Jonathan Boyd

Research project: I Can't Even String A Sentence Together: A practice-led enquiry into the relations of language, narrative, body and thing.


This PhD collates 10 years of art and jewellery practice and the critical, reflexive writing that accompanies it. The contribution adds to the sphere of an expanded applied arts through a type of rigorous (in Heideggerian sense of "thinking" as opposed to a more traditional applied arts ontic approach) and a prolonged investigation into the relationship between language (text/words) and the body, using jewellery as a carrier of meaning and as a site to develop poetic and three-dimension narrative/poetic structures.

My practice-led methodological approach has centred around a critically reflective and reflexive practice, where poetic interpretations (Derrida, 1978) have grown from various forms of linguistic and literary analysis. Specifically, a deconstructive approach (Derrida, 1974), which seeks to continually undermine certain binary norms (speech/writing, {hand}writing/drawing, digital/analogue, object/subject, jewellery/sculpture, object/things) and a Deleuzian rhizomatic approach (Deleuze, 1980), which finds non-hierarchical connections developing an "and...and...and" approach to making. Questions continually drive the research and are regularly updated through retrospective reflective development and recontextualising. However, three questions emerge/solidify which speak to, make demands of, and through, the present and historical practice and are central to the ongoing drive of this research:

  • Why wear words? (And what does such as act mean?) *
  • How can form in-form meaning and meaning in-form in a creative, object-based practice? **
  • How might one write a thing {jewellery}? ***

The research is contextualised within several key areas situated in jewellery and applied arts discourse and is fostered through a lineage of research surrounding narrative and narrative structure within artefacts/jewellery (Cunningham (2007), Astfalck (2007)), storytelling practices in jewellery and crafts (i.e. H.Stofer and M.Rana), formation of meaning and identity via topophilic resonance (Legg, 2012), jewellery theory (Ungar, denBesten) and deconstructive approaches to craft (Rowe). Of greater impact to the research is its grounding in a wide range of social theory and postmodern philosophy specifically, but not limited to, the writings of key influential thinkers/writers in Social Theory/Material Culture (Ingold, Miller, Ahmed, Baudrillard, Bachelard, Tuan) and Philosophy, Literary and Art Theory (Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, Harman, Golding, Barad, Barthes, Chalmers, Burrows, Stewart).

  • Research degree: PhD by prior publication/portfolio
  • Title of project: I Can't Even String A Sentence Together: A practice-led enquiry into the relations of language, narrative, body and thing.
  • Research supervisor: Professor Sara Upstone


Jonathan Boyd is an artist, jeweller, and practice-led researcher. He is the Head of Programme, Applied Art (Jewellery and Metal /Ceramics and Glass), at the Royal College of Art in London, where he is also the Reader in Jewellery. He is an active practitioner and researcher in the areas of jewellery and metal, applied art and wider interdisciplinary arts and creative writing, where his research has sought to explore and understand actions and interpretations of language, narrative, place, and communication through the form of objects, creative writing, and jewellery.

Jonathan is the Co-Lead of the Materials Engagements cluster in the School of Arts and Humanities at the RCA and has led major K.E projects, including the design, creation, and manufacture of the 2014 Commonwealth Games medals. His work can be found in private and public collections internationally, including Boston Museum of Fine Arts USA, The V&A Museum London, The National Museum of Scotland, The SchmuckMuseum (Pforzheim, Germany), Spencer Museum USA, Nelson-Atkins Museum USA, The Transport Museum Glasgow, The Scottish Parliament, The Worshipful Company of Goldsmith's, The Royal College of Art and Glasgow School of Art.

Areas of research interest

  • Jewellery
  • Applied Art
  • Materiality
  • Philosophy
  • Critical Theory
  • Creative Writing


  • MA(RCA) Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery, Royal College of Art
  • PG(Cert) PhD Supervision, The Glasgow School of Art
  • PG(Cert) Learning and Teaching, The Glasgow School of Art
  • Ba(Hons) (first class) Silversmithing and Jewellery, The Glasgow School of Art