Tag Archive: jewellery

  1. “By creating jewellery, I start to problem solve.” An interview with Rachel Butlin.

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    Rachel Butlin seeks to challenge the concepts of contemporary interactive and wearable jewellery, producing a range of high end, mixed material pieces. We represent makers with so many different styles and backgrounds on our website, so it’s always fascinating to learn more about them. In this interview we catch up with Rachel to find out more about her development and experiences as a professional jeweller…

    When did you first decide that you wanted to design and make?

    I have always been interested in design and the process of making, for as long as I can remember. The foundation course I studied really pushed me to experiment with lots of materials and processes, and I started to have a natural skill with metal and combining materials. This then led me on to a mixed disciplined degree, allowing me to further explore materials without being limited to just silversmithing. Being pushed out of my comfort zone and exploring different materials allowed ideas to flourish and this continues in my practice today, as I develop and explore new ways of working, combined with traditional techniques.

    What in particular drew you to jewellery?

    My pieces explore the combination of materials and the composition in which these are placed. I love to challenge the way in which people perceive a piece of jewellery or body adornment, and what it means to them to wear it. This creates intrigue between the piece and the wearer and also myself. The body becomes a canvas for my pieces in the form of statement brooches, neckpieces and rings. By creating jewellery, I start to problem solve. The form and nature of a piece lends itself to different areas of the body, for example it might evolve to become a brooch. I then explore fixings that complement the piece in as much beauty as the materials themselves, but don’t dictate how they are worn.

    From who or what do you draw your inspirations?

    Japanese culture and tradition have always been of intrigue, the art of placement, cultural colour palettes and traditional architecture. Inspiration is drawn from Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It focuses on harmony, colour use, rhythm, and elegantly simple design. I am also fascinated by Japanese traditional architecture – the unique architectural characteristics bringing together natural materials and colours with dark and bright contrasts. Linear forms feature strongly alongside geometric shapes and spaces. These ideas and themes are explored through bold strikes of colour and simple lines, brought together to create statement wearable brooches, rings and neckpieces.

    Can you tell us a bit about your studio and workspace?

    My studio space is at the Unit Twelve Gallery in the stunning Staffordshire countryside. Having a workspace at Unit Twelve has given me the chance to further develop my practice in a nurturing environment, originally under the gallery’s Cultivated Programme and now as a permanent resident. A strong community of makers creates a great lively environment to work in, with advice, reassurance and development. Jennifer Collier is such a great mentor, and guidance from someone who has been making stunning work for so long is priceless. I feel so privileged to work alongside her and to receive such valuable advice to develop as a designer maker.

    What experience has significantly influenced your professional practice?

    I am currently part of the Hothouse Programme with the Crafts Council for 2017. The application for Hothouse felt like the next natural step in my practice as a maker. Progressing from actions I’d taken on the Cultivated Programme, the intensive scheme has enabled me to be ambitious and achieve short term and future goals with help from industry experts. Hothouse has provided me with the tools to continue to grow a sustainable and successful practice. It’s been so lovely to also share this journey with fellow makers at a similar place in their making practice, and see how everyone has developed throughout the programme.

    If you can, please describe a typical day for you?

    There is no typical day in the workshop for me, every single one is different and exciting! I love to explore and play through making to achieve original new results. Some days are more planned in the run up to shows and exhibitions, but this is also balanced with more flexible days creating new statement pieces and working on commissions.

    You’ve exhibited at some of the UK’s main contemporary craft events so what advice would you give to makers interested in applying to these craft fairs?

    I think the most important thing if you’re thinking of exhibiting at a show or fair is to visit it before hand. By visiting before you apply, you can see if the market or show is definitely right for you and your work, and also see stand sizes and layout inspiration. It’s great to enjoy the atmosphere and chat to other makers and see how the show feels for them. Once you’re accepted, planning and promotion is key to making the most of the opportunity. This then makes the whole process so much easier and gives you time to really enjoy the show, which is what it’s all about.

    Tell us about your plans for the rest of the year. Autumn/Winter is always important for makers. Where can people find you and your work during the build up to Christmas?

    The run up to Christmas is always a busy time for me and this year is no exception. It’s always been a dream to exhibit at Sieraad Art Fair, the world’s leading contemporary jewellery fair in Amsterdam, and I am very proud to announce that I will be exhibiting there from 9th-12th November…. “The 16th edition of SIERAAD Art Fair (SAF) will be the most international one. SAF is the only platform in the Netherlands where professional contemporary jewellery designers from home and abroad sell their work directly and in person. To add lustre to this edition of SAF there will be some special events and striking presentations.” Sieraad.

