At the end of the nineteenth/beginning of the twentieth century, the work produced in Venice by Marian Fortuny (1871-1949) brought together past and present, the modern and medieval. Inspired both by natural forms and Oriental geometries, it involved the application of the then new technologies emerging in the fields of photography and print-making. From his workshop emerged a rich fusion of styles. And this ‘alchemist’s studio’ was frequented by the artists, celebrities and writers of the day, one of whom was Marcel Proust.
Today, Palazzo Fortuny still preserves something of the fascination exerted by Mariano Fortuny. Furthermore, the spirit that inspired his work is particularly significant when technology and science are offering new ways of seeing the world, new approaches to creativity.
It is this ‘hybrid’ combination of tradition with technological experimentation that is at the basis of the work produced by the contemporary jewellery designer Stephen Bottomley.
Throughout history, jewellery-making has been linked with fashion design and the creation of fabric. Whilst still aware of its function as bodily adornment, contemporary jewellery focuses more on the value of creation than of the actual materials used; it has developed a language in which theory and concept are just as – if not more – important than the intrinsic value of the metals used.
Bottomley’s designs are inspired by an accurate study of the motifs and prints used in Fortuny fabrics. Using such modern technologies as digital scanning, reverse engineering, rapid prototyping, photo-etching, laser cutting and laser engraving, the artist re-works these designs for his own jewellery.
Then comes the slow and painstaking process of actual creation, with the end result marking a fine balance between the past and the present. The cold exactitude of digital technology blends into works of craftsmanship in which perfection and precision – the characteristics usually associated with computer design – are deliberately avoided.