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News | 17 August 2021

2021 RCA Graduate Awards

The graduate class of 2021 overcame a year of disruption and very different working environments due to Covid restrictions, to created some extraordinary work. These efforts were recognised with the annual Theo Fennell Awards for Best Concept, Best Technical and Overall Achievement for the RCA Jewellery & Metalwork, graduating class.

The RCA students have all done a magnificent job of working through the Pandemic and the work Jingwen Yuan and Mairi Millar exhibited our two top prize winners was extraordinary. We are thrilled that these prizes are still part of the student’s big day, as they have been for so many years, as we will do anything we can do to encourage young people into this grate trade.

Theo Fennell

The Winners

Overall – Jingwen Yuan

Calculating Poetry- Surface- Origami- A Moonlit Night On The Spring River (excerpt)

Calculating Poetry-Plane-Decoding- Selected Poems of Li Bai

Calculating Poetry- Surface- Origami- A Moonlit Night On The Spring River I (excerpt)

Calculating Poetry- Surface- Origami- A Moonlit Night On The Spring River II (excerpt)

Calculating Poetry- Surface- Origami- A Moonlit Night On The Spring River III (excerpt)

Jingwen’s works are are discussions of poetry. She uses mathematical formulas to visualise poetry and expresses emotional poetry through rational mathematics. Her work has a sense of order and is also another form of expression of poetry. The confrontation between rationality and sensibility in her work is her thinking about ‘what is poetry’

Best Concept – Mairi Millar


A ring that speaks to guilt and responsibility, it bleeds when washed and afterwards leaves an intaglio of a permanent ‘wound’.

Mairi Millar is a multidisciplinary artist from Trinidad & Tobago whose practice center’s on the materiality, power and the ritual of objects.

For millennia, humans have always held a strong relationship with the sense of touch when it come to belief. Clutching a talisman, wearing an amulet close to our skin, a stature worn down and polished from years of pilgrimages; tangibility gives us that sense of control amid chaos.

Throughout the history of jewellery we have countless examples of humans placing faith in small objects we can carry and hold close to us. Whether its our hopes or fears, having a vessel for these abstract emotions that we can see and hold helps us to better understand them. When we place so much of ourselves in an object, when it lies intimately on our skin and carries our aura long after we’re gone, where’s the line? When does the objects’ matter become our own?

Best Technical – Stamp Sangsuk-iam & Yu Chen

Stamp Sangsuk-iam

Fly Me To The MoonNecklace

‘Key Tray’ & ‘Life Music’

Stamp Sangsuk-iam is a Thai artist / designer-maker. She studied for a BA (Hons) Industrial Design at Chulalongkorn University, before studying for an MA in Jewellery & Metal at the Royal College of Art. Her work has always been influenced by sounds around her. She likes to use the sound properties of objects as a language to communicate to the world.

‘Everything around us is like an instrument, our interaction controls rhythm and tune and it’s all composed together by our living. Sound in our daily life has unique characteristics which intuitively tells a story of its own.’
Stamp’s practice is mainly influenced by sounds from our living world. She enjoys exploring the sound properties of everyday objects together with observing our intuitive interaction with them. Spending most of her time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, she started to hear and see her family relationship through sounds and interactions from her domestic life. Her current practice, Life Music, turned simple everyday objects in the house into sound objects which communicate the story of family relationships.
Stamp’s hope is that, after hearing and seeing her work, it will change your listening experience, at least a bit, because there are so many beautiful sounds around us that we ignore.

Yu Chen (Cyan Chen)

Yu Chen is a contemporary jewellery designer living in China. She completed a BA in product design at Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology and an MA in Jewellery & Metal at RCA. Cyan is deeply committed to the culture of her generation and to using jewellery as a means to record and comment on contemporary life experiences.

Do You Really Want It?

In this series, Cyan tries to challenge the audience to consider: which is more important, the material price or artistic value? People keep and carry bags with logos to imply that they have the capacity to consume luxury goods. In other words, shopping bags and products have the same function. The value of paper is higher than the price of paper. From paper bags to shopping bags, the value and price of the brand is more than that of the paper. For example, Tiffany shopping bags are full of commercial elements. Using the traditional Chinese paper-making technique, the shopping bag becomes paper pulp. Cyan’s work strips out the price and value of the brand, but retains the colour to indicate the source of the material. By reshaping the physical form, the value of classic jewellery design and the value of craft are given to paper. At the end, the price of paper is still cheap: do you really want it?

Dongting Pearls

Social status is not the most important or valuable aspect of life. What is really valuable in life? Cyan’ believes the answer is – food. She chose rice as a material because, in China, rice has a thousand-year history of cultivation. The status of rice in Chinese food culture is like the central precious stone in jewellery. However, as the quality of life improves, hunger is no longer a problem. People start to waste food. She uses rice instead of gems to imitate the jewellery production process. After comparing the colour, wholeness, hardness and shape of different kinds of rice, she selects glutinous rice as a material. Using rice, Cyan imitates the process of selecting, measuring and sorting gems. Cyan uses rice that originates from the Dongting Lake. Set into the jewellery, the individual grains are as pure and white as pearls. 

Gilded Youth

Theo Fennell has an ongoing commitment to supporting the jewellery industry through our Gilded Youth initiative which aims to encourage great designers for the future as well as giving a voice to emerging young jewellery and silver talent.

The Gilded Youth project is our ongoing mission to support and nurture the best master jewellers and designers of the future. The reason we sponsor prizes, awards and initiatives for young starters, apprentices and college students, at, amongst others, The RCA, Central St Martins and The Goldsmiths Centre – is to try and help them prepare for the future and promote the extraordinary young talent we have in this country.

Theo Fennell

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