Thursday, 16 September 2010

The WireWorkers Guild

by Sarah's Forge



(a.k.a. Sarah's Forge)


Meet a new member with a wonderfully
inspiring story, clearly demonstrating
to us all:
Read on, to hear how Jackie, against all
odds, has discovered her creativity and
passion in jewellery making ...


I'm Jackie Robinson, a single mum, who wanted to learn about making jewellery. I was reading a magazine about someone who made their own and I actually felt envious! Then I realised that if I was having such a strong emotional reaction, this was something I should be doing! So, I sought out an evening course at a local adult education centre, found one in Silversmithing & Jewellery Design and received some help from the job centre with course costs and my neighbours who had become lovely friends, had my son to play for 3 hours each Wednesday night. In the class, my 'Artisan's' heart was ignited and I found myself making more pieces at home beyond the class projects I was working on. Eighteen months on, I'm still doing that and have had a bash at most jewellery techniques now, through classes and magazine and book projects, with the exceptions of lampworking and metal clay. I'm more drawn to some techniques than others, but I do love wirework - that's why I call my business: 'SARAH'S FORGE' - it's forging and changing metal into something the eye likes to look at - and Sarah (which means princess), is my middle name.

(Above) 'Fairy Lights' Bangle

I've worked in jewellery shops, in retail, but had no formal training in jewellery making, although I've always been creative: making cards, or re-designing my clothes when I was a teenager, or making wedding bags for friends. With the jewellery, I began by using household pliers and an old house brick for soldering purposes, instead of jewellery pliers and a proper firing brick - which I've still yet to get! I even used plastic chopsticks we had lying around the house, to knit wire on when I didn't have any needles and I borrowed library books on wirework and started experimenting at home. Everything had to be done on a budget and jewellery magazines and materials remain my greatest luxury. I fit in the jewellery with being a Mum, working from home part-time and studying an MA in Environmental Anthropology online. I have taught my 10 year old son, Jesse, to solder (with assistance!). He makes films and is great at Fine Art, so he comes up with brilliant designs and I've had some lovely wirework jewellery gifts from him for birthdays!

(Above) Jackie and Jesse at home


Well, when I first began wirework and silversmithing, I became a bit like the characters in 'Close Encounters' who see the mountain shape in their mashed potato - every shape was a potential piece of jewellery: a tendril on a plant, my metal dish drainer ... even the modern chandeliers at Sheffield Lyceum inspired me to make a pair of earrings! I'm also inspired by the delicate forms and shapes in nature, or the combination of certain colours - vibrant purple coloured copper wire with what my friend's daughter calls 'zombie green', or soft mauve with forest-green organza ribbon, or cream vintage mother-of-pearl buttons against a satin deep pink rose ribbon, all on pale pink wire ... the materials themselves can become the inspiration. Materials that you wouldn't expect turning up or combined together on a piece, are always a great starting point and I think wire, beads and textiles are beautiful together.

(Above) 'Knitted Treasure' Neckpiece and Earrings


It's hard to choose a favourite, but one of my favourites are green coloured -copper wire earrings masquerading as blades of grass with a dewdrop glass pearl caught on each blade - the pearl would be glass, freshwater or cultured - it allows for something more couture or just plain affordable. I feel strongly that jewellery should be for everyone. I'm currently creating a line of such jewellery suitable for bride and bridesmaids - it's very delicate and looks like it comes from a fairy glade. The great thing with this wire, is that it changes hues upon being hammered, so one achieves a natural gradation of colour that lends itself to something imitating nature: because it's copper based, but has the coloured coating, it also retains a springy quality when it's hammered too, so it's a little more wearable in some senses, than silver, which as a harder metal, is more rigid. Again, that lends itself to emulation of a natural form. There's a lot of overuse of the word 'organic' in jewellery making but I think people do gravitate to designs that have a 'flow' and familiarity to them. Recently, I've been making mixed-media jewellery - incorporating gorgeous buttons, ribbon, copper and silver chain in the same piece, with an unusual bead thrown in - just mixing it up and having fun! Those pieces are fast becoming my favourites.

(Above) 'Buttons with Love' Necklace


I would give pieces to friends and family for birthdays and Xmas and then they began giving me the odd commission, as presents for their friends and family. I've now had 17 commissions since last Xmas. As far as promotion goes, I got one of those online offers for 'free' business cards, so I used their online design template to create cards, stickers and brochures which I include in the organza bags I provide my pieces in, plus a large banner for summer craft fair tables - although, I've yet to do one of those! - and two large window decals, which I have in our front and back windows. I have to say that I haven't gathered any passing trade from the window promotion and that the best way to get noticed seems to be online and good old 'word of mouth'. I also do discounts for first orders, or more than one item, so it's a good incentive for people to come back to pass my details on to their friends.