    Along with exhibiting in Amsterdam, I will also be at The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in Manchester and ‘Lustre’ at Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts Centre. As part of Design Factory I will be exhibiting in the ‘Emerge’ Exhibition at Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge. It aims to present an inspiring collection  of work for sale by Design Factory’s up-and-coming designer makers and it runs from 30th July – 8th October 2017. It’s great to interact with visitors as a maker and talk about what inspires and excites me. Alongside the exhibition will be a ‘Meet the Maker day’ on 20th August, 12pm – 5pm, where you can chat and get to know about me and my work in more detail.

    My jewellery is also stocked by galleries throughout the UK, including Gill Wing Jewellery in London, Franny and Filer in Manchester and the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford.

    Which makers work do you have on your personal wishlist?

    My personal wishlist is ever growing as I visit more shows and events. I guess it always starts with a statement piece of jewellery, something different and exciting that catches my attention. I have admired Emily Kidson’s work for many years now and love the bright pops of colour and intricate details. Her blog provides a snapshot into new one off pieces, especially brooches which I definitely have a thing for! Recently at The Contemporary Craft Festival, the work of Tracey Falvey also really caught my eye. I love how joints are emphasised and overlapped making a feature of the construction.

     

    Many thanks to Rachel for giving us such a detailed insight into her work. You can see her full collection with us here. If you would like to commission Rachel to make you a bespoke piece please do just get in touch.

  2. A conversation with Sue Gregor: A new design, from leaf to contemporary jewellery.

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    Sue Gregor’s vibrant collection of contemporary jewellery is instantly identifiable. She’s been making acrylic jewellery with wild flower designs since 2005 from her workshop in Bristol. Her distinctive style, exciting colour combinations and incredible attention to detail show a pure celebration of the natural world that inspires her work.

    Sue uses glass quality acrylic and has developed her own method of dying and embossing the plastic with wonderful colours. She calls this method ‘Fossilized Plastic’ as it enables her to capture the very fine details of the flowers and leaves, so they then appear to be like fossils. She describes the process as creating a memory of each individual flower or leaf.

    Recently Sue had a photo shoot for some of her new designs made using Conifer leaves. We asked Sue to tell us a bit about the journey from the initial idea to the finished jewellery and photographs…I use technologies and hand processes in my work. I design my shapes using vector files in illustrator and then work out how I will place and colour the leaves on the acrylic shapes. I do a number of test strips for the colours. After the surfaces have been embossed I peel off the leaves to reveal the design (this is an exciting moment!) and I polish each piece individually. They’re then reheated to shape before any assembly, and then have a thorough quality control check and final polish. I love the way the highlights really glow when light shines through them.

    On a walk I noticed the Conifer leaves and thought I would love to work with them. I love their structure – all those fine leaves coming off a central stem. They remind me a bit of Palm leaves. I started to play with colours and design the pattern. I had been looking at screen printed designs and decided to introduce something of that feel to my design. First I collected and pressed the leaves and then each individual Conifer leaf was used to emboss the surface of the acrylic, using my own unique heat fusion process.

    After a visit to the V&A I started to work on the design for a chain necklace. I was inspired by Art Deco Bakelite necklaces from the 1920’s. I wanted to marry this with contemporary surface design to create a new fusion.

    After a number of experiments and tests I created the Conifer Chain Necklace.

    I then needed some photographs of the finished pieces. I had an exciting day photographing the collection with Eyebox Studios.

    Our Model was Opor Kunkiatngamdee I wanted to use her as I think she has such amazing cheek bones that start above her eyes and she has a really strong look. I wanted images showing a strong woman who was not passive. Opor is stunning and such a lovely person too, she was perfect for the feel I wanted. Our makeup artist was Alex Fia who did an amazing job on the natural makeup look.

    Photographer: Kim at Eyebox Studios

    Kim and Paul at Eyebox are brilliant to work with. They took my ideas and added their inspirations to them. They are very talented and I’m really pleased with the end results.

    Photographer: Kim at Eyebox Studios

    Thank you so much to Sue for letting us see behind the scenes of her work and her incredible talent. The story of how these simple leaves have sparked her ideas, along with such intriguing making processes, is extraordinary. The finished photographs are stunning and they really capture the playful light and striking colours that Sue’s so well known for.

    You can see more of Sue’s beautiful jewellery here.

     

  3. Maker’s Choice with jeweller Lynsey Walters

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    From the archives…

    Here’s another of our favourite blog posts – a very privileged look at the personal collection of one of our makers. Edinburgh based jeweller Lynsey Walters works with beautiful merino wool felt, creating bold designs that are light and easy to wear and sing with colour! She describes her work as “an imaginary garden crossed with a delicious haberdashery shop.” Lynsey exhibits her work at events around the UK as well as internationally and so naturally sees, covets and purchases a lot of contemporary craft. Finding out about the work she’s drawn to helps to tell a bit of the story behind her own work….

