The next installment of our Through the Loupe series has arrived, this month we’re going through the loupe with Jem from JEMS Jewellery.
Tell us a bit about the jewellery you design
JEMS jewellery is inspired by a few things; the moments when we reminisce, the British stereotype we have as a country, and the rituals we proudly claim as a nation. Remember when the Olympics came to London? I loved the opening ceremony where the teams march in holding an umbrella with their countries names on, fantastically stereotypically British!
British ritual: I have fond memories of my past, doing bonkers things like going to the seaside with my mum and a brolly, to stand there with some fish and chips in the rain….because we did this every August, it was never questioned. I think the coast holds a romantic notion of childhood we all love to remember, and I try and capture this in the work. My designs are clean and simple, recognisable and fun. The rule tends to be if it doesn’t make me giggle at the bench peg, it’s not a JEMS design!
How did you get into jewellery designing?
Jewellery is very important to me, I wear it every day, I never take it off; it is my identity. I have a spider necklace named Boris that I have worn for over 10 years, he is my lucky spider. [Ok as a spider hater this is something we have to see – we’ll be in touch to discuss this….]
Designing jewellery: I can trace it right back to my school days, when I left high school I was offered a ‘Summer School Experience’ by Bradford University. It was a week of doing all sorts of topics, from bone studies to class blowing. I enjoyed two classes the most, Glass blowing and jewellery making. The jewellery making was simply twisting silver plated wire around a metal bracelet frame and putting beads on it, but I loved every moment.
I can trace a love of jewellery even further back, when I was a toddler I wore plastic silver toy jewellery. I find it amazing that I was loving my silver even as a small child.
Do you make your own jewellery, or do you have help?
I mostly make all of my own at my workshop, however I outsource to other business local and national. These business have the skills and machinery I do not own such as mould making, lost wax casting and metal spinning. It is good to support other business, I believe heavily in business karma.
[As do we!! That’s a great use of resources, such a good idea because it must give you the flexibility to access methods and tools that you just couldn’t manage otherwise.]
What are your influences?
This is a hard one, you may as well ask what doesn’t influence me! I am a bit of a sponge, I soak things up wherever I go. The farm outside my window seems to be a big influence at the mo. I love Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I often go there to sketch. I was once inspired greatly by the Falkirk Boat Bridge, it is beautiful. I spent a day there just ogling the mechanisms in awe. I like to look at machinery and how they work, robots and gadgets. Music and fashion are quite amazing two, and go together like peas in a pod.
What’s your favourite piece of your own jewellery?
It will have to be the Memory Vessel. This piece has been growing with me since my final year at university. I have developed, redesigned and packaged it and I am sure it’s such a unique product, I have just had it engraved and now it looks the bee’s knees. I am sure it will make me famous one day.
[We really love this too – for those of you who don’t know it is more than a locket could ever be, it’s your very own mini time capsule – what a great way of capturing a special moment. You place your special items into it, close it up and it’s designed to stay sealed!]
Who inspires you?
There are many designers in the world that inspire me for a variety of different reasons. Jewellery designers Such as Alan Adriff, Becky Crow, and Chris Boland I admire for their unique style and hard work. I can spot Adriff’s work from a mile away, I love his little hinges and moving parts that are narrative and fun, often based on dreams and wives tails. Local jewellery designers such as Inky Linky and Magnolia Restrepo are often in my circles and have been jewellery designers for a while inspire, support and advise me as a new business which is amazing, I really appreciate their wise words. Then there are the big legendary designers such as Wendy Ramshaw, beautiful.
What sort of jewellery do you like to wear?
The jewellery I wear is the jewellery I have had on my whole life. I get very attached to it. Boris is the star piece, I wish I had made him. I have many piercings, so there is lots of body jewellery. I wear a pair of heavy silver flesh tunnels that I cast from tear drop stone ones using sand casting. The tunnels have my makers hallmarks engraved, I like to wear them for mostly for that reason.
What’s your favourite gemstone?
I love Rubies, I have a big crush on the colour red. The Sapphire in my engagement ring is pretty beautiful though too. It reflects all over the place. Mother of Pearl is fascinating, it’s so delicate and busy, bursting with colours.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I would love to have a few more stockists and attend all the big events such as Desire, Dazzle and GNCCF. I dream of becoming a specialist in wedding ring design and known for my work. Another dream of mine is to do an ‘Alt JEMS’ range for sub culture fashion, I can see it now. The branding could become green and black with a spooky bug! I would love to make it into a design book like the ones I studied at university, and be quoted with an image and a date. Truly famous!
[We love the sound of AltJEMS! If you ever do this range I hope you’ll come back and tell us about it…I always hope designers will still think of us when they’re rich and famous!]
How difficult was it to set up your own business?
It’s a strange moment, I had had a month in Thailand with a friend, and was getting scared to come home as I knew that was the beginning of a new life. It’s a bit daunting. I had been on many a short course, had mentoring and read books on how to start up. There was nothing else to do apart from register as self-employed. I told the tax man on 20th of November, scratched my head for a couple of months and then got myself into a collective shop. It’s hard at the start as you know nothing about the practical side of running a business. It’s a bit like fishing in the dark, no deadlines, and no briefs. I found myself being a bit clueless, but as time moves on opportunities come and things start to roll. I have been in the self-employed business almost 2 years now and things are only just starting to move in terms of stockists etc. There is so much to learn.
What did you do before you designed jewellery?
I first started out wanting to be a furniture maker. I knew I loved making 3D, and I loved craft such as woodwork, ceramics and glass. I left school not knowing what to do so my art teacher recommended Art and Design GNVQ for a year, which got me hooked on crafts. From there I did a furniture National Diploma and that naturally progressed me into the furniture degree. Life had become a bit sad, my mum had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and I just swam with the progression. It became a tough patch of life and the degree turned into a product design like course which didn’t have much actual making of final projects at all, I didn’t realise at the time, but I was failing…it hit me like a bus on the final day. I took a year out in 2008 trying to get a job and re build my life, having not found anything I looked at universities as the desire for a degree was burning bright. I found Metalwork and Jewellery at Sheffield Hallam and had an interview (which went very badly) and low and behold…I got a place! I found from failing my 1st degree I was loads better at the 2nd one and graduated with a 2:1! It just proves how life is so fantastic and hard to predict, as the saying goes “learn from your mistakes” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
[That’s really inspiring – it must have been a really difficult time for you and to come through it having found your way into something you enjoy is impressive!]
What do you like to do when you’re not doing this?
I have re discovered the joy of gardening recently after moving from a back to back to a beautiful house with a back garden and a greenhouse (which I have named George) I spent most of my time in there now, growing, thinning and re potting. I cannot believe how happy gardening makes me feel. My cucumber plant is going barmy and I have really big sun flowers growing on my veggie patch. I love it.
[I do like the fact you name things, although I must confess I wish I could enjoy gardening, our back garden looks like a disaster zone!]
White gold or yellow gold, or something else…?
I have only just discovered the joy of working in gold. I had a 9 carat wedding rings commission recently. Having only worked in silver since setting up JEMS I was hesitant, but as soon as I began I realised it was an amazing material to work with. When I polish it up, just wow! So now I much prefer working gold to silver, unfortunately as is costs a lot more, I can only work in gold as commissions pieces.
Thank you so much to Emma for letting us get to know you a little better – if you’re inspired by this piece you can visit Emma’s website and her shop on Etsy! You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter at @emma_swailes. We really hope you’ve enjoyed this post, if you are a designer, jewellery or work in any aspect of the jewellery or gemstone industry and fancy coming Through the Loupe with us please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.