Hi Alison. Can you start by telling us about your background? I was born in North Wales, and have lived here all of my life. I got my Zoology degree in Bangor Uni- versity. I love the area, the beaches, the mountains - all within half an hour, such a wealth of inspiration. I have a scientific/logical side and a creative side; the science won out academically though my best subjects were art and design subjects. I guess the creative side has always and will always be a part of me.
Tell us about your current situation? I still live in North Wales with my husband and three dogs. I have two jobs. Firstly I work part time for Wrexham Council for Flying Start - a programme for 0-4 year olds in disadvantaged areas. It is very humbling to see what some children start life with; the clinicians are amazing and do fantastic work. My other job is designing and demonstrating how to make jewellery on JewelleryMaker TV. This is a dream job for someone who loves creating, and who loves teaching and encouraging others to have a go. I also create and sell jewellery & sculptures, run workshops and develop private craft DVDs.
What materials / technique etc do you commonly use in your work? I am pre- dominantly known for my wirework which I absolutely adore. It is a medium that is very versatile, allowing fine detailed intri- cate work and also large statement pieces & sculptures. I have yet to find something that I can’t make with wire. I also work in other mediums, and people are slowly becoming familiar with that work. I think the other technique I am known for is seed-beading, which I also love; the two mediums combine really well together.
Have you formally studied any relevant courses? Apart from at school, I haven’t had any formal training. Having grown up making a huge variety of things, I devel- oped a love for the process of working out how to use the materials I have to make what I need. Having a creative Mother helps a lot in developing the skills needed for jewellery making and all the other craft skills. I think if you are a crafter you can learn the new mediums and adapt skills already learnt. I did however go on a silver clay workshop before my wedding to learn the techniques needed to be able to create my husband’s and my wedding rings.
What is (are) your masterpiece(s) that you're most proud of? I always try to make pieces that I can be proud of, and making our wedding rings was very special to me. Also, the first larger sculptural piece I did - a christening gift that I had free range with - got me the job on JewelleryMaker. I loved the way the rocking horse came out, and he is very special. I made a lace effect wirework bridal piece. It took a lot of 0.25 wrapping, but I adore the finished piece - it was well worth the effort. Then there were the dragons, the rabbit, the teddy, the pearl choker, the fairies, the... you get the picture!
Do you make finished jewellery or beads? I make finished jewellery using different mediums of wire, gemstones, seed beads, sheet metal etc. I usually work to commissions, or sell in the local theatre. I am trying to get back to grips with my Etsy shop too. No famous patrons as yet to my knowledge.
Where do you get your ideas? I find inspiration anywhere. For example tumbled leaves in the autumn, a petal, an animal, an electric pylon or a comment by someone. I think my favourite piece of jewellery is an early piece I made that I wear a lot, it’s a fairly simple scroll design with kyanite rounds in. However, it is a bit like asking someone to pick their favourite child, or in my case dog - I love them each in their own way
Do you teach your craft at all? I love teaching craft. I think crafters are some of the nicest, most generous people to be around, and if I can help inspire them in any way I consider it an honour. I am fairly new to teaching formal classes and have only been teaching for the last 6 years or so. I run workshops for others, and am also organising a series of classes in North Wales as I think there is scope for people in the area - keep your eye on my facebook page for updates.
Have you written any books, or are you working on any at the moment? I haven’t written any books, but I have just released my second independent wirework DVD. This one is based around horses, and shows you how to make two sculptures & two different pieces of jewellery. My first DVD teaches you how to make wirework dragons. I find writing takes more time - you should have seen how long it took me to answer all of these questions!
Describe your workspace? A mess! I have so little time at the moment that I am hard pushed to put away after one project before starting the next, so “stuff” builds up until I am forced to clear it. I had a craft room until I got married, then I donated it to my husband who works from home. I might be reclaiming part of it in the future if things work out though.
Do you work by yourself or have you collaborated with anyone else? I generally work by myself, but I have had some wonderful collaborations in the past with Fiona Potter; and more recently with Nadja Shields where we created two multimedia pieces: a wire, macramé and seed bead dragon; and a wire & macramé with seed bead teddy bear. When you find someone you get on really well with the creative collaboration is fantastic, ideas just seem to bounce between each other.
Do you have any goals related to bead- making/beadwork/jewellery-making/de- signing that you would like to see become a reality within the next 5 years? Ooh lots, there is so much more to discover. I want to explore more filigree style silver work, some lamp work bead making, more structural seed bead work, more soldering techniques... shall I go on?
What have been your biggest personal (not necessarily bead or jewellery related) challenges & accomplishments? I think putting myself out there for others to judge for a shy and moreover camera shy person. Doing my job initially was nervous - though having a still photo taken is so much worse. Selling my first piece was such a thrill - someone wants what I have made, amazing!
Anything else you wish to share that might be of interest, or inspiration for other jewellery makers? Don’t be afraid to try. Have a go, just jump right in there. If the materials are very expensive, then try with cheaper alternatives. Remember, nothing bad will happen if it doesn’t work, just try again. Talk to people - crafters are usually great at talking & helping. Remember, we don’t start off knowing these techniques, we learn by practice.