Metalworking Now: New acquisitions by Jessica Jue and Francisca Onumah

Decorative Art and Sculpture
August 31, 2023

In November 2022 we installed Metalworking Now, a new display in Room 66 of the Whiteley Silver Galleries which celebrates the dynamism of modern metalworking. The works represented were produced across the world and were made from metals including brass, pewter, silver, gold and copper, used singularly or in combination with other metals or materials such as cork, resin and wood. All the makers use traditional metalworking techniques as their starting point and imbue these with their own personality and line of enquiry, often pushing the material to its limits, or combining traditional techniques with modern technologies such as CAD (computer aided design) or 3D printing.

In previous posts, colleagues and I have described how we went about selecting objects for the display and have introduced some of the objects and makers included. This summer we have updated the display with four exciting new acquisitions to the collection. This post showcases the work of silversmiths Jessica Jue and Francisca Onumah and a future post by my colleague will introduce the work of the sculptor Sokari Douglas Camp, both of which I hope will encourage you to visit and find out more about the dynamic field of metal craft today.

Ever Flowing Sculpture, Jessica Jue, 2022, sterling Silver and 24ct gold foil. Museum no. M.50-2023. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Jessica Jue is a London-based silversmith and jeweller who has received significant recognition for her extraordinary work in metal. Jue trained at the Edinburgh College of Art and Bishopsland Educational Trust and in 2021 completed the South House Silver Workshop Trust Apprenticeship with internationally recognised silversmith Rod Kelly. She is a member of the FIVE collective, a group of internationally recognised UK silversmiths who are shining a spotlight on contemporary silversmithing.

Jue’s work explores themes of balance and harmony and is influenced by her Chinese heritage and Austrian upbringing. Ever Flowing Sculpture was inspired by the motion of water flowing over pebbles on a stream bed. It was made from a flat sheet of sterling silver which Jue raised into a three-dimensional form using hammers and stakes and was then decorated with strands of 24 carat gold foil. This traditional technique is called Keum-boo and involves fusing thin sheets of gold onto silver by carefully applying heat and pressure.

Murmur VI, Francisca Onumah, 2023, Sheffield, England, britannia silver and oxidised copper. Museum no. M.56-2023. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Murmur IV, Francisca Onumah, 2023, Sheffield, England, britannia silver and oxidised copper. Museum no. M.57-2023. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Francisca Onumah is a Sheffield-based Ghanian-born silversmith and jeweller. She completed a BA and MA in Jewellery and Silversmithing at Birmingham City University and in 2020 was part of the Crafts Council Hothouse Talent Programme. In 2022 she was awarded a Jerwood Makers Open commission with Helena Russell and their collaborative project Invaluable Tool used a box of old silversmithing tools as a starting point for exploring the history and legacy of Sheffield’s silversmithing industry.

Onumah is drawn to finding character and human like qualities in lifeless objects, and her vessels are often grouped together as if in quiet conversation. She applies a diverse array of marks to the surfaces of her pieces inspired by her love of African textiles with rich patterns or visible woven structures. Seams and expressive marks on the surface of the metal become exposed and exaggerated to bear honest witness to the heat and force of making.

About the author

Decorative Art and Sculpture
August 31, 2023

Becky Knott is Curator of Metalwork, 1900-Now, and is responsible for the care, research and growth of the modern and contemporary metalwork collection. She was previously Lead Curator of the...

More from Becky Knott
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