Cynthia Cousens is a jeweller with a wide experience of exhibition practice. She lectures in materials and craft, specialising in metals, and conducts research into the educational potential of craft.
Her work explores the nature of jewellery and the correlation between its visual and haptic potential in different cultural environments. Developing responses to the works' fragility, transparency and visibility, she considers emotional responses through an interplay with environment and reference to specific landscapes.
Cynthia Cousens is a jeweller whose creative and innovative research explores the nature of jewellery, challenging its conventional role and traditions. She also conducts pedagogic research, examining the value of the object and craft practices in education.
She is concerned with establishing correlation between this redefinition and expressive emotional response to environment, through visual imagery derived from specific landscapes. Embedded throughout this are themes of fragility, transparency, visibility, concealment, secrecy, and peripherality. Since 1995, she has used an increasingly spontaneous and intuitive approach. The work is characterised visually by a strongly linear quality and perceived fragility, which explores the sensuality of jewellery.
Work shown in the exhibition 'Shift' (Hove Museum 2003) examines jewellery’s traditional dependence on material substance and value, and its presumed inherent longevity ('Waves' 2000); and the role of attraction, peripheral and conspicuous placement, and physical intimacy ('Specks' 2002). Whereas the later 'Postcard Necklace Series' (2003), seeks to examine jewellery’s role in communication, in gift-exchange, and in the recording of experience and location.
Projects are underpinned by extensive visual research, initially stemming from intense relationships developed with the landscape whilst on residencies. This methodology: research, development and exploration of concepts and their visual interpretation, is given equal prominence alongside the jewellery pieces when presented publicly within exhibitions or publications. The work is expressed through a wide range of media and materials: drawing, video, photography, installation, written and spoken word, as well as more traditional jewellery making techniques in textiles, plastics and precious metals.
Cynthia Cousens was born in Suffolk, studied Jewellery at Loughborough College of Art and Design and gained a MA at Royal College of Art, winning the Princess of Wales Scholarship for best female entrance portfolio to the RCA in 1979.
She set up her creative practice in 1982 and has exhibited extensively in the UK and abroad, with inclusion in major international survey exhibitions such as New Times, New Thinking Jewellery in Europe and America, Crafts Council and Contemporary British Crafts, Tokyo National Museum. Solo exhibitions include: The Scottish Gallery; Galerie NØ, Lausanne; Hipotesi, Barcelona, and The Manchester Museum. A major solo retrospective exhibition Shift was held at Hove Museum in 2003, touring to Angel Row Nottingham and MAC, Birmingham.
Recent work has stemmed from research developed on residencies at, for example: Welbeck, Nottinghamshire; Tainan National College of the Arts, Taiwan; British Embassy in Luxembourg; Jamfactory Adelaide; UNITEC Auckland; and Charleston Farmhouse, East Sussex.
Her work is represented in the V&A, National Museums of Scotland, Birmingham City Museum, The British Council, The Crafts Council and Goldsmiths’ Hall amongst other public collections. She was twice short-listed for the Jerwood Applied Arts prize for Jewellery and awarded an Honorary Degree in 2006 from University College of the Creative Arts. She was appointed Trustee of the Crafts Council 1999-2002.
Cynthia Cousens has given lectures internationally in Japan, USA, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, and Canada. She has taught at RCA 1991-93 and as a visiting lecturer at many UK Universities, joining the University of Brighton in 2000 to lecture in Materials Practice.
Boyes, Alma and Cousens, Cynthia (2012) 'In the Hand’ –the effect of museum handling sessions on student learning In: Art, design, media creative learning and teaching, Ravensbourne, Greenwich Peninsula, London, 29 Nov 2011.
Cousens, Cynthia (2010) Maker's metier: the work of five international jewellers of renown [Exhibition]
Boyes, Alma and Cousens, Cynthia (2010) Observational Learning through Professional Studio Practice In: 5th International Conference Challenging the curriculum: exploring the discipline boundaries in art, design and media, 12-13 April 2010, Berlin, Germany.
Boyes, Alma and Cousens, Cynthia (2009) Sustaining craft practice by teaching and learning through live demonstration In: Making Futures: the crafts in the context of emerging global sustainability agendas, University of Plymouth, September 2009.
Boyes, Alma, Cousens, Cynthia and Stuart, Helen (2009) Learning Tool - Video Support for Live Demonstration In: Clews, David, ed. Dialogues in Art & Design:Promoting and Sharing Excellence. ADM-HEA/GLAD, UK, pp. 260-265. ISBN 978-0-9558978-1-8
Cousens, Cynthia (2008) Masters and proteges - contemporary British jewellery [Exhibition]
Cousens, Cynthia, Stuart, Helen and Boyes, Alma (2008) Exploring the relationship between teaching and Learning through practice In: Houghton, Nicholas, ed. Enhancing Curricula: using research and enquiry to inform student learning in the disciplines. Centre for Learning and teaching in Art & Design 2008, London, UK, p. 250. ISBN 9780956038203; 9780956038210
Boyes, Alma, Cousens, Cynthia and Stuart, Helen (2007) Exploring the role of demonstration in practice-based courses. In: Centre for Learning and Teaching Research Conference: Underpinning learning, teaching and assessment with pedagogic research, 19 October 2007, Brighton, UK. (Unpublished)
Boyes, Alma, Cousens, Cynthia and Stuart, Helen (2007) Teaching and Learning by Demonstration In: European League of Institutes of the Arts International Conference 2007, 11 - 14 July 2007, Brighton, UK. (Unpublished)
Victoria & Albert Museum
British Crafts Council
National Museums of Scotland
Birmingham City Museum
British Council at The Craft Study Centre, UCCA Farnham
Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths
South East Arts Craft Collection at Hove Museum & Art Gallery
Shipley Art Gallery, Tyne & Wear
Norwich Castle Museum
The Mag Collection
Musée de l'Hologerie, Geneva
Platinum Guild International Tokyo
The Alice and Louis Koch Collection
Masters and Protegees – contemporary British jewellery - Museum of Arts and Crafts Itami, Hyogo, Japan 5-30 march; Mikimoto Hall, Ginza Tokyo, Japan 19 April – 5 May; Birmingham City University. Publication: ISBN 978-1-904839-27-9. Published by Birmingham City University.
