I was recently asked - why jewellery? As someone who doesn’t wear much jewellery, what is it about this discipline, these pieces and this particular branch of contemporary craft that appeals to me? Why do I choose to make jewellery?
When put on the spot, I answered that I just always have. As a child my biggest hobby was stringing beads together and, as today, the process was my biggest joy. I often didn’t wear the beads that I’d strung, it was the very act of choosing them, handling them and making with them that I found exciting.
But that’s not really an adequate answer to the question, why?
Why jewellery? Why beads? Why did I start, and once I had started, why continue, when there are a million other things to craft with my hands?
Working with my hands is grounding, and I feel a small connection to the earth, the world, the universe, when I create. When I choose my materials - gold and silver, precious and semi precious gemstones, I am choosing small, beautiful pieces of the earth. I like to think about the elemental nature of these materials. The fact that the gold, the vanishingly small amount of gold that is available to us on earth, was created as one of the largest stars in the universe exploded in a supernova, somewhere in the vastness of space and time. I think about silver, as the most reflective of all the metals and how tales of its particular properties spread through mythology and folklore. I wonder at the beauty of diamonds - made of the exact same stuff as your pencil lead, and about the huge and marvellous variety of gems that are the results of their precise geological history and conditions over millions and billions of years. I think about all of this and more when I’m working with these materials and it is endlessly inspiring.
I’m a process-led maker. I draw rough sketches before I get making at the bench but really, I never truly know how a piece is going to pan out until I get my hands on the work. I like to work the metal with a hammer, or a variety of hammers, and a simple steel block. They’re ancient processes, involving just fire and force, and the life and energy it gives to the work is always unique. And the contradictions are fascinating. The unrelenting hardness of the steel hammer and block can create a softness of texture and sheen, and the noise and violence of the forging results in gentle, subtle forms.
Jewellery should be worn. Unlike silverware, or sculpture, or baskets, or carpets, or any other objects of beauty, the primary reason for jewellery to exist, no matter how it is made or what it is made from, is to be worn. In this way, it is a very personal object, and it can hold meaning in so many different ways. The personal, sometimes intimate nature of jewellery appeals to me, and it’s inspiring and satisfying to be able to craft items which will often stay with their wearer through many challenges and joys.
But there is also a very practical, problem-solving aspect to creating jewellery which I love - it needs to fit! It needs to be secure, and comfortable, and look great, all while sitting on our irregular-shaped bodies. Clasps need to work well and be nice to handle, rings definitely need to fit the finger that they’re intended for, bracelets need to sit well. Different jewellers will have their own way of dealing with these things, but for me, magic happens when form and function come together in the simple, refined details which both look good and work well.
I'm really fascinated by craft, by making, by tools and materials, and I just love to hear how other makers of all kinds find their own connections with their own materials and processes. I hope some of this made sense, it is a small insight into some of the things that go into the jewellery that I make. Do let me know if any of this resonates with you, and come and tell me your own story of making, however that fits into your life, I'd love to hear it.