Q&A: Wendy Ramshaw CBE

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Wendy Ramshaw FCSD FRSA OBE RDI CBE is a distinguished jewellery designer, architectural designer, designer, educator and artist. She can be credited with leading and contributing to the ‘New Wave’ of jewellery modernism throughout the 1970s and 1980s and is renowned for her diverse use of materials. She is married to David Watkins, jeweller. She answers the Benchpeg Q&A.

From left to right
Title: Invitation card for Wendy’s ’Towers’ exhibition. Date: 2005. Materials: Anodised aluminum, stainless steel, Delrin, brass, crystal and optical glass. Photo credit: Graham Pym
Title: Set of mirror rings. Date: 1970. Materials: 7 rings, silver with surgical mirrors on a screw-apart acrylic stand. Photo credit: Bob Cramp
Title: Pair of un-matched earrings. Date: 1987. Materials: 18 ct yellow gold, fire opal, garnet and tourmaline, mounted on a nickel alloy stand inlaid with bands of red. Photo credit: David Watkins

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

WR: Wendy Ramshaw, I am an artist.

How did you come to work in the jewellery industry?

Title:Red Queen. Date: 2001 / 2002. Materials: 18ct yellow gold, Garnets. Photo credit: George Gammer. 22 18ct yellow gold rings. The red is for power, love, joy, ecstasy and finally blood. Some of the very elements of life. All 22 rings have different sizes and shapes of garnet. Soft voluptuous, sharp and pointy. 

WR: By accident. I was working in the Etching department of Reading University during my studies there [1961]. While printing from the copper and brass plates on to paper I thought that the plates were more interesting than the printed images and I began to make a series of small plates and thought that they looked like pieces of jewellery. I drilled small holes in them so that they could become pendants or hair ornaments for myself, then people started asking me if they might have one. I purchased a hammer, a drill, Black and Decker polishing equipment a couple of files and began to make more of these objects in my free time. This was the beginning of making jewellery. Slowly the pieces became better made, more complex and eventually the technique of drilling and joining with links was abandoned in favour of  soldered together parts. The staff at Crafts Centre of Great Britain, Hay Hill, London, kindly encouraged me to try silver. I cut up a damaged silver tray my mother had given me and so began to work in this new material. Along with my husband, David Watkins, I also made fashion jewellery in screen printed Perspex (Optik Art, 1964) and paper (Something Special, 1967)

In 1970 I took up a post offered to me at the Central School of Art and Design as a supernumerary member of staff. This meant that I didn't have to teach and of course I wasn't paid but I was able to make use of the machinery and facilities down there and it was regarded as a kind of post-graduate study. So I spent the following year partly down at the Central School and partly in my own studio working on a series of pieces, they would become part of my first one man show which opened in the Pace Gallery later that year.

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

Title: The New Edinburgh Gate, Hyde Park, London. Date: 2010. Materials: Cast and patinated bronze. Photo credit: George Gammer

WR: I am best known for my ring sets but I have also worked in glass, textiles, paper and ceramic. And I have designed gates and other large scale installations.

What is your creative process?

WR: Everything always begins with making a drawing.

Where do you love to shop?

WR: Car boot sales.

What is your inspiration?

WR: The industrialised world.

What piece of jewellery do you most treasure?

WR: One of my simple Geometric ring sets. I have made them throughout my career since 1967. It remains an ideal expression of my concept with good proportion.

Title: Set of mirror rings. Date: 1970. Materials: 7 rings, silver with surgical mirrors on a screw-apart acrylic stand. Photo credit: Bob Cramp

Title: Geometric Rings. Date: 1990. Materials: Silver, gold, perspex stands. Unlimited series. Photo credit: Bob Cramp

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

Date: 1964-67
Materials: Paper, Screen printed acrylic and plated findings
Photo credit: Bob Cramp

WR: A pair of ‘Something Special’ DIY paper pyramid earrings from 1967.

What would be your advice to someone starting out in the industry?
WR: It’s very hard work.

Title: ‘Air’, from Wendy’s exhibition ‘Journey Through Glass’. Date: 2007. Materials: Glass and 18ct gold. Photo credit: Graham Pym
Title:‘Chain of Glass Tears for Weeping Woman’. Date: 1998 . Materials: Glass and blackened steel, series of four unique variations. Photo credit: Bob Cramp

The Benchpeg Proust Q&A

  1. What’s your favourite work of art?
    WR: Botticelli’s Venus.

  2. Who from past or present would you invite to a dinner party for the evening?
    WR: Friends.

  3. Do you have any pets, if yes, what is their name?
    WR: My cat Bess.

  4. What is your most treasured possession?
    WR: Friends & Family.

  5. What would you consider a perfect day?
    WR: A visit to the V&A.

  6. Is there a favourite journey, trip or voyage you hold dear?
    WR: Visiting and teaching at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Maine, USA.

  7. What is your greatest achievement?
    WR: Keeping cheerful.

  8. What advice would tell your younger self?
    WR: Be positive.

  9. Can you sum yourself up in one word?
    WR: Hopeful.

  10. What motto do you live by?
    WR: To do my best under any circumstance​.


Wendy’s career has been chronicled through a series of catalogues and books. Follow this link to the back catalogue and receive a 20% discount until the 15 April 2017 using discount code: BENCHPEG. Free UK shipping will be included on everything except Picasso’s Ladies.

Wendy Ramshaw Back Catalogue

More information on Wendy Ramshaw can be founde here www.ramshaw-watkins.com

Image credits: Images sourced from Wendy Ramshaw.


Rebecca van Rooijen


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