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GEM: Contemporary Jewellery and Gemstones from Afghanistan

Start Date 03 October 2014
End Date 08 November 2014
Venue Dovecot Studios
Location Edinburgh, UK
Curator Melanie Eddy

GEM is an exhibition of Afghan jewellery, gem-cutting and contemporary practices from Afghanistan at Dovecot from 3 October to 8 November 2014. GEM comes to Dovecot Studios from the British Council London headquarters where it showcased from 8 October to 29 November 2013 as part of the new South Asia season programme.

GEM, the result of a collaboration between the British Council and Turquoise Mountain, an Afghanistan-based organisation established in 2006 which aims to revive and promote Afghan craft and design worldwide, illustrates the role of creative industries in improving livelihood and the extent of UK-Afghan collaboration. Jewellery-making is an art with a long tradition in Afghanistan; a country rich in emeralds, rubies, kunzites, and tourmalines. Contemporary Afghan jewellery-makers are upholding that tradition in the skill and dexterity of their work.

GEM includes specially commissioned jewellery created by Turquoise Mountain artisans alongside pieces of contemporary jewellery design by UK designers who have collaborated with Turquoise Mountain including Pippa Small, Hattie Rickards, Vicki Sarge and Melanie Eddy. Curated by jeweller Melanie Eddy and designed by Will Shannon, GEM explores the process and traditions behind gem-cutting in Afghanistan and examines how these techniques are applied to contemporary jewellery. The exhibition also features gems in their uncut forms, maps of their origins in Afghanistan and tools of the gem-cutting trade as well as a short films by Afghan documentary filmmaker Jawed Taiman and UK filmmaker Lalage Snow which document the making process and introduce the people behind the jewellery pieces in GEM.

GEM brings to life the personal stories of the jewellery makers and gem cutters, exploring how arts and culture can contribute to the rebuilding of a post-conflict country. It also highlights how the UK–Afghan collaboration has helped inform UK jewellery thinking and contemporary design. GEM emphasises the importance of lasting and mutually beneficial cultural and educational relationships through coordinated events highlighting key issues of common interest, enabling the exchange of view and experiences and offering opportunities for future collaboration. On 2nd October the Asia Scotland Institute and Dovecot will hold a private reception with an introduction from Dr Lloyd Anderson British Council Director Scotland to celebrate the opening of GEM. Melanie Eddy will also visit and deliver a lecture at Edinburgh College of Art to the undergraduate design students in the same week. Later in the programme, Creative Edinburgh will coordinate an educational Makers Tour of GEM at Dovecot with support from British Council.

GEM coincides with the appointment of a new Apprentice at Dovecot as part of the Studios Apprenticeship Programme. Supported by Dovecot Foundation, the Programme sustains the century-old lineage of Dovecot tapestry weaving as an essential feature of Scotland’s creative community. The Tapestry Studio is at the core of Dovecot’s activity including its exhibition programming; in the Apprenticeship Programme; in the commissioning of, and collaborations with, leading artists from around the world; and in the cultural and educational partnerships developed. Dovecot continually seeks to bring the extraordinary work of contemporary artists and makers to a wider audience in supporting the sustainability of traditional craft skills, and so is delighted to welcome Turquoise Mountain in promoting the work of Afghan makers in the form of GEM with support from the British Council.