Diamonds are for Bloggers- A journey into the London Jewellery industry.
Last year I was specially selected for a unique jewellery making experience. It's a long story that ends with me talking nonsense to Vivienne Westwood and her husband and making something worth over £12,000, probably more than I've ever earned in a year! So let me take you back to the beginning.
As I sometimes do I was on twitter one-day hash-tagging to my heart's content and retweeting as one does, when I saw a tweet from the Princes Trust. It was a competition run in collaboration with them, Vogue magazine and a group of jewellers called the Leopards. The Leopards are essentially X men of the jewellery world. There a group of super-powered talented people who are both intimidating and impressive (though no matching uniforms sadly).
The competition was to design a piece of Jewellery inspired by London. The winners would then get to help to make the piece with any proceeds from the piece going back into the Princes Trust charity. I knew absolutely nothing about making jewellery but I love it, even if I'm only ever getting costume stuff that I wear until it's gone black (especially Top Shop and Accessorize, birthdays coming up, buy me a voucher!). It was always something I wanted to know more about and I really wanted to have a go.
I didn't leave myself much time to come up with the design but I went through a few ideas. A close runner up was a necklace of a flock of parakeets, a flock of them live wild in London and I really liked the idea of something that didn't necessarily belong finding a home in London. I struck upon my favourite and winning idea though when I read a newspaper articles on transport for London's lost and found department. I researched it to find the department full of bizarre things including an urn of ashes, a taxidermy blowfish and a false leg (who knows what that person's journey home was like!).
My original design
I put them in a loose order and sent it off. This got me through to an interview stage and I then won it! Yay!
I went to the craziest awards night that announced me and 3 other lovely people as winners, it was insane and I'm 90% sure I'll never go to an event that classy again (seriously, ladies day at Aintree eat your heart out). I met lots of famous people including Andrew Lloyd Webber (who looked so confused at me I wondered if he thought I was Grizabella from Catz come to life and thought I needed a good groom lest I start singing Memories at him) and Claudia Winkleman (who is the absolute BEST, seriously can I ever illustrate something for her?!). I got a lovely bunch of flowers but was very stressed the next morning when having to juggle them, my bag and suitcase to an early morning train back to Liverpool. I literally thought my time had come when I was balancing on the escalator in the underground with the comforting thought that if my time was then, the food I'd had the night previous at sed swanky event would have been a marvellous last meal and I had told Claudia Winkleman I loved her so all things considered not a bad time to go.
Me and Claudia and Helen!
Me and Andrew
This was the hall and the candles were actually hand lit in those chandeliers!
Anyway, a couple of months and a few logistical headaches later I started my placement with a jeweller called Shaun Leane. I was made up to be with him because his work is truly incredible (his style is just killer, go give him a google and drool over jewellery designs that look like they are simultaneously from the past and the future!). He helped me redesign my piece and it actually became two necklaces in one. A beautiful heart flanked by two lost and found banners and then the rest of the lost and found items could be attached to make the necklace even more gorgeous and a real statement piece.
I was only there two months so I didn't get to see the piece from start to finish but I did get a real insight into how bespoke jewellery is made. To be honest, it was all a bit overwhelming as even though I'd researched jewellery making before I got there in terms of actually doing it, I was about as good as jewellery making as I am at balancing flowers, a suitcase and a handbag on an escalator in the underground which is to say a bit rubbish. But the staff were stunning, so kind and really stuck with me even if it meant I made costly mistakes time wise and material wise (the fear of irreparably filing off half a tiny violin is something that still gives me cold sweats at night). Special thanks to Dan, who showed me some amazing 3D software and an incredible 3D printer (we also talked about the world cup and Curb your Enthusiasm so you know he's pretty sound), Pedro, (who so patiently put up with the fact that I was terrible but took the time to explain everything clearly and was always a great teacher), and Lindy who was just lovely and who helped look after and direct me to a Boots when I caught strep throat, I bought ALL the drugs.
The redesign shown here, so much better and how the lower section detached.
Shaun was lovely and though clearly working on a lot of projects always took time out to help guide the process and talk about the next step. He had a brilliant level of attention to detail and it's that I've tried to take away and put into my art.
So how was the actual making of the jewellery, AMAZING! I may not have been good but do you know what I absolutely bloody loved it and it was a great experience that I always treasure even if London is stressful (if you manage to live there you are a hero).
Some of the pieces before going into the final design.
The necklace is now on sale. It is stunning and I'm so proud to have had a hand in making it (and you know if you want to be extra generous and not get me vouchers, birthdays coming up, get me the necklace!). It went up for sale in a lovely event in Fortnum and Masons where I think it still lives now. And yes, I met our Viv Westwood, she's lovely but me and her husband really got into a conversation about if art should have meaning and yes I had had some drinks at that point!
Finished and gorgeous!
Me and aunt Viv
Me and the gorgeous Shaun Leane!
Me and the boyfriend, call us the new Kim and Kanye.
I don't really have a good set up to make jewellery at home but I'm always designing bits in the hopes of one day having that knowledge to make them. I've also started doing some jewellery with just playing with wire as that's a bit more of an accessible level so watch this space. Maybe I'll be a Clark Kent illustrator by day and a Superman jewellery maker by night!