Hanging in Balance - 42 contemporary Necklaces. Work from 14 International Jewellers. Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Gallery University of Texas at El Paso 20 January – 10 March; South West School of Art and Craft, San Antonio, Texas, 16 June-14 August; Mobilia, Cambridge, USA 15 November – 15 December.Publication: ISBN 0-9760154-2-0. Published by Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Gallery University of Texas at El Paso.
Situation, selected exhibition and workshops of international jewellers. Konstepidemin Gothenburg 4 – 19 September. International jewellers: Margaret West AUS, Lucy Sarneel NL, Fabrice Schaefer SW, Lars Sture N, Kati Nupponen FIN, Carolina Vallejo DEN, Lena Olsen, Mona Wallstrom, Anna Martinsson, Pia Aleborg, Mirjam Norinder, Margreth Sandstrom, Aud Charlotte Ho Sook Sinding, Anna Unsgaard SWE. Organised by Galerie Hnoss, funded by Iapsis. Keynote speaker - paper: A Sense of Place, Symposium Situations to international audience of jewellers. Symposium funded by IAPSIS.
'Ornamentation' - Symposium and masterclass, Harbourfront Toronto Canada keynote speaker.
2006 - 2008
CETLD Research Fellow – See What Happens! – the value of creative experimentation through materials – defined and evaluated the activity, identified methodologies used in creative experimentation through materials within visual arts disciplines, developing educational strategies for HE. Co- project leader with Avril Wilson – team: Patrick Letschka & Prof Hans Stofer.
CETLD Research Fellow - Teaching and Learning Through Practice - identified factors giving value to live performance in technical demonstration of craft skills - the importance of non verbal communication and difficulties in communication of characteristics such as rhythm of work. Co-project leader with .
2011: Paper: In the Hand ADM 5th annual teaching and learning conference, Ravensbourne.
2010: Keynote speaker JMGA conference - ReSource Perth Australia: paper Natural Sources – process as resource; Masterclass See What Happens! and international Group Exhibition Maker’s Metier with Karl Fritsch, Lisa Walker, Elizabeth Turrell, Helen Britton, at Gallery East, Perth, Australia.
2009: Paper: Sustaining craft practice through live demonstration presented at Making Futures conference Plymouth College of Art /Craft Council.
2008: Paper at CLTAD international conference Enhancing Curricula, New York and publication Enhancing Curricula, 2008, N.Houghton ed., UAL London.
2011: Funding proposal HEA Capturing Craft - the international language of makingEstablishing and evaluating a global model of teaching and learning through the observation of experts at work. 60k with Alma Boyes.
2010 - 2011: Teaching Fellowship ADM research project In the Hand - evaluating museum handling sessions with the V&A and University of Brighton students 5k. Report published Networks 19 2012; Paper at ADM conference 2011, University of Ravensbourne. With Alma Boyes.
2009 - 2010: Research project Observational Learning Through Professional Studio Practice 3k with Alma Boyes.
2009: Project: Video Learning tool for live demonstration CETL Learn Higher 2k with Alma Boyes.
2009: Spark Plug Crafts Council curator’s award for proposal Making Dialogues 2008: Researcher: Behind the Scenes - HE provision in museums CETLD led by Beth Cook publication citation:
2007 - 2008: Research Fellow CETLD See what Happens - the value of creative experimentation through materials Cousens, Letschka and Wilson 27K
2006 - 2008: Research Fellow CETLD Exploring the Relationship between Teaching and Learning Through Practice a CETLD funded research project Boyes, Cousens and Stuart 27k citation title page Phillipa Lyon publisher.
2011: Lecture, Museum of Ulster Masterclass University of Ulster arts Council N. Ireland / University of Ulster.
2011: Contemporary Crafts Ingrid Raczs Berg New York/Oxford pp. 59-61.
2010: Mentor for Hothouse, Crafts Council scheme.
2008: Essays published Eleanor Pritchard and Anne Brodie The Knowledge Bank series a_n.
2008: Group Exhibition: Masters and Protégés Museum of Art and Craft Itami, Hyogo, Mikimoto Hall Ginza, Tokyo, Japan & Birmingham City University.
2009 - 2013: University of the Arts London CSM BA (Hons) Jewellery Design.
2008 - 2012: University of Essex /Colchester Institute MA Sculptural Practice.
Course Validation Panel external member
2012: University of the Creative Arts – 3D Design Programme Rochester Canterbury.