Strange turn: Tom Binns’ skewed take on precious adornment

‘Bambi’, plastic child’s toy
‘Bambi’, plastic child’s toy with metal arrows through it
(Image credit: press)

Tom Binns’ idiosyncratic blend of playfulness in jewellery design is the subject of a new exhibition at Dover Street Market. The pieces, from previous collections including ‘Radical Exquisites’, ‘Assemblage Eclectique’ and ‘Contempt of the Familiar’, are on show together for the first time.

‘I have always thought of my approach as being more conceptual,’ Binns’ says of his take on jewellery design. ‘Although these designs are wearable, I see them more as objects of adornment for the curious. They are a dare.’

His designs often take the form of mundane items – a child’s toy, an animal figurine, a rubber tyre – and play with ideas of innocence. Taken out of context, their meaning is warped, and though faintly disconcerting, the impression is not unpleasant. Innocence may have been corrupted, but there is still an element of beauty, and in them, Binns sees positivity and a constant evolution; the antithesis of hopelessness.

The marriage of the everyday with the surreal, the precious with the prosaic, is seductive – ‘Chance Encounters’ comprises a cracked iPhone cover, incongruous against gilded twigs, swinging gently from a golden chain, while a plastic head, human hair, copper, vintage pearls and crystal make a discomfiting amalgamation in ‘See Horse’.

‘What is precious?’ Binns asks. ‘Memories are precious. Objects have history, which makes them precious, so it’s a whole new take on what we regard and value. What you gain in life is the love you leave behind. That is truly what is precious.’

Ultimately though, the jewellery is humorous, a sly wink at those who take life too seriously. Binns concurs: ‘There is a sense of irony and humour and a sense of questioning and irreverence, so hopefully that comes across. Most of the artists I admire have that sense of playfulness that portrays a feeling of depth, and also lightness.’

‘Wanker’, brass metal plaque, vintage pearl and crystal.

Left, ‘Wanker’, brass metal plaque, vintage pearl and crystal. Right, ‘See Horse’, plastic head, human hair, copper, vintage pearl and crystal

(Image credit: press)

‘Woman in Chains’, rubber tire, porcelain doll arms, sterling silver chain and padlock

Left, ‘Woman in Chains’, rubber tire, porcelain doll arms, sterling silver chain and padlock. Right, ‘The Great Divide’, eroded copper effected by the elements, silver staples, Swarovski crystal and pearls

(Image credit: press)

Happy Bunnies’, brass chain, plastic toys. hair

Left, ‘Happy Bunnies’, brass chain, plastic toys. hair. Right, ‘Chance Encounters’, gold chain, gilded twigs, color plastic pieces, metal can top, cracked iPhone cover

(Image credit: press)

Not Nice’, destroyed crystal necklaces,

‘Not Nice’, destroyed crystal necklaces, safety pins

(Image credit: press)


Tom Binns’ exhibition is on view until 19 October 2018. A smaller selection of pieces will be on display until the end of the year. For more information, visit the Dover Street Market website


Dover Street Market
18-22 Haymarket
London SW1Y 4DG


Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.