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Meet Your Maker: Interview with a Live Jeweller

During Scottish Jewellery Week, Dundee-based jeweller Islay Spalding set up a live studio within the city’s West Ward Works on 27 and 28 May 2016. The Meet Your Maker event gave visitors the opportunity to delve into the process of designing and making a piece of jewellery, as well as giving insight into life as a jeweller.

Islay Spalding: Live Jeweller

Islay Spalding taking up residence - image courtesy of Scottish Jewellery Week

Islay spent her two-day residency using innovative techniques to work with her limited resources and create a brooch inspired by the West Ward Works. Scottish Jewellery Week caught up with Islay post-event to see how she found it:

SJW: What made you want to be part of Scottish Jewellery Week?

Islay: I was really excited to be selected as jeweller-in-residence for Scottish Jewellery Week. The brief was something I enjoy doing; designing and making something inspired by a building, with the added advantage of getting to make it inside the actual building!

Islay's research

SJW: What inspired you?

Islay: After having a good explore with my camera in areas I probably wasn't meant to be, I decided it was the layers of piping, grating, paint and the leftover fragments of the building’s original purpose that really got my solder flowing.

SJW: Talk us through your process.

Islay: I sketched out some ideas: I was restricted by the materials I had brought with me which provided a useful constraint to finalise the idea and start making.  I really wanted the piece to be mixed media, to reflect the different materials in the building. I wanted to give an idea of layers of time. I especially liked this photo I took of a window that had been covered in paint and then washed back to reveal the murky glass, so that was my starting point. I played about with some pieces of perspex that I roughed up by rubbing on some scratchy parts of the concrete floor and gritty windowsill before painting, rubbing back and lacquering. Then I started making the silver parts while this dried. The pipework was made from tube and wire and the base of the piece started life as a beautiful flat piece of sheet silver that was reticulated, rolled, hammered, reticulated again, and generally abused until it looked pleasingly worn. This part of the design also got a paint, rubbing and lacquer treatment. The whole piece was soldered together and after finishing, the grating and perspex were riveted into place and steel pin attached.

SJW: How did you feel having an audience?

Islay: I really enjoyed it! Made a lovely break from working away alone and I enjoy people seeing the process. I even got some help soldering…

Soldering skeptic

Yet to be convinced. Image courtesy of Scottish Jewellery Week

SJW: Would you do something like this again?

Islay: Yes. I like working to a deadline, I enjoyed making something in the time I was given and I like having only so many tools and materials to work with as that becomes a massive influence in what you make and forces you to think creatively to use what you have.

Work in progress

The West Ward brooch in progress. Image courtesy of Scottish Jewellery Week

SJW: Are you happy with the end result?

Islay: Yes! Happy with the result, I feel I achieved what I wanted to achieve, of course as an artist I feel I could always do better, but that's why we keep going.  

The West Ward Brooch

The finished West Ward brooch. Image courtesy of Scottish Jewellery Week

The West Ward Brooch will be auctioned for the Archie Foundation, which will help transform the paediatric care in Ninewells hospital in Dundee. The auction will take place at Dundee's Literary Festival Tea Dance on Saturday 22 October 2016. You can purchase your ticket for the dance here.

Find out more about Craft Scotland's Meet Your Maker project>>

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