Fresh designs from ancient landscapes: An interview with jeweller Lucy Spink

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Drawing inspirations from nature and antiquity, jeweller Lucy Spink works from her small workshop in Cornwall. We saw Lucy’s work at The Contemporary Craft Festival in Devon last summer and we were really drawn to the contemporary forms and textures she creates, using very traditional techniques and old hand tools. These organic textures make light and its playful, manipulative nature with materials intrinsic to her work, and the marks from her tools are also an important part of the story behind each piece. We caught up with Lucy to find out more…

Tell us a bit about how you first started making jewellery and at what point you began to sell and exhibit your work? I began making jewellery under the guidance of Victoria Walker at Truro College. She was an incredible teacher and very inspiring, she was in the early stages of her career then and it is so good to see how well she is doing now with her beautiful jewellery. When I started making jewellery, I was also running my own retail business so it was a natural step to start selling my work in the shop. I spent two years living and working in Trinidad and had the use of Bruce Moutett’s jewellery studio, he taught me a lot of new skills and encouraged me to develop. My husband and I returned to Cornwall and I started to set up the current Lucy Spink Jewellery brand, which I am really proud of and working hard to grow.

What’s your studio space like? I have had a few studio spaces (including the utility room) since coming back to the UK. I currently have a very smart shed in the garden so my commute to work is fantastic. I have taken on a student who is developing her own style and it is great to have company as working on your own can get lonely.

If you can, describe a typical day for you? A typical day starts with a cup of tea and a long dog walk. It clears my head and I can think about new designs. I love being outdoors and Cornwall is full of inspiration for me. I usually spend some time doing admin and then the rest of the day is available to actually make work. No two days are the same, which I think is the best thing about what I do.

From who or what do you draw your inspirations? I love ancient landscapes. I find it fascinating how you can read a landscape and see how it has been shaped by people for generations. I mostly find the unspoilt places are my favourite. Ancient settlements on Dartmoor, lichen covered rocks and stunted oak trees, pebble strewn beaches and dried up seaweed.

Other jewellers are very inspiring too. I love the work of Bronwen Gwillim, the simple shapes and beautiful textures of the recycled material; Helen Noakes’ jewellery is gorgeous and makes me smile, I have been following her for years, and I take great delight in the incredible depth of work by the Precious Collective on Instagram. I am also in love with writing, from journals like Elementum to the books by Robert Macfarlane, words can be so powerful and incredibly inspiring to me.

There are lots of amazing independent jewellers in the UK and this makes for a strong team and a great supportive community, but it also means that makers have to keep on their toes to stay original. How do you ensure that you and your designs maintain your own identifiable style, but also keep refreshing? It can be really hard to define a style and maintain a growing collection. I use reticulation and hammering in all my work so the surface textures are always the same running through new designs. My Grandad’s old workshop tools are also a big part of my work and the marks they leave during the making process become part of the design, which I think helps the customer to see the handmade nature of each piece.

We think we know what your answer to this will be…Do you find that you’re always thinking about jewellery making whatever you’re doing? Yes, always. Whether it’s admin that must be done, designs that I am mulling over or searching for new stones to incorporate into my work. I always come home from a walk with bits of lichen and twigs, beautiful pebbles and shells. They get stashed away in corners of the garden and in piles in my studio.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment? I am currently working on incorporating large stones into my work, which is a lot of fun for me. I have found some great suppliers across the world who are sourcing and cutting their own stones, so I can learn the story behind each one from them. One day I might get to go and visit some of them!!

Which Makers’ work do you have on your personal wishlist? Teresa Dunne – I was given a scarf for my birthday (so I guess it’s not on my list anymore), Bronwen Gwillim – I recently bought a pair of her earrings, Heliconia Furniture’s chair in black walnut is a thing of beauty, Peter Lanyon’s No 4 shelves, Rebecca Proctor’s ceramics …. I could go on and on.

What do you have planned in the build up to Christmas and where can people see your work? In the build up to Christmas I will be building on the new collection, Mini Monolith, which is based around the smaller open rectangular links and more reticulation to create a different feel. Alongside this are the new one off pieces that you are starting to see in the rings I have been posting. I am adding necklaces to these and I am finding that it is exciting to work on and design one single piece that will never be replicated. I hope to do more of these over the next 6 months and look forward to getting feedback from my customers. In addition to this, I am doing a small group show called Creek Arts and Crafts (watch out on my social media for details) and I have been accepted into Cheltenham Made by Hand in 2019. There are lists of my stockists on my website including a new exhibition at the Victoria Sewart Gallery in Plymouth which I am really excited to be included in this year.

Many thanks to Lucy for answering our questions. We were very lucky to be part of the judging panel at The Contemporary Craft Festival in June and the award for Best New Business was presented to Lucy, so you can find her beautiful collection of jewellery right here on madebyhandonline. Thanks for reading!