Primary Orbits - David Watkins

Primary Orbits, David Watkins, 1983. Image © Nick Moss

Object Details

Date of making
Date of acquisition
Combination body/neckpiece in four parts. Neoprene coating sprayed over welded steel
Steel, neoprene
Collection Number

Maker Details

Wolverhampton, England
Place Trained
University of Reading, Reading, BA Fine Art, Sculpture, 1959-1963
London, England
Crafts Advisory Committee Bursary, 1976
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Primary Orbits is a combination body/neckpiece made up of four circles of neoprene sprayed over steel.

David Watkins is a pioneer in the world of studio jewellery. His innovative and experimental approach – informed by past careers in sculpture, jazz, and model making – and promotion of jewellery as wearable art quickly positioned him at the forefront of the discipline, and what was to become known as ‘The New Jewellery’ in the 80s. Watkins challenged the demand that craft be functional, traditional and made of natural materials. His works range from acrylic ‘sci-fi’ neckpieces of the mid 70s (Watkins was previously a model maker on Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’) to the neoprene over steel pieces of the 80s, and most recently London 2012's Olympic medals.

The Crafts Council Collection documents Watkins’ career from the 70s to 2003 with 12 works, which have featured in numerous Crafts Council exhibitions over the years. Most recently, Primary Orbits was selected by poet Jeremy Reed for the 2009 Crafts Council online exhibition ‘A White, A Blue, A Yellow, Red: Poetry by Jeremy Reed’.

Read more about related loans and exhibitions

David Watkins

“The combination orbit neckpieces came midway through a period (1980-1985) of experimenting with neoprene coating, a material I valued for its tactility, especially when applied to lightweight structures.

For me, Primary Orbits is an early example of the layered forms I have found fascinating ever since. Although I had already explored the concept of extending a neckpiece to occupy and articulate space around the shoulders, the Orbits series draws the space in an aleatoric manner, framing the head and face of the wearer in an interdependent composition. The series probably established the theme of circularity that I have found so inspiring in works for the body. In fact, much later, between 1998 and 2005, I reconsidered my 1980s Orbits and they provided source material for further developments.”

David Watkins

David Watkins, Jeweller. Professor and Head of Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery, Royal College of Art, London, 1984 - 2006.

The Ginger Light is a unique collaboration between poet Jeremy Reed and sonic soundscaper Itchy Ear.

From the Archive

Primary Orbits featured in 'New Departures in Jewelry' a Crafts Council sponsored exhibition at the American Craft Museum, New York, 1983

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