My husband Al and I run two business, Flux n Flame Jewellery School and Jesa, our jewellery side of things, so breakfasts often include a business meeting! Unusually for a business partnership, we are fairly interchangeable in that we both teach and we both design and make.
My teaching life involves early starts and some very long days as we run evening classes. We also teach the weekend courses together. During these, our days are even more regimented, as we feed everybody as well! We get up at ridiculous-o-clock to prepare all the food for the day, then do it all again the next day...
My second life is much quieter, as it is design work in my own workshop. When I’m not teaching, I’m either designing or making collections to stock in one of 20 outlets throughout the UK and Europe. A big percentage of my time is spent making one-off pieces.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m making a piece for a lady in Ohio. Her beloved dog Lunar had died. She ended up telling me the story of their neighbour who had tamed a wolf which then taught Lunar how to howl. She was completely in love with her dog and she wanted a piece that would help her remember the dog and mean something to her in a subtle way. I designed a moon shaped pendant for her with trees growing up through it and a tiny figure of a dog, set into a chain with moonstones.
Another customer had taken a break from her husband and children to travel in Canada and she had wanted a piece to remind her of her adventure, so they are often very personal and the stories behind them are important.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
It’s definitely dark fairy tales, not in a twee kind of way (I am not a fairy kind of girl!) but the real original Hans Christian Anderson and Grimm fairy tales have always drawn me in. They are made for children but have an edge to them. I’m known for ravens and gnarly trees. This fascination has been there since childhood and comes through in my work.
Will you listen to music today as you work or do you need silence? (if yes, what music?)
Yes I do and it totally depends on what mood I’m in. My favorite at the moment is Of Monsters and Men, an icelandic band whose stuff is folky. I also like Radio 4, which I find very relaxing.
Have you ever had a student where you recognised raw talent?
Yes, definitely. Sometimes you can tell as soon as they walk in the workshop. It’s the way they handle the tools. Other people have literally never held a tool. To some it all makes sense as to how the tools work and you only need to show them once. That combined with someone who has imagination as well, and you can expect great things.
We had a young lady of 17 years old who came along with her dad to one of the evening courses for a couple of years. She brought her sketch book and we helped her put a jewellery portfolio together. She later went to college and won the Dali Diamond award for her jewellery designs. She was a natural talent, but if the passion if there, through nurture and practice all students can develop and shine.
What’s the daftest thing one of your students did in a workshop?
The workshops can get pretty daft generally so where do I start!
One student in particular spent a long time threading beads very carefully onto a necklace. She had two strands and she needed to cut one to get rid of the excess thread. We told her to double and triple check she had the right thread... but of course she didn’t...
What do you do at the end of the day to relax?
I’d love to say we go out running, but actually we tend to collapse on our big red sofa with a big glass of whisky! We have our cats and we love to snuggle up and watch films or listen to the radio. Sometimes we draw and sketch and like most self employed people, work hours are not cut and dried.
What is the single most important thing for craft students to learn?
Craft skills don’t arrive overnight. Techniques can be learnt in a couple of days but to become really proficient at a craft you have to put the time in. I try to encourage my students not to rush, but enjoy the learning process, as this tends to carry on throughout life anyway.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a traditional silversmith, my pieces will outlive me... so I suppose I’d like to be remembered as someone who created beautiful things and had some impact on peoples lives through them. Teaching the craft too... it makes a big difference to people. The lady who taught me, Jinks McGrath, had a huge impact on my life... not least because she introduced me to my husband!