(Above) Silver Forged 'Oddment Pendant' on Organza Ribbons

Gosh! That's a toughy! I'd go for designing a mixed media neck-piece for Cameron Diaz or a bangle for Fearne Cotton, because they strike me as both being a bit off-the-cuff in their personal styles and more open to something slightly quirky. For sterling silver wirework, I would love to design for the actress Eva Green (the spy, Vesper Lynd, in James Bond "Casino Royale", the witch Serafina Pekkala in "The Golden Compass" and the princess Sybilla in "Kingdom of Heaven"). She is part Algerian, Swedish, Turkish and Spanish, raised in France, collects religious icons and loves 'simple but elegant' styles. She is also very striking but individual and enigmatic - I'd make a piece that would reflect all those qualities: perhaps earrings? I would love to see my work adorning iconic ears! It probably appeals to the anthropologist in me - I'm interested in styles and jewellery techniques from the ancient world, such as Aztec and Toltec and also Byzantine and how art has influenced European dress and jewellery as in the Elizabethan era. Everything we do in jewellery is borrowed from somewhere else - even where new techniques are being explored - as in working with plastics - you can trace that form back to the Bauhaus, where function dictated form. So it's a really important lesson in not being intimidated by anything anyone else is making - there is room for everyone! Just go for it!

(Above: Bangle based on Jema Hewitt's Eleanor Bouquet Bracelet)


Just for now, to keep making the pieces that make me happy and not to be too competitive with myself. I'm in a different silversmithing class this year and learn so much from my tutors. I had a knitted jewellery set shown in a class exhibition called 'Silks and Silver' at 'Created Gallery' in my home town of Chesterfield last March and it spurred me on to set up a solo exhibition at our library in March 2011, so I am currently busy creating jewellery for that. I would like to have 70 pieces made and so far, I have about 20, so I have some work to do! Whatever I don't sell through that, I will use as starting stock to set up a shop on and I'd like to get my own 'Sarah's Forge' website going through I have an album on photobucket of my recent mixed media pieces and will be adding new pieces to that as I make them. The url is:
Alternatively, 'Google' photobucket, pull down the 'search' option, select 'people' and type in 'elijahstar' (my son's middle names), without the inverted comma's, to see the album and piece descriptions. The same album is also available on Picasa web albums under 'SARAH'S FORGE'. I have also entered the 6 original designs in the Jewellery Maker of the Year 2010 competition that 'Beads & Beyond' magazine are running, so anyone interested in voting for me can got onto the competition page on that website, from September 16th/17th and click on 'Nominate' for my entries:
Prior to setting up my website, I can be contacted for commissions and orders by emailing me direct at:
I can make something personal for the wearer, any materials and colours and will take designs on board if people want to email me images to work from. I ask for payment to made upfront in order to purchase materials and guarantee the receipt of the commission and 2 weeks to complete the piece, along with others that I am working on. As I don't drive, getting to summer shows can be difficult when they're far afield, but I believe there's a grammar school craft fair I could take a stand at. One day I would love to have some of my work on show in a couple of galleries in town and participate in the Derbyshire Arts Exhibition and the British Crafts and Trade Fair ... but we'll see what transpires... I made a decision that commuting each day to do a university degree in jewellery wasn't practical for me as a Mum, aged 47, who needs to be bringing in an income NOW. I have a son who'll be wanting driving lessons in 6 years! However, I still drool like Homer Simpson over doughnuts, when I see a piece of fine art jewellery and part of me wishes I could do that. I know that soldering is not my first love (in fact the air gets very blue in our house when I'm soldering!) so I don't think that painstaking type of jewellery making is for me! I like something that I can see the results for in 3 days maximum, not 3 weeks or months ... Having said all that, if I haven't been whisked off by a knight on a white horse by the time Jesse has graduated from film college, I'm taking myself off to India for a year to learn Gemology at jewellery college there. India is somewhere I've always wanted to go and I love Bollywood films. Stone setting is something I would like to master and my son gave me some stunning blue topaz earrings with an unusual silver setting last Xmas. The jewels were from Jaipur, so the idea grew from that. I know that jewellery will always be part of my life in some fashion and as long as my hands and mind are good for it, I'll be banging away with that hammer, swearing over that soldering torch and agonising over those coloured beads! ... and then I'll hang up the finished piece and just enjoy looking at it, thinking: .... "I made that!".

Above: 'Tea & Roses' Necklace


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