Jo Lally is a narrative jeweller with a passion for gemstones, especially included quartzes. The stories she tells through her jewellery often deal with the play between the hidden and the visible, and the tension between the acts of revealing and obscuring.
After focusing on jewellery inspired by cartoons during her MA in Jewellery at UCA Farnham from 2016-2018, Jo is currently exploring the tactile and visual properties of materials and questioning what it means to have materiality. She is also returning to her love of unusual gemstones. Jo is a Fellow and Diamond Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain.
“The stories she tells through her jewellery often deal with the play between the hidden and the visible.”
Jo’s work incorporates silver, gold, stones, words, found objects and technical materials. She takes an ethical, sustainable approach to making.
Since 2019 Jo has been Editor of Findings, the magazine of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery since 2019. Jo is on the point of submitting a proposal for a book, Exploring Contemporary Jewellery.
Jo is currently exploring the tactile and visual properties of materials and questioning what it means to have materiality – for instance, do words have materiality? Are they a material we can work with? And if so, how can they be combined with gold, silver, stones, copper foam and reactive metals such as titanium and tantalum?
What about light? Jo sometimes feels that if she could work directly with light and give it shape and tactility, she would, but the next best thing is creating jewellery that plays with light in ways that make light seem to be one of the materials used.
Stones often have wonderful optical properties that can be exploited – some gemstones almost seem to be made of light, or to be pure red, blue or green. Included quartzes, which can be stunning miniature worlds or tiny artworks, play a wonderful game with light. They simultaneously reveal and conceal – sometimes it is the very reflection of white light from an inclusion which reveals that it is present, yet also conceals the inclusion behind the whiteness of the reflection. This property fits well with Jo’s underlying fascination with the hidden and the visible, the concealed and the revealed.
Reactive metals such as titanium and tantalum can be coloured with heat or electricity. This creates layers of oxides, which reflect the light back at certain wavelengths, which correspond to particular colours. So, it seems to Jo to be an open question, whether she is playing with the properties of the metal or exploring the reactions of the light.
What about tactility and its interplay with the visual? Jewellery is an intimate art, intended often to nestle against the skin, to pierce or encircle the body, to move with the body. The wearer might more often stroke, fondle or twiddle with an item of jewellery than look at it. The weight and texture of the of the bangle on the wrist or the pendant underneath the top are ever present, even when the gaze is elsewhere. The way jewellery feels seems to be as important – if not more important – than the way it looks, although this aspect is, perhaps, often neglected. This tactile interaction with the body is essential to the materiality of jewellery. Jo is currently – not exactly obsessed, but close – with the tactile and visual properties of copper foam. She is also intrigued by the mixed messages that can be sent by stones, especially included quartzes. The stone might look rough, spiky, or turbulent, but almost certainly has a smooth, polished surface. This allows some room for play and exploration.