In 2004 I got brave. Having been the Chief Executive of a wonderful regional community care charity for seven years, I knew it was time for a change but couldn’t see any job I’d rather do in that sector. It was time for a complete rethink.
Wearing fantastic contemporary jewellery made by independent designer makers was one of my greatest joys. It spoke of who I was as the person behind the suit. It kept me in touch with my love of quirky, handmade, authentic things whilst I was wading through contracts and negotiations. Making things by hand had always been a hobby for me, but could it be anything more? Two terms and a part time City and Guilds jewellery course later, and I was ready to make the leap. I handed in my UCAS forms and worked my 6 months notice.
The following three years back at university with a group of people who were very lovely (but nearly all younger than my mortgage) was an eye opening experience. The creativity of some of my fellow students was amazing, and makers who’d been my idols became my teachers. I was used to designing innovative services on a shoestring, but not sketching, playing, and making crazy things. It wasn’t easy.
Being at university as a mature student was often a lonely experience for me. And the thought of that first long summer holiday – three months with no structure – was quite daunting. That’s when we decided it was time to get some pets and opted for a pair of hens. They’re great fun: eternally curious, funny, greedy. I tried sketching them, and produced squiffy lines, half finished shapes, and extra heads where they’d refused to stand still. The results were too embarrassing to show.
The thing that no-one had told me about being a jeweller – an artist that is – is that it’s a very public affair. In my previous career I’d been used to my public and private lives being quite distinct. It took me all my time at uni to come to terms with the fact that being a contemporary jeweller with any authenticity at all means you have to put yourself into your work, and if you want your work to be seen that means putting yourself out there for all to see.
My pet hens, and the wild birds that had flooded into our garden once our ancient cats had died, began to emerge in my work. Firstly the softened triangular shapes and a sense of movement. Later I uncovered my early bird sketches and found that the lines in them held a sense of energy that did actually work. A trip to see some decoy duck carvers at work was pivotal in helping me realise that what I wanted to portray wasn’t what I saw, it was a sense of the moment and how I felt when I saw (or heard) something.
The resulting series of bird brooches that I designed and made from a limited palette of wood and wire, won first prize from the Goldsmiths’ Company. They went on to become the basis of my successful ‘sketches’ jewellery collection that I have exhibited at such top events as Goldsmiths’ Fair, Origin, Desire, Bovey Tracey, and Lustre.
I have since gone on to sell prints of my bird sketches as well as jewellery, made subsequent jewellery collections based on drawings of sounds and – returning to the birdy theme – nests. My work has been exhibited and sold in galleries across the UK and abroad, and images of my jewellery appear in a number of books and journals.
Please see my CV for further details of the shows and exhibitions I’ve done, and publications that include my work.
Find me listed on:
The Goldsmiths’ Company website: Who’s Who in Gold & Silver