colour to emphasise surface through the application of vitreous enamel.

What is your creative process?

SB: My process has become increasingly collaborative over the years.

Projects have led me to work with museums, collections and other artists and designers- like Elizabeth Turrell (pictured above).

'Silver-wear' (2004/5) was a group project I organised with the historic collections and traditional local silversmithing industries in Sheffield.

‘Tech-Tile' (2006-08) compared the 20th Century textile archives and photographic techniques employed by Mariano Fortuny at the archive at the Fortuny Museum in Venice with the then emerging contemporary scanning and CAD CAM techniques.

'Adorned Afterlife' (2016) most established an interdisciplinary research network across curators, historians, archaeologists, jewellers and scientist to explore hidden or ephemeral jewels.

I also chair the RAFT Interdisciplinary Network 

Where do you love to shop?

SB: I enjoy visiting Munich every year for the International Jewellery Week and Fair at the Messe. I've return with new jewellery for a growing small personal collection, books from the modern design museum Pinakothek der Moderne  and I visit Manufactum which stock everything a home needs from the best European design classics. I normally buy a new item for the house, kitchen or garden - I take great pleasure in using well made and designed tools.

What is your inspiration?

SB: I am always inspired by creativity and craftsmanship of the ancient world and the evolution of design from so called 'primitive' civilisations across the world. I find it humbling to see the masterpieces that achieved by hand without the technologies we have at our disposal today. 

What piece of jewellery do you most treasure?

SB: The 24ct gold wedding ring my wife made me.  It was fused into a band and the warmth of the colour and how it is ageing through wear is just perfect.

What piece of jewellery do you most desire?

SB: One of the Norwegian artist Tone Vigeland's oxidised silver or blackened steel repetitive geometric necklaces or bangles. Their sculptural power and fluidity of form and surface is incredible. I first saw them in books in the 1980s and in the major retrospective in Munich this year. They have inspired generations of contemporary jewellers and continue to do so.

If you could only be remembered for one piece of your work, what would it be?

SB: One of my range of Ruff Neckpieces, the Medium Ruff in photo-etched silver, for example. I made the first in the USA at Rhode Island School of Design, while studying there for a few months on exchange as part of my MA. It always generated such positive responses when exhibited at the ACJ conference or at my first solo show at the Scottish Gallery. I remember a young Edinburgh student, Andrew Lamb particularly admired it. 

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

SB: The diversity and depth of knowledge and passion of our industry is its greatest strength. If you are persistent and prepared to work hard looking you will find a place where your skill set and interests will flourish. Along the way you will meet supportive and wonderful colleagues and life long friends. Enjoy the journey!

The Benchpeg Proust Q&A

Type your content here...

  1. What’s your favourite work of art?
    SB: Queen Elizabeth I, by an Unknown English artist, circa 1588 -National Portrait Gallery.

  2. Who from past or present would you invite to a dinner party for the evening?
    SB: H G Wells.

  3. Do you have any pets, if yes, what is their name?
    SB: Not at present

  4. What is your most treasured possession?
    SB: My photo albums.

  5. What would you consider a perfect day?
    SB: I'm with Lou Reed here...

    Just a perfect day

    Problems all left alone

    Weekenders on our own

    It's such fun

  6. Is there a favourite journey, trip or voyage you hold dear?
    SB: My trip to the USA in 1998 to study at the Rhode Island a School of Design will always be a favourite journey.

  7. What is your greatest achievement?

    SB: Becoming a dad.

  8. What advice would tell your younger self?

    SB: Life really can be a lottery.

  9. Can you sum yourself up in one word?
    SB: Determined.

  10. What motto do you live by?
    SB: Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.


Stephen Bottomley can be found at:




Image credits: Images sourced from Stephen Bottomley, Pinterest and Wikipedia.


Rebecca van Rooijen


{{'2019-04-28T16:25:01.4050000Z' | utcToLocalDate }}
comments powered by Disqus