I have always made things, always built things with my hands. Jewellery making has been described as engineering on a tiny scale, which makes sense to me. I have always been fascinated with how objects fit together and work. Originally I trained as a costume designer, which didn’t always mean using fabric, but but did allow me to play with materials and experiment the textile techniques. I have a varied and winding path in the arts, starting in sculpture and model making, through costume for theatre and film, to metalsmithing and finally blending my skills and love of all things miniature into my unique jewellery style.
And now in my core collections I use textile skill and goldsmithing skills together, the results being strong but very delicate looking pieces; it is amazing how far you can push metal so a piece can be very light, very detailed but have an inherent strength to it. I use 0.2 mm wire in silver and gold, which on its own is obviously fragile, but when worked, either crocheted, or mainly used in Torchon bobbin lace, becomes strong, almost springy.
I became interested in lace making techniques whilst training as a goldsmith at the John Cass School and Hatton Garden in London. I discovered lace makers in my family who inspired me to learn the technique which was entirely self taught, mostly from books from the library! (The 3-D lace work is a technique of my own invention so I can create big pieces that are lightweight and easy to wear). The Victoria and Albert Museum holds lace work by my ancestor, Sir Stuart Town, in it's permanent collection, so when I was exhibted there myself, it felt like a real family connection had been restored. His wife, Lady Christine, was responsible for a lace altar piece in Wells Cathedral, so I have big shoes to fill!
My designs exploit the versatile flexibility of the gold, silver thread I use, which allows it to be twisted and manipulated into the most delicate forms, and yet retain its strength and durability to be worn everyday.
My lace work is not subtle in its size, as my bold signature pieces are designed to stand out, without overpowering. Yet, the lace work married with the skill of the goldsmith makes each piece individual and delicate, giving the pieces a lightness of weight not normally found in larger scale jewellery.
One of my favourite things to do are one-off commission pieces. Really personal designs that have a deep meaning for the person I'm making it for. As the designer, you become part of their story, part of a family, creating something that will be passed down, hopefully, from generation to generation. I make wedding and engagement rings for people who want something different, personal, unique. Everything I do is completely handmade. I don't use CAD, I don’t use machines I can’t manipulate with my hands, so each ring is imbued with that certain something you only get from a hand made piece; when you create something you have to give a bit of yourself to it and I think if something is made without love it shows and that's not possible if you want to create a quality piece, you have to put some of your heart into it.
To be part of someone's life changing moment, a wedding, a graduation, a birth, or even a remembrance, is a real privilege, and a responsibility which I really value. It’s not something everyone gets to experience in their working life. When someone takes the time to seek out an artist the whole experience is personal - it’s not just about the object, it’s about how it comes to life.
Oftentimes I will start with a flower or a leaf – it could be the feature of the bouquet, a flower with memories of childhood and family; a flower rooted in a special place, or the first flower one lover gave to another. We all have something that holds our heart, and it's my job to translate that into a metal design. I have a particular fascination for leaves. The endless forms of essentially the same thing is utterly awesome.
Before starting my business I lived in India for a time, where I helped to set up a metalsmithing workshop with International Sancutary, who rehabilitate survivors of trafficking, giving them skills to pursue an independent, safe, fulfilled life. This remains one of the best things I have ever done in my life. The curriculum I developed there is still taught by the women I trained, passing the skills on and on.
Giving back and having a positive impact on the world around me is central to who I am. My other main passion in life is conservation. I actively work to create wildflower meadows where I live in Hertfordshire. We all need to take action and shout it from the rooftops! I was completely fed up with the endless hard cutting of the grass in my town, so I became a local Councillor to change it, and I have; working with ecology officers to enhance existing, and create new wildflower meadows, as well as changing the grass cutting on town verges to let the flowers bloom, creating pollinator corridors. If you don't know about the B-Lines project, I encourage you to find out and get involved! Read more here.
So many of us makers are inspired by nature, but that is an empty statement to me if you're not acting to create, maintain and protect our wild places. 10% of all Cobnut pieces go directly to wildlife conservation projects in the UK. I am always open to projects around this theme, so if you have an idea you'd like to discuss with me, feel free to get in touch.