Jet-setter

 

One of the best things about running this business is that I get to create beautiful things that become a treasured part of my customers’ lives, and I get to do that by stretching my design wings. I recently undertook a commission which was heartfelt, exciting and challenging, and I thought I’d share it with you…

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My client was Suzanne*, a lovely woman who owned a treasured but somewhat battered piece of Whitby jet which had been passed down to her by her grandmother. The piece of jet had an extra-special meaning to Suzanne, because her grandma played a big role in raising her, and she wanted it turned into a wearable piece of jewellery so she could carry the gift with her everyday. She was also concerned about the potential to develop arthritis in the future, so she wanted the ring to be adjustable.

As well as being delighted that Suzanne had entrusted this piece of jet with such sentimental meaning to me, I will admit I was a little nervous! Jet is notoriously difficult to set, being quite a flaky and fragile stone. However, the challenge was exciting, and I explored a number of different design options to set this stone into a silver ring, since, after some discussions with Suzanne, it became clear that she favoured rings over other types of jewellery.

I knew as soon as I saw the jet that I wanted to make a design feature of the missing corner rather than crafting a setting to hide it. After all, this jet is a piece of Suzanne’s life story, and life has its imperfections as well. I wanted to embrace the history of the 150-year-old stone, and Suzanne was also excited about this idea, so it was full-steam ahead! We decided to go with the double-band design, and Suzanne absolutely loved it.

After receiving the ring, she sent me a lovely email telling me that she plans to pass the jet down to her own daughter in the future – I could not have been happier or more touched.

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Side view – this is how I achieved the adjustable ring. It can be altered by gently squeezing the sides, and the rounded ends allow a comfortable fit.

I also love the way the design turned out, and the whole process was one of the best commissions I’ve ever had. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually get to do this job!

*Not her real name; I like to maintain my clients’ privacy unless they wish to be a part of blog posts etc.

Mothering Sunday: buttons and blooms

Inspired by all the Fashion Week talk of new collections and seasonal trends, I decided to do something new this month. I’m releasing my own ‘capsule collection’ for Mother’s Day, or rather, for Mothering Sunday.

Mothering Sunday vs Mother’s Day vs Mothers’ Day is on the list of things-which-confused-me-as-a-child-and-still-do-a-bit, so for clarity, Mothering Sunday or Mothers’ Day is the UK holiday celebrating all things mum. It falls on the 4th Sunday of Lent and has been going on and off since the 16th century. Mother’s Day (as in, the day to celebrate your one mother and definitely no other horrible old mothers – the founder was very clear on that) is an early 20th century creation, and is celebrated in the USA in May.

I’m working my collection around the UK date partly because all of my customers so far have been UK-based, as am I, but also because ‘Mothering Sunday’ as a phrase just tickles me. Imagine the scene: ‘Where you going?’ ‘Oh, I’m just off to go a-mothering.’ To go a-mothering could mask any number of sins…

So, my Mothering Sunday collection has three new designs (I did tell you it was capsule!), all necklaces, and here they are:

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Quite a few of my designs take sewing or vintage clothing as an inspiration, and the idea for my Mothering Sunday collection is no different. Since reading The Button Box: Lifting The Lid On Women’s Lives by Lynn Knight, I’ve become increasingly interested in the importance and application of seemingly insignificant found objects like buttons in the transmission of stories, skills and relationships, and it was with my brain going along those lines that I started designing this new collection.

This design is from the cast of a vintage button from my own mum’s button box, which I used to sort through for hours at a time. My mum is also the one who taught me to sew, knit and quilt, all of which she does beautifully and pretty much constantly, so she’s a fairly significant design influence all round. Particularly apt for this collection, I think.

Mums who might like this design include: The Crafter, The Historian, The Vintage Fan, The Understated Mum.*

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Design number two is a precious-metal take on giving your mum flowers for Mothers’ Day. After casting it from part of another mum-sourced vintage button, I filed and enhanced the design’s natural ridges to give a more lifelike appearance. I think it looks the most like a geranium, but if anyone has any strong botanical views on the type of flower it could be, let me know!

