I started writing these 'Why I make Jewellery' blogs over 10 years ago and abruptly stopped as the 3rd child became a tipping point into a place of feeling that I had nothing to say-no thoughts, no validity- and no time. Both my making and my business have had a very inward trajectory for the past decade after an extremely outward one in the decade before. I have focused my energy entirely on making the work- building a studio at home-and having a very quiet, intense, close focus relationship with making and my thoughts and ideas. I have only sold via a handful of places and done no shows, no open studios or exhibitions. I have however remained a full time maker throughout and have needed this introspective, solitary relationship with my jewellery both to bring my skills forward and to counteract my experience as a parent of young children which has necessarily dominated every other waking moment.
I have felt 2023 turn on its axis- marking for me my 20th year as a full time maker-and with it a tilt towards opening back out, expanding and becoming a little more public facing again.I recently took part in my first show for 11 years- The excellent Makers Cornwall event at Tremough Campus earlier this month. I nearly didnt do it. I was sick with nerves which startled me as I used to roll into each new show as though rolling out of bed- the only stressor ever being the struggle to make the work. It was quite amazing to realise that the last time I'd done a show there wasnt really social media-it was hard copy mail outs- and then later- emails. I'd had to rent an expensive credit card machine from the bank and lug it about with me. My back didnt hurt from bending to fill boxes with tissue paper. Realising the scale of time and change as I prepared to exhibit was quite a process and I was filled with doubt right until I set up. And then it was like I'd never left. I'd forgotten how fun face to face selling is. I saw so many old friends. It was excellent and interesting being able to be with peple interacting with the work- I need to see that- to chat and help and witness. I had forgotten just how great it is to be in big hall full of makers and the camaraderie of stand neighbours. It was wonderful that so many people engaged with the new work too-trying it on, buying, talking. So yes, I'm still here. 20 years on.
I fell into making Jewellery in the dark depths of the 1990s. I was definitely more of a maker than a Jeweller- making lights, art, writing- Pieces of Jewellery there too early on. It was a slow gravitational shift and I spent years working on prototypes and selling pieces here and there before I registered a buiness. I mean really years. It was a time of flux for me- for of period of which I found a job in the Jewellery industry- also doing a great many short courses and a whole lot of making. My work for the large high falutin Jewellery House showed me ultimately that I didnt want to be an employee or work for a large brand (or sell pens for $150,000) but it nonetheless taught me a lot as well as financing me to make my most coherent samples, move back to the UK and the following year start my business. The issue of having never formally trained was a double edged sword. I desperately lacked skills, confidence and any understanding of how to run a business- but on the flip side I'd developed a really unique look in my work and become a voracious self led learner- a skill that has served me well through the many pitfalls of the ensuing years. A kind of pig headed self reliance and belief in my ability to forge path through most obstacles.
I was lucky enough to win an entreprenurial scholarship which led in turn to the opportunity to do my first trade show which I still remember vividly. The sticky palmed terror and absolute incredulity when someone placed an order. From there my work- and my business- went from strength to strength. I could rent a studio space, I was invited to exhibit, I made great maker friends and had fantastic customers who became friends too. As my business grew I travelled more, made weirder work, took on students to work with me and became an advocate for the idea that it IS possible to support yourself making and selling your own work- something I still feel strongly about.
I never felt confident though- even though I could sometimes recognise that I'd made something really lovely- and this sense of feeling like a valid designer/maker has been a hardwon skill- borne more out of actions than thoughts. I never felt like I quite qualified- even though I was routinely a key note speaker, sat on panels, was a judge for awards and a recipient of bursaries as the years wore on. Self employment is a funny thing- as is working creatively making things-and both have the propensity to foster self doubt. One great adavantage of my making longevity is that this uncertainty about my ability and validity has slowly faded in the face of the sheer amount of time I've been able to be working full time and the consequential thought that I must be doing something right. I've had so much validation from people sharing how much they love their pieces- old and new- and I've had validation from myself too in that I keep turning up, having new ideas, making new things- and I'm respectful, my pricing is fair, I'll mend anything for as long as you care to wear it.
It's been such a reflective year though. And a great many odd (and lovely) reconnections with elements of my business and my making from years ago. I really feel the longevity suddenly. And, Oh My, its such a different landscape to be working in. A great many more Jewellers- especially post pandemic. All skills, materials and tools are available at a click. If you have a phone you pretty much have a business such is the availability of templated logos, websites, brand identities, AI written socials and so on. There's definitely more of a blurriness around ' inspiration' in the newer makers with images of everything ever made by everyone out there now. Is this good or bad? Like everything else its a bit of both.
I do know that I feel immensely privileged to have come this far- and to still be making too. Some of it has been luck, some talent and the rest a huge amount of hard work and determination. I'm very, very grateful for the support over the years. If you're reading this and you've bought work in the past- Thank You.