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Roberta Bernabei

Digital Jewellery: The Democratisation of Authorship and Ownership

Roberta Bernabei – Senior Lecturer in 3D Design, Silversmithing & Jewellery.

Affiliation: School of the Arts, Loughborough University

Keywords: jewellery, democratisation, CAD/CAM

Conference activity: Presentation Fri 11th July

Project summary: 

This presentation analyses the consequences on the authorship and ownership of contemporary jewellery through computer aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM). It identifies the ramifications for jewellery design and contemporary jewellery through an examination of the respective roles of the jewellery designer, contemporary jeweller and consumer. The latter focuses on the extent to which individual members of the public can become virtual craftspeople. It therefore aims to ascertain if and how the act of creating jewellery has been democratised through digital manufacture and delivery. A complementary investigation seeks to establish how far CAD/CAM has enabled contemporary jewellers to democratise the consumption of artistic jewellery through a reduction in production costs.

Discussions chart CAD’s gradual shift from exclusive use by expert technicians to generic deployment by amateurs manipulating user-friendly and intuitive software. They determine how its unification through web delivery in apps by companies such as Nervous Systems, has effectively transformed consumers into designers. Parallel investigations explore the work of jewellery artists such as Ted Noten and Christoph Zellweger who have exploited CAD/CAM to mass produce works that democratise consumption through lower purchase prices.

The presentation concludes by summarising the key differences and similarities between the artistic use of CAD/CAM in jewellery, with those of its more commercial and design orientated counterparts. It determines the relative shifts over time in both parties respective roles since the inception of digital technologies, identifying convergences and divergences. Finally, it assesses the relative merits of both approaches in terms of democratising ownership and authorship, as well as the consequences for aesthetic integrity.

A question that arises from your project: to what extent has the advent of computer aided design and manufacture democratised the production and consumption of contemporary jewellery?

Image credits: Christoph Zellweger, Data Jewel

Full paper

Bernabei, R. (2014). Digital Jewellery: The democratisation of authorship and ownership. In K. Bunnell & J. Marshall (Eds.), All Makers Now: Craft Values in 21st Century Production, International Conference Proceedings, Autonomatic Research Group, Falmouth University, 10/11 July 2014 (pp. 17 – 22). Falmouth University, ISBN 978-0-9544187-9-3

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