Manchester Metropolitan University

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MMU engineers help local jewellery designer

Work to be exhibited internationally

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Working Class Hero brooch

Engineers from MMU’s Faculty of Science and Engineering have come to the aid of local jewellery designer Samantha Mills.

Samantha contacted MMU whilst working on a piece for the Manchester Jewellers Network’s Articles of Hope, Adornments for Justice exhibition, which features body adornments based on the jewellers’ interpretation of different Declaration of Human Rights articles.

The designer had created a 7cm by 5cm brooch by winding and stitching thread onto wax, which was then dissolved, but was struggling to retain the delicate pattern of the thread once it was covered to take on the appearance of a precious metal.

Applying industry techniques

Dr Howard Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Engineering and Technology, explains: “Samantha contacted us out of the blue for advice in applying coatings to her brooch as she wanted the piece to look like spun gold. We invited her to the lab with some samples of her work and after a bit of trial and error came up with a method to make it look just the way she wanted.”

Once lacquer was sprayed onto the thread to retain its shape, Howard and his team evaporated gold onto the surface of the brooch and it was then re-lacquered.

Howard continues: “We usually use the process to create material samples for viewing under the microscope. This is the first time we’ve worked with a jeweller but it was simply a case of applying industry techniques in a different way to help solve her problem.”

Turning textiles into gold

Samantha comments: “I’m so pleased with the brooch, I think it looks fantastic. I would like to thank Howard and his team in the engineering department for helping me realise my idea and turn textiles into gold.”

Samantha’s piece is entitled ‘Working Class Hero’ and is inspired by Article 23, which states that everyone has the right to favourable conditions of work, and by her father, who died from asbestosis.

The brooch represents working conditions in the textile industry that lead to industrial diseases. Based on a nurse’s watch, the cotton thread represents the bad working conditions of the textile industry in India, the cogs the ticking time bomb of industrial disease and the gold coating the build up of the fibres which cause asbestosis.

Articles of Hope, Adornments for Justice is being held at The Mezzanine Gallery of The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester until 21st August 2009, before touring nationally and internationally.

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