The jeweller’s saw is an essential tool in Helen’s workspace, with her using it to make a variety of designs which are mainly inspired by nature. Find out about Helen’s work, her background, what she has learnt from her time as a jewellery maker and more in the following interview.
Let us know a bit about yourself, detailing your background, study and training in the jewellery making industry.
I am an enthusiastic amateur. I have found jewellery making later in life. I started attending evening classes which taught me the basics and de-mystified the processes. I then moved to setting up in my garage for the hot stuff and spare bedroom for the fiddly bits. I wish I had found it earlier as I have so much to learn and practice to get to a standard that I will not find fault with.
Tell us about your work – are there any particular materials or techniques that you favour?
I work with silver predominantly and some copper. I would love to get the skills so that I could try gold work without it being an expensive mistake. I really enjoy piercing and find that it helps me to zone out at the end of a busy day. The wonderful thing about this art form is that you never get bored, there is always something new to learn.
How would you best describe your design style?
Not sure I have settled on a recognisable style yet. I am still experimenting with ideas. I have some very simple settings and I do like to have clean lines. I am not a huge fan of very embellished work.
As a jewellery maker, where do you like to get your inspiration from for your pieces?
I get a lot of my inspiration from the natural world. I have a real passion for dragonflies and am still trying to refine the design. I love going for long walks and taking photos that I can then take elements of into my designs. The natural world produces wonders that are so intricate and ethereal. I try to blend those things into my work.
Do you have a piece that you have made which you favour or are particularly proud of?
I recently made a cicada which has a labradorite body and garnet eyes. It took me ages to work out how to attach the pierced wings over the body after the stones were set. I finally came up with the idea of putting a post on each one and using cold connection rivet at the back. The happy accident with this one is that as a result, the wings move.
What is the one item in your jewellery making workshop that you could not live without?
My saw! I love my saw. It sometimes doesn’t love me and I do go through phases of breaking blades, but nothing beats the feeling of concentrating and shutting out the world!
What upcoming trends do you see being popular soon?
I think mixed media jewellery will become more popular, although I still think that the simple designs are likely to stand the test of time better. I am always astounded at the skills in early jewellery that gets discovered in fields.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt from your time in the jewellery making industry?
Patience and practice. I always want to master things immediately but that is not how it works. Skill only comes with practice, lots and lots of practice.
Do you have any particular advice that you would give to up and coming jewellery designers, or someone interested in getting into jewellery making?
Take advice and lessons from those who are experts. If you have an idea, draw it. Even if you don’t have the skill to make it a reality today, you will in the future. Join classes, talk to like-minded enthusiasts. Finding out that others have similar frustrations and failures helps through the difficult times when nothing seems to go right. Celebrate your successes, there is no greater feeling than someone else liking your work. But mainly, have fun!
…and finally, time for a bit of fun in our quick fire round! Tell us your favourite…
…biscuit – shortbread
…sport – ice skating
…place – Arizona
…gemstone – labradorite
…animal – bats
Want to discover the work of more jewellery makers? Take a look at our interviews with our other Designers of the Month to read about their designs, inspiration and more.