Obituary: Louise Slater

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
AMONGST THE explosion of creativity which marks the last 25 years of contemporary studio jewellery practice in Britain, Louise Slater stood out as an inspiring and generous maker.

From the beginning of her career, at Walsall School of Art, and on to the apparently traditional base of a degree in Silversmithing and Jewellery at Sheffield City Polytechnic, Slater's interest in non-precious materials and her inventiveness was to take her from exhibitions in the avant-garde of 1980s jewellery to lighting schemes and architectural installations by the mid-1990s.

With a finely tuned design sense and a consummate business professionalism, she moved scale and genre by taking advantage of new technologies such as laser cutting, while still remaining committed to producing good work at competitive prices which could be owned and enjoyed by people all over the world.

Slater graduated from Sheffield in 1979, aged 23, and quickly made her mark with a range of jewellery created from brown paper, sealing wax and ribbons, which captured the mood of excitement and innovation at the time. She soon attracted attention at such cutting-edge venues as the Arnolfini in Bristol, Aspects Gallery and the British Craft Centre in London, but retained her commitment to small shops and galleries.

The quality of her jewellery is perhaps best encapsulated by her mid- Eighties "Spirals" range, made from "Colorcore", a Formica Corporation product for kitchen worktops. Born out of a commission by Graham Hughes, then editor of Arts Review, and sponsored by Formica, the resulting range of jewellery was an almost instant success, remaining in constant production and gaining a British Design Award in 1988. The fact that Slater's work was produced in non-precious material like this means that she left an archive which contains complete samples of each range she made.

As well as her versatility, her energy was legendary. She devoted much time to overseeing the purchase of other jewellers' work by public collections, most notably that of the Crafts Council.

The need for a new range of products for her existing customer base led her to develop a range of mobiles, which were enthusiastically stocked by the retail side of the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others. The day after the birth of her son Charlie, she directed from the sofa as her husband and assistant, Victor Mann, recreated a large mobile to Terry Frost's design for his 80th birthday show at the Flowers East gallery, in London.

Anne Sutton, of the design company Site Specific, was inspired to commission larger scale versions of the mobiles, and secured the first of a range of suspended ceilings (Winchester, 1991) and then a series of lights: at Southampton Civic Centre (1992); Belsay Hall in Northumberland (1996); and the Southeast Dance Centre in Eastleigh, Hampshire (1997).

The considerable creative energy and professionalism Slater brought to bear on her work was also evident in the strength with which she combated the severe stroke she suffered last July, and fought her final illness.

Louise Slater's marriage to Victor Mann was a great love-match and they enjoyed much that the London arts scene and the Cornish countryside, where they spent many holidays, have to offer. She was a great enthusiast for the joys of allotments and her young children, Jessica, Charlie and Oliver, enjoyed feasting on the vegetables she grew.

Simon Fraser

and Amanda Game

Louise Slater, jeweller and designer: born Wolverhampton, Staffordshire 11 February 1956; married 1993 Victor Mann (two sons, one daughter); died London 1 May 1999.