Tag Archive | workshop

Through the Loupe with…Karen Elizabeth Donovan

For March’s edition of “through the Loupe”  we’re joined by Karen Donovan, award-winning jeweller we discovered through New Designers and are so delighted to be able to showcase Karen’s beautiful and unusual jewellery.  With stunning detail Karen has recently created some jewellery with fantastic volume and a great use of colour, we’re really excited to see what else the future holds for this talented lady and hope you will follow her journey with us!

 

 

Tell us a bit about the jewellery you design:

 

I try to design jewellery that speaks to my experiences in life.  I moved to Scotland to do my postgraduate degree because I fell in love with Britain when I was younger.  My experiences here, including the people, the landscape and my interactions with the history formed a conversation that I could answer with my jewellery.  I have found the plants of Scotland to be completely different to those at home, and incredibly potent to the people here.  Once I had focused on these plants, namely Heather, the jewellery became easier to design.  I love stories, so when trying to find forms for my jewellery to take I looked into the social history of plants and the history of Britain’s jewels.  I think that stories are universally connecting – everyone loves a story.

  
[That’s really interesting because one of the reasons I love this necklace, above, is that it reminds me of the story of sleeping beauty and the forest that sprang up around her whilst she slept, I can just imagine the Prince cutting through the tangle of interwoven foliage when I look at it! Lovely]
 
How did you get into jewellery designing?
I took a class. I had been collecting earrings for ages, so when I saw a class on offer over the summer at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, I decided to try making jewellery, and it stuck.
 
Have you found it difficult to start your own business?  Was there anywhere you went for help?
I have thankfully found excellent guidance through the University of Edinburgh’s Launch.ed programme.  I work with a business advisor who finds excellent opportunities for me and I can ask anything pertaining to my business. I have also found some great opportunities and workshops with Creative Scotland and the Cultural Enterprise Office.
 
Do you make your own jewellery?
I make all of my designs by hand. I am currently an Artist in Residence at Edinburgh College of Art, which is a great opportunity to get some teaching experience under my belt and it comes with access to the extensive facilities in the department. Like many creatives though, my bench is an absolute mess no matter where it is.
[That’s fantastic news, as someone who is completely daunted by the thought of having to teach anyone anything it’s really inspiring that you’re taking the opportunity to pass on to a new collection of future creatives, but it must make you extremely busy!]
  
 
Who are your influences?
 
William Morris has always influenced me in some way. Whether through his writings or his designs, his life forms a large part of my philosophy toward designing and creating. My advisor at Skidmore College, David Peterson, has influenced me greatly and I often ask myself what would David say about this?
But my most important influence is my parents.  Through my upbringing I have been taught to appreciate art but also to be well-rounded and rational, and I could never have gotten to where I am without their support.
[That’s a really nice thing to say – I am sure your parents are very proud of what you have achieved.]
 
What inspires you?
 
Stories. Books. Like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, I read too much. But I think that experience lends a kind of significance to everyday scenes. Classical music is essential for that as well. There is nothing like a bit of Beethoven to make a situation seem more important. But hopefully what really comes out in my jewellery is that Scotland is incredibly inspirational. Take a good book and a few great classical recordings out to the Scottish islands and I am a very happy, inspired lady.
[I’m a massive reader too – I don’t think it’s possible to read too much!  Not a massive classical music fan though…maybe that’s why I’m not very creative!]
 
What sort of jewellery do you like to wear?
 
Rings. I find them strangely empowering.
 
What’s your favourite gemstone?
 
Citrine.
 
What are your aspirations for the future?
To continue to love what I do.
[Very wise words.]
 
Where did you train and how did you find the training process?
 
I did my Bachelor’s at Skidmore College in New York and my Master’s at Edinburgh College of Art. I enjoyed the diversity in the teaching between the two programmes. They provided different aspects to my training. I have tried as
much as possible during my education to get as much experience from as many teachers as possible in as many studios as I could, abroad and at home. I think that the most important part to any training process is that you put
your all in and take away as much as you can. Students should be as responsible or more than their teachers for their own learning.
 
Tell us about your connection with New Designers
 
New Designers was simply what everyone did after their degree at ECA. I never really thought about not going. Now that I have experienced it I value the platform it has created in my field, there is nothing I know of quite like it in the United States. It was a great chance to meet my peers across the UK as well as galleries and companies and people who could represent me and push me forward. I was presented with the New Designers’ Goldsmiths’ Company Jewellery award in 2014 which has helped my confidence and has pushed me into the business more thoroughly than I could have achieved without it. The main prize was a week’s work experience with Paul York at the Goldsmiths’ Centre which I did back in September. I was lucky to get to work with Paul, he is incredibly knowledgeable at what he
does and I learned so much from him.
 