Mums who might like this design include: The Gardener, The Artist, The Elegant Mum, The Classic Mum.

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The final design was actually a collaboration between my aunt and I for one of her best friends’ birthdays. I added a second row and hanging feather charm to my popular ammonite design, strung on an unusual hammered trace chain. This piece is a prime example of how designs can grow and evolve as part of the custom design process – I love it.

Mums who might like this design include: The Nature Lover, The Walker, The Traveller, The Dreamer.

All of the Mothering Sunday collection, along with my other pieces, can be found in my Etsy store.

 

*Obviously mums, like all other humans, are multifaceted, and I’m reducing them down to generalised types for comic effect and style shorthand.

Bespoke bridesmaids: inside the design process of a commission

So I recently received my first commission, and it’s a special one. Sami, one of my best friends, a uni housemate and fellow 2017-bride-to-be, asked me to design some bespoke jewellery for her bridesmaids and flower girls. Being part of Sami’s wedding by getting creative and designing her the perfect bridesmaid gifts? #jewellergoals right there…

Since it’s my first custom order, I thought I’d share a little bit about the process, which is pretty excellent so far.

The first time Sami mentioned the idea of me designing her bridesmaids’ jewellery was over (several) glühweins at the Leeds Christkindelmarkt, and I leapt at the idea. Not literally; I was a bit pissed and full of doughnuts.

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After a party nap on the train home, we started batting Pinterest boards and ideas back and forward to get started on the right track. Luckily the wedding’s not till May, so we had plenty of time. With weddings, two key considerations are colour schemes and overall theming, so we started there. The wedding is going to be set up as an afternoon tea party (so lush!), and Sami’s bridesmaids will be wearing full length gowns in a pretty, soft blue:

 

Once I had some of Sami’s ideas locked down, I got to work. For me, the design process involves playing with a lot of different materials at my workbench, chain-drinking nice coffee and (poorly) sketching almost anything that comes into my head.

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It was clear fairly early on that both Sami and I were drawn to the idea of an elegant lariat necklace, so the final winner was the bottom left design in my sketchbook. I also always knew I wanted to draw the blue of the dresses into the jewellery, so I had a great time one day last week fiddling about with a range of blue beads and stones.

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The simple Swarovski pear-shaped drop worked best for the design; in fact, Sami liked it so much she agreed that putting the crystals into drop earrings rather than the originally-planned studs was the best idea. With this integral part of the set decided, I started putting together some prototypes.

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Unsurprisingly, communication has turned out to be an essential part of designing custom jewellery, so I was live-texting Sami the design process above. It was at this point that she mentioned she had also been wondering about getting something designed for her flower girls, who are 3 and 5, but wasn’t sure what would work for them; did I have any ideas?

I haven’t made jewellery for children since I was one myself, and my 90s designs do lack a bit of finesse, so this proposition was an interesting challenge. Now, when I was little, I absolutely idolised any older girls I knew, and wanted to copy everything they did. That got me thinking about how to make the flower girls’ jewellery work with the adult bridesmaids’ pieces whilst being comfortable and age-appropriate for little ones on a long day.

I didn’t realise the amount of practicalities involved in making bespoke jewellery before this project, but I’ve found that making designs that work perfectly for the wearers and the situation is some real logistical fun. For the flower girls, bracelets seemed like the obvious choice: comfy, stretchy and pretty. I chose beads rather than chain for the body of the bracelet for flexibility and to minimise the potential for snag-related accidents. The flower girls’ dresses are these adorable ivory numbers, so I settled on faux pearls for the main beading.

 

I also wanted the girls to have pieces that echoed the jewellery worn by the ‘big girl bridesmaids’, so I added the same Swarovski drop bead in a simpler setting: rather than wire-wrapping the crystal, I’ve attached it with a simple silver fixing. Add in a little personalisation with heart-shaped initial charms, and hopefully these bracelets are something the girls will keep, treasure, and wear again.

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Too. Cute.

So, with 75 days to go until Sami ties the knot, all that’s left now is to get cracking and try not to think about just how many bridesmaids she has! Check back in May for some shots of the girls wearing their gems (and at least one or two of Sami being a ridiculously stunning bride).