St John's College Oxford

Wendy Ramshaw CBE, RDI remembered

Date 19 December 2018

The College notes with great sadness the death of Wendy Ramshaw CBE, RDI (Royal Designer for Industry) on 9 December 2018.

An internationally renowned designer of modern jewellery, especially noted for her signature ringsets which are represented in over 80 public collections worldwide, Wendy Ramshaw’s work included designs for textiles, screens and sculpture on a much larger scale.

Ramshaw had a long-standing relationship with St John’s. When the Garden Quadrangle was being planned in the late 1980s and at the prompting of the architect, Richard MacCormac, the College decided to incorporate various works of art in the project. The main pieces chosen were the glass walls surrounding the central space designed by Alexander Beleschenko and the gate by Wendy Ramshaw which incorporates a non-inverting lens for viewing the Garden Quad buildings. The lens enables the observer to see a wider and clearer image of the space beyond and Ramshaw intended it as a metaphor for the curious enquiring mind and the desire for expanded knowledge. The gate was Ramshaw’s first large-scale piece and gained publicity when the quadrangle opened in 1993, leading to over fifteen commissions for gates, screens and entrance ways, including the New Edinburgh Gate in Hyde Park.

Garden gate

Wendy Ramshaw_World_June 2007.jpgRamshaw also continued as a jewellery designer and was Artist in Residence in 2005. During her residency she encouraged students to make jewellery out of paper as she had done for Mary Quant during the 1960s. She had earlier published, with her husband and collaborator David Watkins, The Paper Jewelry Collection: Easy to Wear and Ready to Make Pop Out Artwear: High-Fashion Necklaces, Earrings, Bracelets, Rings and Pins (Thames and Hudson, 2000). Following the residency, in 2007 the College acquired a beautiful piece of Ramshaw’s glasswork, World.

When the Kendrew Quadrangle was being planned, again under Richard MacCormac, Ramshaw was a natural choice to design the gates for the two entrances to the area. The inspiration for those designs (which complement one another) came from studies she made in the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford where she spent time during her residency. The gates, constructed by her son, make a dramatic entrance to the College's newest quad and the Barn.

Kendrew Gate from St Giles

Kendrew Gates in sunlight