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A personal drawing practice

Something really special happens when you put pencil to paper and allow shapes and lines and colours to form on the page. For some, journalling probably holds a similar magic for those who prefer to form words rather than lines or images. In much the same way that some people like to ‘journal out’ their thoughts or feelings, I find that unexpected connections are made when drawing, and ideas are born. 

close-up details from my sketchbook pages

I've had a complicated relationship with drawing in the past. The importance of drawing as part of a design and making practice was a major focus for me as an undergraduate, where sketchbook work was a big part of our day-to-day studies and was just as important as the technical and fabrication skills at the bench. We were expected to maintain a regular practice of general research drawing - drawing out in the real world in ‘location drawing’ classes, frequent drawing from life models, drawing at exhibitions and gallery visits - as well as more focused design drawings for jewellery, and the value of drawing as a tool for generating original designs was given real weight.

If I'm honest, I didn't particularly enjoy drawing for quite a while. I was still searching for a way to feel comfortable, and which materials worked best for me, and I hated having to draw outside in the busy streets and museums of Edinburgh. Once I'd graduated I was glad to not have to do so much drawing anymore. 

Happily, I've found my way back to drawing and I love it again now, but there has been some un-learning to do - mostly, the crippling need to rationalise or explain my works on paper which almost certainly is a hang-up from art school crits! 

My drawing style has evolved and changed over the years. It has become freer and looser, more expressive, and less connected to my brain. In fact, I would say that when settling down to draw, my main aim is to bypass my brain completely - I want my eye to see and my hand to draw, without having to check with my brain to ask ‘is this right?’ or ‘those proportions are all wrong’ or something else which causes doubt or worry. I like to draw in a stream-of-consciousness style; it's a strange mix of being very aware of the marks that I'm making, but also giving the marks room to form themselves. 

Because of this, I'm not particularly inclined to show others my drawings - not because I'm worried about being judged, but because they feel quite personal. They're also not intended to be finished works; I think of them as working drawings, and they're only really there to help me get to the next stage in the design process. But I know I really love to see inside other makers' sketchbooks, so I hope you do too! It's so interesting to see a glimpse of the beginnings of a piece of art or design, and to understand part of the journey that led to its creation.  

a selection of my sketchbook pages, featuring loose, expressive drawings

The subject matter is not particularly important to me when I draw. I have to want to draw the shapes I see, but this inspiration can come from anywhere. Over the past year, while we’ve been staying at home mostly all day every day, I’ve found myself drawing flowers, plants, weeds from the garden, herbs that I use in cooking. The irregular, organic shapes appeal to me - I prefer to avoid straight lines and rigid, geometric shapes. I might be drawing a lot of leaves at the moment but I don’t make jewellery that’s even remotely based on foliage. But, however the magic happens, it happens - I get ideas about shape, form and texture, light and dark, sometimes colour if I’m using gemstones - and I bring it from my simple, messy, for-my-eyes-only drawings into my jewellery.

Importantly, the process for me is not linear. Sketchbook drawings might spark an idea, the beginnings of a design for a piece of jewellery will emerge, I’ll take that design to the bench where it will change some more, and then that design will often inform the way I make my next drawings. It’s a cyclical process, each informs the other, which works great for me. I'm also quite an intuitive maker at the bench, finding that the ideas flow and develop when I get my hands on the materials, so by switching between bench and book in this way I'm able to allow plenty of room for the ideas to evolve.

a sketchbook page alongside an image of 3 organically shaped rings

'fallen leaves, shadows, changing light. so many layers of shadows and shapes'


Drawing, and art in general, is such a subjective experience, for both creator and observer. I think there are also a lot of assumptions about what a drawing should be, how it should look, how it should be created, and what it should be for, which I don't think are helpful to anyone. But I hope this gives a small insight into my own drawing practice - it's messy and far from perfect, but it's mine. I hope you have yours, too.

a vibrant pink tourmaline cabochon and a hand-fabricated gold bezel setting, laying on an open sketchbook, where painterly marks can be seen in the background

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