What do you like to do when you’re not doing this?
 
Read, drink tea, go for walks in the rain, sing, play and listen to music, and most of all I love to solve puzzles of all kinds.
 
White gold or yellow gold…or something else?
 
Titanium. It is wonderful to work with in every way. Its combination of properties creates a very challenging and unique material. I am not one to turn down a challenge, particularly when beautiful things come out of it. Although as far as gold goes: yellow gold. It has an unparalleled warmth, and is absolutely amazing to work with, there is nothing quite like gold.
 
[I’m so glad you said Titanium!  It really does add something extra special to see jewellery in this unusual metal, I think it adds something different in particular because of its weight, what you get when you pick it up is different from what you perhaps expected.]

 

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STOP PRESS:  We’ve just found out that Karen is adding even more to her collection of awards!  We’re delighted to hear that Karen has recently been awarded the Goldsmiths Craft & Design Council Gold Award Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers Award 2015!  Also a Commendation in the Precious Metals, Gold, Platinum and Palladium category – what great news and many many congratulations to Karen on very well deserved recognition.

 

Thank you to Karen for coming through the loupe with us – you can find Karen on lots of social media outlets including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter (and don’t forget to join us on all of those too!)

 

Through the Loupe with…JEMS Jewellery

The next installment of our Through the Loupe series has arrived, this month we’re going through the loupe with Jem from JEMS Jewellery.

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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.

 

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Officially the cutest picture we have featured on this blog to date!

 

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.

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[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!]

 

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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.

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[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 adventuresthroughtheloupe@outlook.com.

 

Through the Loupe with…Sian Bostwick

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Followers of the blog will be aware of our new series where we take an in-depth look at interesting people connected with the jewellery industry, and in this post we’re delighted to be going “through the Loupe”  with Sian Bostwick to discover what goes on behind the scenes when she makes her beautiful handcrafted jewellery.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sian’s work she is a fabulous silversmith and jeweller creating from her workshop in Kent, and who recently won the 2014 UK Watch and Jewellery Awards New Designer of the Year award, you can read more about her on her blog:

Tell us a bit about the jewellery you design:

All the jewels I create are influenced by literature, fairy tales and my favourite stories. So each jewel has elements and details from the stories in the jewellery, like the hidden porthole of Nautilus collection or the spiral of Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole and the royal crest of wonderland in the Wonderland hearts. I always want to work in these detail and elements of the story’s so that the wearer can treasure the story and carry it with them always.

 

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How did you get into jewellery designing?

Making has always been part of my life, I was always creating and making things growing up, so after school I went to art college at UCA Rochester for the foundation year course.  It was on this foundation course that we had a day in the jewellery workshops and that was it!  I was in love with the processes, tools (sooo many fun tools) and accurately making something beautiful that would be treasured and kept for generations.  It’s a beautifully romantic idea, but it’s wonderful – jewellery making is the perfect balance of my artsy creative side and my tool loving making side which comes from the line of engineers (civilian and military) in my family.

[wow how interesting – taking all that hereditary engineering skill and applying it to jewellery – no wonder you can get all those lovely intricate details!]

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All your jewellery is handmade – that must be an enormous amount of work – how do you manage?

Most of the time it is me working away in my workshop creating each and every jewel, but at busy times, like at Christmas or before and after a large show, I do have help in the workshop.  Everything is still beautifully handcrafted in our Kent workshop, but with the assistance of a work experience interns, sometimes I work with a new trainee or one that I have worked with before.  This means I can still supply all our of wonderful jewellery lovers with the enchanted jewels all beautiful crafted with the help of our lovely assistants.

[What great experience for your interns – it’s really nice to see the knowledge being passed on, hopefully they’ll get some wonderful inspiration as well as practical experience]

 

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Where do you design and make your jewellery?

Each and every jewel is made in my little workshop based in an artist’s studio complex, attached to an art centre with a gallery, café and lovely sunlit courtyards. It’s wonderful to be based at the Nucleus Arts Centre, it has a wonderfully creative and artistic vibe as it is full of about 30 studios with other artists and creative in residence which creates a great environment to work in.  My workshop it’s self is a little room of jewels, bursting with jewellery to wonder at, fun tools and machinery, a very small selection of inspiring books and collections of bits and bobs including vintage tea sets. My own wonderful space to work in everyday with my jewels, tools and inspiring things around me.  

Designing is done either in the workshop were I can play with materials and make models and test pieces to try out an idea. I also tend to carry my little sketchbook with me all the time so I design were ever and when ever I want, normally while reading and relaxing, walking in the countryside or just wherever I am. These are normally rough initial ideas and sketches that I will neaten out, refine and work out the construction and details in the workshop.

