For the best part of a year I have been designing, experimenting, testing and going back to the drawing board in order to produce a collection I love and am excited to present to the outside world. A lot of my friends and family have been asking me when it will be ready but I’m glad that I have taken my time over this phase of launching my own collection. Designs that I thought looked great on paper turned out to be harder to create in real life, or didn’t hang correctly or were too heavy, but now I have spent time practising and experimenting I have a good feeling for what will work and I’m really proud of the jewellery I have in my very first collection.
So then, to launch it! Having completed my collection I then had to take on some jobs that I am a lot less familiar with… photography, website design, the inner workings of e-commerce to name a few. For the last couple of weeks I have been working on this admin, which I have to admit I have found very confusing and quite daunting at times. But I eventually muddled through it and have now achieved a website showcasing my collection. I’m pretty pleased with my website and glad I persevered with it. I’m sure I will find things I want to change and update as I go along, but as with everything, knowledge will come with experience.
One of my tutors on my diploma told the class that it’s far better to put yourself out there and adjust and adapt as you go along instead of putting it off until you achieve perfection, otherwise you will be waiting forever and never achieve your dream. My dream is to design and make jewellery and share it with others, so hopefully I’m close to that now. Jewellery is such a joyful thing! It’s wonderful to receive as a present, but also nice to buy as a present for yourself! It adds a bit of glitz and glamour to any outfit and can also hold a lot of sentimental value and feelings, more so than most other clothes and accessories you wear. I really enjoy wearing the jewellery I have created and I hope other people will enjoy it too.
My first collection is themed around autumn. The inspiration comes from nature and a strong leaf motif is present throughout. The colours I have chosen to work with are autumnal too; ochre, brown and red violet. These colours remind me of falling leaves. I have also included a rain cloud and a lightning cloud necklace. These are my favourite pieces in the collection. They are fun and, as we know, thunderstorms are a part of autumn just as much as soft sunlight through beautiful coloured leaves.
Now, I’d better get working on collection number two!
The last few weeks have been a bit all over the place but I’m excited that my studio is now finished! I have benches and storage all in place and have slowly been acquiring equipment. Now just to unpack all those boxes…
I’ve also been working on the final collection for the diploma. I continued with my Art Deco/Nouveau peacock theme but I changed my designs several times before I settled on the final one. I decided to go quite simple and stick to the geometric shapes and straight lines and then introduce curves using wire which I used to create chain links for the necklace and bracelet. I added colour to the collection using cubic zirconia and epoxy enamel. I really liked the colour pops and am pleased I added them. I find when I’m designing I usually start with a colour scheme and go from there so it’s quite important to me to include this in my work.
Last night was the exhibition where several of the diploma students showed their final collections and the certificates were presented. We all passed! Our family and friends were also invited and it was great for them to come and see what we have been working on. I really enjoyed seeing what the other students had made, especially the ones in the other group. Everybody had totally different themes and all the work was really individual. Even the way they were displayed really varied from person to person.
I made my diploma collection with metal clay but I found it quite limiting for what shapes I could produce. I attempted to create my own templates to cut round but found the clay dragged when I tried to cut it so it was pulled out of shape. The other problem was that you have to work fast as it dries out really quickly and then you have to contend with cracks as well. This meant that sticking to more simple shapes which I already had cutters for seemed like my only option. I am considering experimenting with wax carving again. I found the class interesting and wax lends itself to creating quite organic, free-flowing shapes. Because it doesn’t dry out in the same way you have a lot longer to work on it and sculpt the shape you want.
I really enjoyed doing the diploma and it has given me a wide range of skills. I’m looking forward to branching out on my own now and developing designs which don’t have to conform to a brief!
Last week was marking week. It was also the last time we went into the studio every day. We had two days at the beginning of the week to finish off projects and then on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we each had an hour time slot to sit down with the person who did the marking and present the work we have done over the last six weeks.
