10 Questions With Judith Brown Jewellery
Chloe Evans || September 22nd
How did you start ‘Judith Brown Jewellery’?
I started in 2004; though I’d studied Textiles at University I hadn’t done anything very creative for a while, until I started playing with some wire and discovered that I could use stitching techniques to create shapes and designs. I started with some local events and supplying local galleries, which then grew to taking part in UK trade fairs and being selected for contemporary craft events around the UK.
Did you have any formal training in jewellery design and creation? How did you come to realize your talent?
I didn’t have any formal training in jewellery, though the interest was always there. As a teenager I made beaded jewellery and polymer clay jewellery that I sold to school and family friends to fund my hobby. I got my degree in Embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan University and it was the love of stitching, colour and quality materials that I developed there which eventually led me to start my jewellery business.
What was the first piece of jewellery you ever made? How have your designs evolved?
My first pieces were made just for myself with bare copper wire. I lived in Italy for a while and had some friends who made jewellery, one day I was spending time with them playing with their materials and I discovered that I could sew with wire, and light bulb came on in my head, though it was a little while later back in the UK that I started experimenting properly with the techniques. The first piece was quite ethnic is style, a cross between and Indian paisley shape and a dream catcher, and was influenced by the colours and shapes you see in Indian sari fabric. Back in the UK I could source wire in many colours and my designs were quite brightly coloured with glass beads. Then I started exploring other things to stitch into with wire, which took me to vintage mother of pearl buttons, black hooks and eyes and antique lace with silver. My current collections are all nostalgically inspired by historical textiles, dress or design. My Geometric range is inspired by the colours and shapes of art deco, but has a bold contemporary feel. Other ranges are very feminine with lace like stitching and a style reminiscent of Victorian or Edwardian jewellery.
Take us through your "typical" day at the office.
I am not sure that there is a typical day in the studio really! Sometimes, like right now I might be working on my PC, emailing, editing photos for catalogues or for Facebook, processing internet or gallery orders for example. Other days, especially when there is an event on the horizon, are spent making, which of course is the best bit! One thing is for sure, and that’s coffee. My studio is above the lovely Spout Brewhouse in Leek, which means that break times in the morning are shared over great coffee (and the occasional slice of homemade cake) The company is good too, I share the top floor of the building with Lisa who makes wedding stationery, and it’s great to have someone to chat too and share the odd bit of gossip with!
How do you approach a new collection? Where do your ideas evolve from?
Sometimes I go to galleries like the National Portrait Gallery to look at the way people are dressed in the paintings, and to get colour and texture inspiration, or to the V&A and look at the jewellery gallery. I will also take into consideration the colours which are fashionable at the moment as a starting point, as I know that people will be buying clothes in similar shades. So I might look at the pantone colours for the season for example, but then I will also look at how some of these key colours have been combined in textiles and design in the past. This year I took my colour combination inspiration from looking at art deco design, fashion plates and illustration, which has led to some less obvious combinations that I might not have tackled otherwise, and these are proving popular with customers. I’ll also make a physical mood board for the studio, as well as a virtual one on Pinterest too.
What materials and techniques do you favour?
I love working silver wire, and I love oxidising it, it has a beautiful dark charcoal grey that sits well with colour, and keeps the overall look subtle even if the coloured beads I use are bold. The beads I use are glass from Japan or the Czech Republic, which has a long tradition of glass making. The techniques are ones that I can do with my hands and some pliers, so everything is stitched, manipulated and wrapped by hand. If I work with vintage haberdashery or lace in my jewellery I love giving new life to something that’s been forgotten in a box somewhere for years and that may once have been part of an elegant lady’s outfit.
Do you have a favourite accessory designer that you admire/ inspires you?
I really admire an American designer, Edera, who makes incredibly intricate jewellery and bridal accessories with lacemaking techniques, silver, gold, beads and pearls. Her work is much more intricate than mine and I aspire to produce such beautifully detailed pieces.
If you could see any woman wearing your beautiful designs, who would it be?
I’d love some of my Opulence jewellery to appear in a period drama like Downton Abbey for example. It would sit so well with the dresses and the elegance of the occasions such as balls and weddings. This is probably the little girl in me dreaming of glamourous yet elegant evenings out!
If you could choose one fashion designer to collaborate with, who would it be?
Valentino’s 2016 Resort collection is full of sheer fabrics with detailed floral embroidery which is colourful yet still subtle, I’d love to create some pieces to complement these designs, and really indulge myself in some colour and texture combinations which wouldn’t be very commercial, but would really make a statement.
What is your career highlight?
Selling my jewellery in the V&A and appearing in Embroidery magazine all in the same month!
Lucky for us, Judith Brown Jewellery will be a part of the Staffordshire Contemporary Artist and Designer Fair at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek, on the 3rd & 4th December 2016 – just in time to get some Christmas goodies!