Jewellery maker Maisie Broadhead on her Brighton show ‘Peepers’

PUBLISHED: 15:41 01 December 2014

Photo by Martin O'Donnell

Photo by Martin O'Donnell


“Peepers is an installation which aims to turn the viewer’s gazes back upon itself. I want visitors to consider what it feels like to be scrutinised,” says Maisie Broadhead of her latest exhibition.

This autumn sees the unveiling of Pavilion Contemporary 3, with Maisie’s extraordinary new installation. Visitors to the Music Room will feel like figures in a doll’s house as giant photographic faces peer at them through the windows. The work plays with a multitude of ideas around the subject of scrutiny, while offering a new interpretation of the scale, architecture and history of the Royal Pavilion and the lives of its famous inhabitants.

Maisie, a graduate of Brighton College of Art, spent a great deal of time researching the history of the Royal Pavilion through meetings with David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion and with reference to books, television and online research. “My feeling when visiting and researching the Royal Pavilion is that it is a building with fantasy, make-believe, illusion and pretence at its heart. It reflects George IV’s intent to create a grand, visual statement. But what makes it very thought-provoking for me is that the Royal Pavilion was at such odds with the world around it at the time of its conception. I can imagine for many eyes it must have symbolised the gulf between their lives and the lives of royalty.

“Immediately after my BA I moved to New York, where I waited tables and spent a long time dreaming,” says Maisie Broadhead of her career path. “When I returned to England I took on a studio. Alongside my own work there I was a studio jeweller for a designer, an images researcher for a design publication, and I briefly made props for the National Theatre. Oh, and I’ve pulled quite a few pints in a lot of pubs including in the Lanes of Brighton.”

Maisie lived in the city for three years during her studies: “I made some great friends who I still know today, and I have some very happy memories, but it was also an oddly lonely time. I was young and for the first time I was trying to get to grips with who I was and what I wanted to do with my life.”

Today, Maisie is inspired by “life, relationships, people, stories, gossip, museums, history – oh, and the occasional historical painting.”

Maisie mostly picks historical paintings where jewellery is at the centre of the image’s meaning, and then cleverly places her own jewels within her work. She also makes pieces to go with the images – a plate, a vase. “I like to bring my work to life by making elements to go in the pictures or to sit outside them,” she says.

For others wanting to work in the same way, she says that “ultimately it’s about not giving up, even if you’re not sure. The MA helped me as I spent a lot of time enjoying it. I took five years out between my BA and MA, and I had done enough stuff to realise that if it didn’t work out I would be okay, but it was also a chance to have fun, meet people and go to interesting talks. I think my creativity improved when I was not paralysed by the fear of making mistakes or ‘what happens after this’. Enjoying what I do was an important turning point.”

In terms of her upcoming exhibition at the Brighton Pavilion, she says: 
“all the inspiration has been drawn from the building and its occupants. Revisiting Brighton has been very enjoyable for me – you see things differently 15 years on.”

Peepers runs until 1 March 2015 at the Royal Pavilion. Contact Maisie on 07963 672538;


Read on

How Alison Macleod’s novel ‘Unexploded’ was inspired by the Brighton Pavilion

Connaught Theatre in Worthing celebrates 100 years of service

Latest from the Sussex Life