It was a fairly strange experience being graded on things we had produced, especially as some of the pieces were the first time we had tried some of the techniques or worked with those materials. It was also quite disheartening to be told if something wasn’t up to scratch. On the other hand it was good to be able to discuss the pieces and give an explanation for some of the design choices I made as I felt that some of the marking was down to personal preference, so being able to justify a choice I had made and talk it through did help.
We have received our marks already and I am really pleased with what I have got so far, however we still have our exhibition to complete which is worth 20% of the final grade, so I won’t be having any celebrations until that is over and I know my final score.
As a group we discussed our ideas for the exhibition quite a lot last week, which was really helpful to get some feedback from the other girls and hear what they have planned and how they are thinking of making their collection.
We received a brief for the exhibition and we will not only be marked on the jewellery we produce (although that will be a major factor), but also on how the collection is displayed. Showing the design process will also help a lot; so producing a sketchbook is a good idea. The exhibition is in October so I have a lot of planning and making to do over the next few weeks!
I am planning to set up my own studio to work in down the bottom of my garden in what was once a summerhouse that I have now commandeered! We have had some work done on it to make it flood proof (hopefully) and now the builders are laying the floor and fitting a sink. Once they have finished I will be able to start moving some furniture in and ordering some equipment to get everything set up and I can start making! Exciting times ahead!
Lessons are now officially over! These last six weeks have absolutely whizzed by, but they have been so much fun. I feel exhausted and before we started several people told us that we would be tired, it is after all an intensive diploma. I, however, was very blasé about it and thought I would be fine, as did the other girls on the course. We were proved wrong, but I suppose that kind of attitude is what drives us to dive headlong into a project like this and be determined to see it through to the end and be successful, and eventually set up our own businesses.
We started the week with Perspex. After such a heavy week the week before it was great to start with something a bit more playful. The bright colours of the Perspex lend themselves to fun statement pieces, which really pop out. I went down the current trend route of tropical fruit and made a watermelon slice necklace that I was so pleased with. I will definitely be wearing it even in the winter to remind me of hot summer days...not that we have had many of those this year so far!
On Tuesday and Wednesday we had our advanced silver days where we made our final silver project. As I have mentioned previously silver is not my strongest suit (although I am glad I have learnt all the techniques as I think they will come in useful), however these two days were a really great opportunity to think about the project as a whole and plan the order in which I completed different parts and constructed them. It really encouraged me to think about organising my day and preparing for each part of the process. I made an Art Deco style brooch and I feel proud when I look at it of the work I put into it. I even bought a cabochon gemstone especially for it.
The last two days of the diploma were not making days, but classes to give us the skills we need to start our own business. Thursday was all about business from marketing to hallmarking. It was a lot of information to take in, but all of it was helpful and relevant and I will definitely be using what I have learnt over the next few weeks as I branch out on my own. Friday was photography. I have dabbled in photography before but the teacher we had was really thorough and explained the various features of the camera so well. We played around with aperture size and shutter speed to see the effects of letting more or less light into the camera. She also showed us how we could set up a table top studio at home so we can take great pictures to put on our websites or social media. The picture above was taken using a miniature light box designed to be used with camera phones. The pendant is from our fused glass day and I'm impressed with how clearly the picture came out.
Doing this diploma has been brilliant. It has allowed me to try out new techniques and materials that I have never used before and refresh some that I have. I feel much more confident about the direction I would like to take my jewellery in now and the classes like jewellery design and fashion jewellery have given me a lot of guidance on how to plan my work and follow current trends. I'm really looking forward to setting up my own studio over the next few weeks and start developing my very first collection, which will of course be for the diploma exhibition and will contribute to 20% of my overall mark.
I am back at the school this week for bench days to finish off any pieces I didn't complete in the lessons and start work on my collection and also for our marking days...scary!
Jewellery enthusiast embarking on an exciting new adventure to set up my own business.