What do you create?
I make contemporary jewellery, predominantly with silver and vitreous enamels and a scattering of precious stones and gold. My jewellery collections include rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings and brooches as repeatable designs and one-of-a kind pieces.
Where do you make your jewellery?
I have a workshop at home, a fully insulated shed! It was not originally intended to be my workspace so I share it with all the gardening tools. It’s a lovely commute up the garden with a nice view. My workspace is small but comfortably houses everything I need and above all suits my needs of working around a young family.
What is the inspiration for your work? My main inspiration is microscopic images of disease and bacteria. I am fascinated by the colours and forms of these images and the intrigue of seeing what can’t be seen with your eyes alone. My inspiration stems from an interest in emotional responses and the contrast between something perceived as being unpleasant, actually being visually beautiful when seen through a microscope. I translate the bold colours and shapes into my designs. I am also very interested in surface and pattern, exploring textures and mark making by layering different enamels and experimenting with different techniques.
What materials do you work with & why?
I use precious metals, predominantly silver, for the aesthetic qualities and also its malleability. I use vitreous enamels to add depth to my work; this provides both colour and opportunity for additional texture. Silver works really well with transparent enamels because it is a white metal, meaning the metal colour doesn’t affect the colour of the enamel you apply to its surface.
I have used colour within my work for many years. I used to work with resin as well as enamels with resin being quite dominant for a period. When I wanted to look at refreshing my work and processes, I re-visited enamelling. I re-discovered a passion for it and have since experimented more with the material and learnt different techniques. With metal I feel there are so many possibilities for the forms that can be created. I really enjoy the process of forming metal and joining pieces together. Enamelling can produce so many different effects, I love to have colour within my work but its also a medium I really enjoy exploring and experimenting with, to see what new surfaces I can achieve.
What process(es) do you use and how do you go about creating your work?
I use traditional hand processes to make my work, cutting metal with a piercing saw, shaping and forming it with hammers, punches and stakes and soldering pieces together. I also use batch production techniques, creating multiple units from an original through the process of lost wax casting. Vitreous enamelling is a process of fusing very finely ground glass powders on to metal through heat. The powders can be applied through sifting but mainly I use a technique called wet packing. The enamels are ground in a pestle and mortar and rinsed to remove any dust or dirt. This process improves the clarity and colour of transparent enamels, which I mainly use. The wet enamel is then applied to the metal and dried out before firing. I like this technique as it is better for curved surfaces, it also allows greater control and mixing of enamels. The enamels are built up in thin layers and with some pieces I grind the layers back to reveal details or alter the final finish. I also use the process of engraving, using tools to cut pattern or texture into the surface of the metal. The engraved surface shines through the transparent enamel and creates varying depths of colour.
Which aspect(s) of your work do you enjoy most?
I really enjoy making, taking the pieces through each step and process to create a finished article. The aspect I find most enjoyable is experimenting, trying new ideas or learning new techniques or processes. There is something exciting about creating brand new designs, working through an idea and solving any problems through the making process. Each piece or collection of jewellery is a catalyst for the next; I see my making as a process of exploration. The pieces and ideas evolve continuously.
Who inspires and influences you?
I find inspiration in many places. There are many jewellers that I admire and appreciate the work of, Jaqueline Ryan, Myung Urso, Brooke Marks-Swanson, Mirjam Hiller and Nikki Couppee to name a few. I am drawn to jewellery pieces with colour, texture, unusual compositions and form. I am influenced by enamel artists Ruth Ball, Jessica Turrell and Isabell Schaupp that achieve unusual effects with enamel and push the limits with it as a material. I also find influence in abstract art where texture and colour create a feeling within the work. I particularly like the work of Cy Twombly and Mark Rothko.
Have you always been a jewellery designer maker?
I began my jewellery business after completing my MA in Jewellery and related products so I guess yes! Throughout my creative practice I have undertaken additional teaching and arts projects and more recently have I’ve taken on a regular teaching position. I enjoy teaching and watching others flourish as they develop their own skills. This also allows me greater freedom with my own making.
How did you get started?
I found my passion for jewellery during my BA degree in 3D design; I continued on to study for a master’s degree in order to further explore my ideas and skills in
contemporary jewellery. After studying I became a participant on the Design Space 2000 scheme, an incubation programme for creative business start-ups. We had access to a workshop, mentoring and business advice as well as opportunity to exhibit at trade events for one year. This was the platform that enabled me to launch my own workshop and create a profile for my work.
Where do you exhibit/ sell your work?
I sell my work through galleries and exhibitions across the UK, craft shows, open studios and on-line.
What have you been doing / making this year? Plans for next year?
I have been working on developing new pieces and experimenting further with enamels. I have some ideas that will come to fruition next year whilst other pieces have been added to my collections. I also took on a more regular teaching position this year so have been re-adjusting to a new timetable and taking some time to reflect upon where I am now and how I would like to develop my profile and work in the coming year.
Do you have upcoming events?
I am exhibiting with Dazzle exhibitions – Dazzle@OXO in London from 12th November until January 7th 2018 and with Local collective ‘Centrepiece’ at Symphony Hall Birmingham from 22nd November – 23rd December. Not forgetting Made in Kings Heath the weekend of 25th & 26th November, I will also be showing work with my regular stockists a list of which can be found on my website www.mirandasharpe.co.uk.