Seliena Coyle


Seliena Coyle. Golden Fleece Award 2015

Medium: Jewellery
Bróiste Medb Bróiste Oran Bróiste Gráinne Brooch Brooch Brooch


I am applying for the Golden Fleece award to enable me to undertake an extended period of personal research and development towards a body of new work. In addition, I wish to attend the 2015 SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) conference which will be held in Boston, May 2015.

I have spent several years lecturing and working at various other roles within the art and contemporary craft sector and have recently made the decision to take a career break from my day job as Administrator at the National College of Art and Design to re-engage with my practice on a full-time basis.   I feel I have reached a pivotal point in my career, having dedicated substantial time to the education of others and most recently curating projects which have showcased contemporary craft in my hometown of Derry. This will be a challenging year, out of my mid-career comfort zone and thrown back into the reality of self-analysis, review and critique in the pursuit of authentic conceptualization.

The decision to break from full-time employment at this stage in life comes with it risk and financial restriction but I am dedicated to the advancement of contemporary craft in Ireland and have recently lost sight of my place in that discussion and so the goal is to completely and thoroughly re-engage with what and why I make. The Golden Fleece is unique in its support for craft and as such provides a rare opportunity to undertake such a sustained period of research with a view to developing work for the international stage.  A fundamental goal for the year is to create a body of work that will exist beyond the national border and gain international exposure through exhibition and publication.

The SNAG conference will feature Boris Bally who will deliver a presentation about his experience in Derry (summer '15) working on REclaim/REpurpose, a project I curated and project managed. Such international exposure cannot be under-estimated as it affords a platform to attract continued support and collaboration. This project marked a major shift in my career as it enabled me to initiate a considerable shift in the perception of craft within the North West region. I made a deliberate decision to incorporate authentic legacy into the proposal and as a result several institutions have benefited including the North West Regional College in addition to a large cohort of individuals, most of whom had little or no prior experience of craft.

I feel it is essential I attend as it will serve to showcase at an international event a highly successful project which has created authentic legacy opportunities for Irish contemporary craft in the future. This will not only increase potential for future project funding and collaboration but will showcase Irish contemporary craft activity through film documentation, catalogue publication and resident experience. Without external support I will be unable to attend.

I am making a commitment to my craft for the year and am applying for The Golden Fleece Award to enable a significant move forward in terms of developing my profile as an international designer maker. I intend using the fund to support both the time and purchase of new equipment required to enhance my design methodology, increase technical experimentation and ultimately innovate production. I also intend making several research trips to relevant events throughout the year to fully immerse myself in contemporary international practice.

Artist Statement

I am a jewellery designer, curator and educator with over 20 years experience in the field. I spent several years in the US studying and teaching, I returned to Ireland in 2006 to take up the position of Head of Metals at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. My workshop is in my hometown of Derry and I continue to exhibit internationally. In addition to making I have curated and project managed several CultureCraft exhibitions in Derry. Most recently I have curated and project managed CultureCraft - REclaim / REpurpose which was commissioned through the Legacy Programme facilitated by Derry City Council. I continue to work on CultureCraft projects in addition to my jewellery practice as the (CultureCraft) remit is to increase awareness of, and potential craft and making can have on wider society.

My most recent jewellery work has made a deliberate attempt to construct a new contemporary Irish aesthetic,.  Contemporary Ireland is a much-changed landscape both politically and economically.  Globalisation has brought with it a homogenisation of predictable design style, seemingly uninformed by individual culture or practice. This body of work is reflective of a uniquely Irish landscape and utilises a material indigenous to the country, bog oak.  Bog-wood is wood from trees that have been buried in peat bogs and preserved from decay by the acidic and anaerobic bog conditions, sometimes for hundreds or even thousands of years. Research of the national collections of Bronze Age artefacts in combination with the physical nature of the material has engendered a body of work which is contemplative without relying on sentimentality or cliché.  Ancient jewellery types such as the Torc, Lunnula, Sun Discs and ear-spools have influenced both the form and function of the jewellery pieces that, although unashamedly Irish in character are nonetheless compatible with contemporary practice.

I plan to extend this research to incorporate more sculptural forms, creating more flexible interpretations of what is wearable.  I would like to embrace the freedom inherent in taking a less commercial approach to jewellery making. Marrying traditional jewellery techniques with new and ancient technologies in order to innovate.  I intend utilising the FabLab in Derry to experiment with new technologies such as 3-d printing subsequently bringing these back to the bench in order to hybridise with traditional techniques.  Access to this facility will allow for a period of experimental research without financial commitment. In addition to incorporating alternative techniques I intend experimenting with colour in particular gold in stark contrast with the bog oak and oxidised silver.