Ted Noten

Ted Noten

18th December, 1956 - Present

Ted Noten was born in the town of Tegelen, in the Netherlands in 1956. After a varied early career, involving spells as a bricklayer and a psychiatric nurse, he enrolled with the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design in the Netherlands, and obtained a degree from the Amsterdam Gerrit Rietveld Academy in 1990. Soon after graduating, he opened his studio. It was from here that he began to create work which challenged the ideas developing in the contemporary jewellery world. His designs have extended beyond the conventions of decoration, expanding into larger pieces which could even be classified as sculpture. He states that his influences come from a wide range of artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst and even Marilyn Monroe. His acknowledgement of both past and contemporary icons and artists means that his practice is based upon both older and more recent styles. Therefore, he is able both to reinterpret design and create his own new and unique designs. His practice is particularly concerned with the avant-garde, seeing an understanding and appreciation of this as a way of accessing larger cultural values. However, he is still deeply interested in the history of jewellery design, creating another layer of overlap between old and modern. Working in a highly conceptual way, Noten also likes to blur the boundaries between the theatrical and the ornamental. In much of his work he appropriates everyday objects and symbols, items and signs which are recognised from consumer culture – the badge of Mercedez Benz, for example, can easily be turned into a brooch. In using such well recognised brands, his works not only walk the line between criticism and humour, but also reinvent items of consumer society as entirely new products. Noten has stated in his manifesto that he believes that contemporary jewellery must be “shamelessly curious” and “use traditional codes in order to break them” and it is through these policies that he is able to explore the link between the avant-garde and traditional histories of jewellery design. Taking everyday objects and symbols, he questions their value in society by presenting them in entirely new situations and contexts. His work, therefore, is highly conceptual and dependent upon his ideas and inspirations both as an artist and as a professional jeweller.

In one of his best known collections, Noten created a project named ‘Koffergeheimen’ (‘Suitcase Secrets’) in which his key themes are demonstrated through appropriation and reinvention. For this project, Noten asked people to bring items with them such as, “an ugly gift I dare not throw away” or “a love letter I want to keep but do not want to read.” With these random items, which only held meaning for the owner, Noten cast them in concrete, to which he then attached a handle so that it became a kind of suitcase. This was based on his practice of ‘freezing’ objects in blocks of acrylic, creating handbags and suitcases with items immortalized within them. Noten has created some of his acrylic suitcases filled with jewels and rings, but also objects as different as guns and lizards. This practice translates directly into his designs, as he has also cast items in smaller form to create necklaces. Jewellery is held within jewellery, alongside other seemingly random objects, which are solely relevant to the selection process of the artist and therefore hold a unique charm.

In 2005 he rebranded his design studio as ‘Atelier Ted Noten’, basing it around the concepts, processes and aesthetics of his practice. This studio, which develops materials and concepts, explores contemporary forms to question the ideals and traditions of design. Noten works with a group of freelancers and designers, and has achieved great success as a solo artist and in collaborative ventures. As a result his works have been exhibited worldwide, from Istanbul to Venice to Amsterdam. His works are also held all over the world, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio and the Röhsska Museum in Sweden. He has also won many prizes for his designs since 1998, and has had his work included in numerous publications. Between 2005 and 2008 he was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and, in 2007, he worked with the Masters programme at the Design Academy Eindhoven. He acts as a visiting lecturer to various institutions worldwide, spreading his interests and skills in contemporary jewellery design.