    Can you remember the first piece of contemporary craft that you bought and what it was that attracted you to it?

    The first pieces of craft I bought were at the New York Now Trade Show way back in 2001. I had done quite well at the show and as money notoriously burns a whole in my pocket I spent half of my takings at the show. At the first show I did I came home with a beautiful Laura McCafferty stitched picture for my wall.

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    I loved the simplicity of Laura’s work and the way she draws with stitches, there’s also quite a lot of comedy in her work which really appeals to me.

    When you’ve exhibited your work at recent events which other makers’ work have especially caught your eye?

    When I did Hereford Contemporary Craft Fair last Autumn, I was really hankering after a piece of Anya Keeley’s work. It was that way though where everything was so beautiful I just couldn’t decide. I’ve admired her work at The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in the past too – the naive folky style really appeals to me. One day I shall make up my mind and make a purchase. I also love Carla Edwards Jewellery and when we were at Flock at Woodend Barn in Banchory last winter I aquired another pair of her colourful earrings. I love the colour in Carla’s work as, much like my own work, she uses lots of bright colours, but I also love the tactility of her pieces.

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    Tell us about some of your favourite purchases.

    I was recently given a beautiful paper dress by the supremely talented Jennifer Collier – it was a touching gift as she had noticed the shoes I had bought from her years earlier at Lustre at Lakeside in Nottingham. They were displayed on my wall at home and she sent me the dress in the same paper as a much appreciated thank you gift.

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    My favourite recent aquisitions were a few pieces that came home from Craft at Top Drawer and added to my ever expanding Ken Eardley ceramics collection. I just love the bold pattern of his work – it is just so jolly you just can’t help but let his pieces lift your mood. I have a wee collection on my mantlepiece that I admire of an evening and another collection in the kitchen for during the day! His tiny jugs are the perfect size for filling the iron with water. Ken can nearly even make ironing a pleasure!

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    I hugely covet Katrin Moye’s ceramics (it’s the too much choice/everything is too beautiful scenario again though – one day I will make up my mind.) I had a lovely suprise at The Contemporary Craft Festival when I had helped Katrin out with some paper bags (she’d forgotten hers). I came back to my stand and she’d left one of her mugs there for me. It was one of her manufactured ones but I enjoy it and use it daily. One day I will invest in one of her handmade pieces which I’m sure will bring me even more pleasure.

    Where do your purchases live? 

    Mainly my purchases live at home, I have a few pieces that I have been respectively requested by my husband to keep at my studio, but they are mainly weird vintage rather than contemporary craft! I live in Edinburgh where many of the period properties have what is called an Edinburgh Press: it’s a shallow cupboard built into the wall with shelving – with the door removed it’s a beautiful place to display treasures. We have 2 at home and they are pretty much full of craft and vintage finds.

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    What other sort of work are you drawn to? Are you attracted to work that has a familiarity or connection to your own practice and do you feel there’s a theme to the pieces you own?

    I am drawn to a huge variety of work and it in no way has to have a connection to what I create. I do love textiles and jewellery but I find I am seduced by colour and pattern above everything else. I don’t own that many plain subdued pieces, but if I do it will have a beautiful texture or an unusual quirk perhaps. I do love a bit of humour or weirdness in my contemporary craft! The theme is that there is no theme. I really love contrast, I love antique next to modern, cheap as chips next to precious. It’s just what pleases me.

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    Do you have a favourite piece and what’s the story behind it?

    I know this is a bit obvious, but it would have to be my wedding ring. its made by the amazing jeweller Tanja Ufer – I adore her work. She made my engagement ring too and I have a couple of other pieces that I have bought myself. The wedding ring is my favourite though, not only for the obvious reasons but because Tanja used gold from jewellery that had been my lovely gran’s to make the ring. It is so precious to me.

    What’s your most recent purchase?

    A piece of jewellery by Rachel Eardley. I had coveted it for a LONG time! Its a gold dollar from 1851 set into a ring. I love Rachel’s style – it’s charming and naive and fabulous.

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    Do you buy contemporary craft as presents and if so what sort of work do you choose?

    I often buy craft for my mum as gifts as she loves craft and vintage too, so I find it very easy to buy her work. I bought her some beautiful jewellery by Clare Hillerby for her 60th birthday – I was convinced she’d love it as it combines contemporary craft with beautiful vintage ephemera. I’ve also bought one of Anne Morgan’s gorgeous rope necklaces for my very stylish sister-in-law. It involved much texting back and forward to her husband to try and decide on a colour. We plumped for emerald green and it looked great on her! I have since seen about 3 friends wearing one of Anne’s necklaces and really wish I had bought one as a gift for myself too!

    madebyhandonline_Anne_Morgan_Cotton_Knot_Necklace

    If you could write the ultimate wish list which makers’ work would be on it?

