Rebekah Bide Is Creating Emotionally Charged, Utilitarian Jewellery

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05 Café Forgot August 2020 Scan
Café Forgot, August 2020Courtesy of the artist

The London-based multidisciplinary artist’s traditionally crafted jewels embody the wearer’s personal rituals and mythologies

  1. Who is it? Rebekah Bide is a London-based multidisciplinary artist who makes jewellery which merges the ruggedness of archaic production methods with the opulence of costume jewellery
  2. Why do I want it? Both beautiful adornments and useful objects, Bide’s pieces are designed to be worn and integrated into your identity
  3. Where can I buy it? Rebekah Bide’s ‘Objects of Use’ are available online at Café Forgot and on the artist’s own e-shop

Who is it? Rebekah Bide studied Fine Art and History of Arts – and, more specifically, “the mythologies and political climates that small objects give insight into” – at Goldsmiths in London. It wasn’t until after her graduate show, however, that she would develop the concept for her debut jewellery collection, ‘Objects of Use’. At her degree show, Bide handed out a selection of hand-engraved lighter cases as personal calling cards. Over time, she received a number of emails from people who had stumbled across these lighter holders, either discarded or lost; the emails were often attached with images of the lighters nestled in the sender’s hand. “These objects were able to disperse throughout physical and social spaces over time. I realised that creating objects of use that could connect a dispersed community was an interesting way to construct a larger performance with my objects, this time as part of their immediate realities.”

From there, Bide set out to learn all she could about the art of metal-smithing – from reading Tim McCreight’s metal theory bible Complete Metalsmith to browsing internet forums and watching TikTok videos on the subject. “The jewellery community that exists today in the UK is a descendant of the guild system that long ruled the crafts industry,” she explains. As a result, all jewellery – including Bide’s – crafted in the UK must meet certain standards of quality and craftsmanship. “I make my work using the lost-cast wax casting method, which has existed in various forms since prehistory,” she says. “I think the pieces I make show their value not only in terms of the previous metals they’re made of, but also the time spent developing their intricate carvings.” Bide’s meticulously crafted jewels are cast in bronze, sterling silver, and gold, sometimes set with pearls, which Bide sources from one of London’s best-kept-secret dealers. “It’s a laborious process,” Bide notes, outlining the steps from research and initial sketches, to the final polish. “Each piece is unique and formed with its own particular idiosyncrasy.”

Why do I want it? Bide’s singular aesthetic merges the ruggedness of archaic production methods with the opulence of costume jewellery – “inspired by Christian Lacroix’s ‘Provençal-with-a-twist’, the crystals worn by my grandmother” – and, even, the look of certain film props, “ones that have been corrupted past their original forms, like the gynaecological instruments from Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers”. Now you’re getting the picture.

As a multidisciplinary artist, Bide approaches each piece of jewellery as she would a sculpture, with one difference: “They’re made to be worn and integrated into someone else’s identity,” she notes. Each of Bide’s pieces, then, serves as a personal talisman, to accompany the wearer in their own daily performances, for the wearer to imbue with their own significance. “Because of their wearability, jewellery pieces take on meaning and personal ritual, as the recipient transforms the piece in their own performance, as much as I do in producing it,” she continues. “I like to imagine that the pieces I create for an individual contribute to their own personal mythology and narrative of their own reality.”

Bide’s very first ‘Object of Use’, a bronze pill case entitled ‘Box of Days’, was born from the artist’s own personal narrative. After her UK visa expired, Bide found herself back in her childhood home in Perth, Australia. “The experience was discombobulating, which aggravated certain psychological disorders I’d had for years,” she explains. As a salve, she created a pill-case – inspired by the precious metal ones she’d seen at the Porta Portese in Rome – that she could use to centre herself each morning, “as a form of ritual, getting up and shaping myself into some form of existence”, she adds. “I wanted to create something precious for myself.”

Like Bide’s original ‘Box of Days’, each of her jewels is a treasure, or a gift to the wearer: at once a beautiful adornment, a useful object, a carrier of sentiment. “I begin my process by creating a piece with the intent of making something to fulfill a need. From that, it turns into an object of beauty or interest, and becomes unique to the desire of the wearer,” Bide elaborates. Take Bide’s interpretation of the locket, titled (beautifully, I might add) ‘Love is a Physical Thing’. The heart-shaped pendant is inscribed with a poem by collaborator Jago Rackham, and a drawing by artist Lowena Hearn. “I made it initially as a love token,” says Bide. “To open it, you have to pry its magnetic clasps apart. It’s a giant, overwhelming and obsessive trinket, to try and capture some form of love.”

Where can I buy it? Rebekah Bide’s ‘Objects of Use’ are available online at Café Forgot and on the artist’s own e-shop.