Fungi themed jewellery wins
prestigious craft and design prize

Jewellery that showcases the early growth of fungi has earned a University for the Creative Arts (UCA) student Gold at the annual Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council competition.

18 Mar 2024

Jingchen Zhang, in her third year of a BA (Hons) Jewellery & Silversmithing course, won Gold in the Conceptual Jewellery 2D Design category with her entry, The Portable Fungus Farm – a concept that lets the wearer watch the growth process of mushrooms.

“I was very happy when I won the award,” she said. “This is a highly regarded competition in the UK and as a jewellery design student, it not only recognises my ability but proves I have the appropriate strengths to help me find a job in the future.”

©Jingchen Zhang

The idea stems from a documentary that Jingchen watched, called Fantastic Funghi, which inspired her to cross-pollinate jewellery with mushroom cultivation.

The Portable Fungus Farm comprises an outer shell made from mycelium, which degrades naturally within 30-90 days, and a central window, which allows the wearer to watch mushroom growth up close, encouraging a closer connection to nature and our environment.

“The non-plant and animal growth patterns of fungi fascinate me,” explained Jingchen. “I envisioned a kind of on-the-go mushroom farm that would allow me to spend time with mushrooms.

“I see this as both my favourite accessory and a way to show people the unique beauty of fungi, which is exactly what I set out to do with this creation.”

©Jingchen Zhang

Through her research, Jingchen explored the mycelial networks that exist between funghi, which she sees mirrored through the social networks in human society. It is this symbiotic relationship, as well as a time for reflection, which she seeks to bring to life through her concept.

Coming from UCA’s partner institution in China, Xiamen University, Jingchen previously planned to return to China after her course, but since winning the award she’s now considering staying in the UK – with the relevant visa – to get work experience in the industry.

She added: “I found that the jewellery programme encouraged students to actively experiment and practice their creativity. UCA's teaching philosophy is in line with my learning needs, and the educational atmosphere here makes me feel at home. I am convinced that I have come to an ideal learning environment.”

To learn more about studying Jewellery & Silversmithing at UCA, visit its course pages.