    Well I really wish I’d bought one of Teresa Green’s wash bags whilst I was at Craft at Top Drawer in London – I very nearly did but as I have a wee family sometimes buying a ‘frivilous’ item for myself seems very self-indulgent (jewellery doesn’t count as that is clearly an heirloom for my daughter, so perfectly justified!). But, it was a lovely wash bag and would have brought me a disproportionate amount of pleasure so at The Contemporary Craft Festival in the summer hopefully one will be mine! I do always hope that one day I will own one of Samantha Bryan’s fabulous creations. I have admired her work for a very long time – in fact since the first Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair 6 or 7 years ago – her display at the fair was so beautiful and I can still remember the flying fairies hung from her stand looking wonderful. My good friend recently celebrated her 40th and was given one of Samantha’s fairies by her very thoughtful husband. My 40th has already passed but maybe for my 50th….

    Lynsey_Walters_madebyhandonline_blog_Sam_Bryan

    Thank you very much to Lynsey for writing for us and telling us about her treasured possessions. We’re looking forward to seeing Lynsey again at the Contemporary Craft Festival here in our hometown in Devon. You can shop from Lynsey’s collection online with us here where you’ll find lots of beautiful new arrivals inspired by Hungarian embroidery.

    Lynsey_Walters_madebyhandonline_blog_Necklace_jewellery

  4. Wabi sabi, seeds and gold: A guest blog by jeweller Belinda Norrington

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    From the archives…

    Jeweller Belinda Norrington draws inspiration from her natural surroundings – the hedgerows, seashore and riverbank, as well as the stunning wathes of forms and colour from her own garden she tends for her cut flower business. Lots of artists and makers are inspired by the natural world, but it can be hard to articulate how these inspirations are translated into work. In this guest blog Belinda does this perfectly as she tells us a bit about the philosophy behind her work, and from these pictures you can see that not only does she make exquisite jewellery, she’s also a very talented photographer…

    “All summer long, I am transfixed by the beautiful flowers and grasses in the water meadows behind my house, but as autumn rolls by, it is the beautiful patches of woodland and, especially, the increasingly skeletal seedheads along the hedgerows and in the local meadows that catch my eye.

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    A few years ago,  I chose a photo of a seedhead of giant cow parsley as the logo for my business because I love the delicate umbel shape, the pretty, papery seeds ready to catch a breeze, the fact that the beauty is unrepentantly caught up in its impermanence, fragility, simplicity.

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    This also seems to capture notions of wabi sabi – the Japanese idea that there is value and beauty in the natural, simple, impermanent. This philosophy is becoming more and more central to my life and my work – noticing the exquisite in the ordinary and simple, and embracing natural, organic conduits of inspiration and comfort is very instinctive to me but is also beginning to form an outlook and appreciation for life that feels very truthful and much more ‘me’ than more current Western pre-occupations with glamour, success, status and competitive perfectionism. In my making, this actually requires real focus and precision because if you are going to make something that celebrates natural textures and organic forms, with all their inherent little imperfections and simplicity, then they need to be very carefully considered to remain visually pleasing and intriguing. This is why design and making will always be a learning process, a honing and gathering together of skills, ideas and vision.

    Crucially, there is a stillness at the heart of my understanding of wabi sabi’s connection to creativity – and I definitely need this stillness in wild places to take time to really notice the beauty surrounding me, stillness in considering designs, stillness in the quiet, hopefully lovely pieces of jewellery that result. I don’t want to make jewellery that shouts, competes, draws attention across a room, I want to create small, nature inspired pieces that speak of stillness, simplicity, beauty. It feels good to write it down, these thoughts have been swirling around my mind for months!

    In the last few weeks, the small, oval seeds on the giant cow parsley have struck me as really lovely shapes to use in a new collection – so ephemeral and simple, yet because within them they hold the potential to create plants over seven foot high they are also symbolic of regeneration and hope. This aspect of seeds really appeals to me – their small ordinariness combined with their incredible potential and energy. I think seeds, seedheads and husks will be a rich seam of inspiration.

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    I am making some cow parsley seeds in silver and gold, and we will see how it goes! Autumn, seedheads, wabi sabi and gold – all swimming around in my mind and imagination, it makes sense to me, I hope it makes some sense to you.

    So far, I have been designing some rings and bangles using 100% recycled sterling silver and 100% recycled 9ct gold, and I’m loving the simplicity and tactility of the oval seed shapes. I am looking forward to creating some earrings and necklaces as well, and am also really excited to begin offering these and other designs in Fairtrade, Fairmined gold – hopefully in time for Christmas.”

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    Many thanks to Belinda for writing for us –  it all makes perfect sense and we’re really excited to have her work with us here on madebyhandonline!

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