Ana Thompson, the designer taking a scientific approach to jewellery
Who knew that science could be fashionable? Colombian jewellery designer Ana Thompson is incorporating scientific elements, from protozoa found on the ocean floor to the orbital rings of the planet of Sedna, into her jewellery designers. It seems like an odd combination, since when do jewellery and science go together? But after viewing her intricate jewellery designs that mimic complex scientific phenomena, it becomes apparent how beautiful science really is. Here to speak about the exciting projects she has been involved with, including the MIT Descience collective, is an interview with the jewellery designer, Ana Thompson.
For our interview, we went down to the studio-or laboratory- where it all takes place, at the The Goldsmiths' Centre in Clerkenwell.
How did your interest in science start?
In my family there are a lot of doctors and engineers, so I have always been exposed to the more scientific mindset. But I really incorporated the scientific world into my jewellery during my masters when I started to think about the things we want to see but can't, the invisible beauty. There are two worlds we don’t see: the micro and the macro. So I went to the natural history museum to observe the world of micro. When you magnify something, you are exposed to a completely different world and see the beauty of how objects are composed and created. Then I also started to research the macro world, the planets, stars, etc. And when you start researching both the micro and macro worlds together, you are able to explore an endless combination of colors and patterns.
Tell me about your masters project Micro Macro Link?
This project was inspired by radiolarians, these are silica structures that live on the bottom of the sea and are invisible to the naked eye. But when you magnify them, you see that they are in fact beautifully complex structures. The german biologist Ernst Haeckel spent years painting radiolarians. So I decided to make a necklace inspired by them. I designed individual silica structures and formed them into a chain that could be undone. This was a very conceptual piece but gave me a lot of inspiration to apply science in a commercial sense to jewellery, as seen in the pearl necklace below.
Now tell me about pieces that were inspired by the macro?
One of my favorite pieces is the Sedna necklace. Sedna is one of the furthest away planets and takes so many years to orbit, that we will never actually see it. That was a very captivating phenomenon so I wanted to replicate that in simple design by having the orbit repeat itself throughout the necklace.
The macro concept of the vortex has also become core to my collections.
Describe a typical Ana Thompson wearer.
Someone between 35 and 55 years, an independent professional, interested in science and technology and wants something sophisticated that can last for generations. I think jewellery should also be contemporary and emulate the style of the current time. That's also why I want to incorporate advanced technology in my designs.
What is the Descience project you were involved in?
Descience is an initiative set up by a group of MIT PhD students who wanted to merge fashion and science. The point was to have two completely dissimilar disciplines collaborate together to create something unique. So when a friend studying at Harvard told me about this project, I immediately knew that I wanted to get involved. How it works, is that a designer is matched with a scientist and they work together to create a wearable design inspired by a scientific concept.
This is what came out of it. I was working with Dr Sean Speese, a specialist in cellular biology to create a wearable sculpture inspired by the process of when a nuclear envelope budding enables large ribonuceloprotein particles to export during synaptic signalling.
If you could change anything about the fashion industry what would it be?
In fashion, collaboration is key. The world would be better if we would all work together. Some people are good at some things and some at others. So we all need to work together to maximise our efficiency.