I am also able to offer workshop visits, which I started almost as soon as I moved into my studio space at the art centre, once I had the space set up and sorted out it just seemed like a great idea.  It is an opportunity to visits the workshop where all the jewels are made and see that they are all made by hand and beautifully crafted.  Some like to come and discuss bespoke jewellery ideas and options for customising, or just to have fun trying on lots of enchanted jewellery and having a wonderful afternoon.  We have always received great feedback and I have found that people love to see where the jewels are made, the tools that make them and get an idea of the work and processes involved.  They also love the chance to see our full collections and one-off pieces, see what bespoke jewels can be created in person all in a relaxed afternoon with a lovely bit of tea from my vintage tea sets.

[We think this sounds really exciting, being inside a workshop and getting to see the process up close and personal is always so interesting]

 

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What are your influences?

Wonderful tales and books with a bit of classical elegant design.  Each collection is influenced by a story or book like the legend of Tristan & Isuelt, Alice in Wonderland, 20,000 League Under the Sea and tale of enchanted woodlands, fairy tales and fairy filled glades. I always want my jewellery to have details and element of the story or for the Springtime collection the feel of fairytale magic and enchantment. All with a touch of elegance and style which means the jewellery can be worn effortlessly and beautifully by anyone.

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How difficult was it to set up your own business?

One of the trickiest things was finding a suitable space to base myself and work from, finding a suitable space in my area that I could use as a workshop and was affordable was difficult, eventually I was able to get my workshop set up at the Nucleus Arts Centre.  Whilst there are a lot of artists studio spaces in the highly creative and buzzing area of Medway, there aren’t many for messy and noisy workers like myself!  Once we moved into our studio space and were able to create our workshop we have been able to grow and grow, it’s been really wonderful.

 

What did you do before you designed jewellery?

After graduating from the UCA Rochester Jewellery and Silversmithing BA (Hons) I worked for a few other designers, makers and gallery’s gaining invaluable experience before setting up my own jewellery brand and launching at IJL (International Jewellery London) on the Kickstart stand.

 

What are your aspirations for the future?

I have lots of plans to expand the business over the next few years, including international stockists, more media and press coverage and lots of new jewellery collections.  But the final major aspiration is for my own little boutique with a in-house workshop with space for another designer or 2; a consultation area where I can sit down with customers and discuss bespoke jewellery designs and commissions; a little shop front area stocking all our beautiful jewels and a few one-off pieces of jewellery alongside selection of jewels from British jewellery designer/makers whose work I love.  A real wonder room and treasure trove of jewellery delights, where we have lovely little late open evenings new jewellery line launches to.  But this is far off, but I know I will make it happen.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not designing jewellery?

I live in Rochester in Kent which is a beautiful area and a very buzzing artistic scene, there are lots of artists studios, makers and art café’s as well as wondrous second-hand book shops and antique treasure troves so it’s a lovely place to relax and spend some time whilst not working. I dig though the bookshops for inspiration or wonder though the beautiful cathedral. I also love to walk in the beautiful Kent countryside, walking though the woods and coastline enjoying the peace, it’s very inspirational and I love being outside exploring theses spaces.

 

What sort of jewellery do you like to wear?

Mostly my own creations, its a perk of the job to make a few pieces for yourself!  You are always the best advertiser for your jewellery so its great to wear your own work as much as you can.  I have a few things from each collection and I love wearing them all the time. I wouldn’t design or make anything I don’t love and would wear myself.  I do have a few pieces from other designer maker that I also love and wear along with my own creations, I have some amazing necklaces my Momocreatura, Jessica de Lotz and Clare English which have been gifts after some heavy hinting to my other half.

 

What’s your favourite gemstone?

I love iridescent shimmering stones like Moonstones, Labradorite and opal; also my birthstone Emerald for its vibrant colour.  These are just the top few but there are so many stones that I just love to work with and stone shopping is always a bit dangerous, it pretty hard to be strict with yourself and not get all the gorgeous pretty stones you want.

[hmmm yes we know what you mean, there’s just something so buyable about stones!  Labradorite is one of our favourites too!]

 

White gold or yellow gold…or something else?

Silver, then beautifully pink rose gold (which looks stunning) but I also work a lot with titanium which is a wonderful material. It’s brilliantly light weight,incredibly strong and there is the possibility of anodising the titanium to achieve a whole rainbow of colours. At the moment I use the blue and purple colours when anodising as it works perfectly for my butterfly’s and forget me not flowers, creating a stunning slightly iridescent purple blues.

Thank you so much to Sian for letting us get to know you a little better – if you’re inspired by this piece you can visit Sian’s website and even her workshop!  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter at @sianbostwick.   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 adventuresthroughtheloupe@outlook.com.

 

 

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