As I’m nearing the end of developing a new collection, I thought I’d write a little bit about how I create new work. I sometimes refer to this as the new collection rollercoaster, as I pass through different stages of development, I go from feeling really excited and confident about what I’m making to feeling like I’ll never make anything good again! As I’ve become more experienced, I have learnt that these feelings are just part of the process, and that in order to create something exciting you have to push yourself to a place that feels a bit uncomfortable and beyond your reach.
The first step is deciding what will inspire the collection. Finding that spark of curiosity that will drive you forward can be the hardest part of the journey. In lockdown I found it impossible to be creative in this way, making was really soothing and helpful but taking those intuitive leaps was beyond my reach, so my current collection is actually my first for two years. My work is personal so part of this is about making time to reflect and listen to what comes up. The other part is making sure I’m exposing myself to interesting things going on in the world, this could be visiting exhibitions, taking beautiful walks or reading books. The one place I never look for inspiration is jewellery, as I think it’s hard to create something new if you have too set an idea of what the end result should look like at the start of the process.
Once I have an idea of what the focus is going to be, I start researching different ways that this idea is expressed in the world. For example, for my Change of State collection, my interest was in points of transition so I looked at how a city and a coastline had evolved over 50 years, a photo book of Berlin from the period just before and after the fall of the Berlin wall and how chemical bonds change when a material changes state. I like to create a board of different images and notes, as I find it easier to design with all of my research in front of me. I like to start with sketching, and making paper or card models of different shapes to help refine my ideas. I find that it takes a little while to get into the zone with this stage, I resign myself to producing pages of rubbish ideas before the good ones start showing up!
Once I have some ideas that I’m excited about, I have to try and work out how to make them in metal and Jesmonite! This is one of my favourite stages as I really enjoy the problem solving aspect of this kind of design. Every collection I try not to limit myself by the skills I already have, and be willing to learn new things to make my ideas come to life. This collection I’ve experimented with a different way of mould making and finishing the Jesmonite to create much more detailed 3D castings. I’ll usually make several rounds of samples to a piece right. This stage of development is where the rollercoaster experience comes in, as I go from really loving an idea to realising that it isn’t working and needs more development in the space of an afternoon!
I like to start with the most complicated, least commercial pieces as I find that simpler versions suggest themselves naturally as part of the process. Towards the end of developing a collection, I usually find myself with loads more pieces than I originally had in mind as I keep adding bits and bobs that I think work well! At this stage it’s also great to get some other peoples opinions of what they like and don’t like about a piece. Jewellery is so intimately connected with your body, it’s hard to rely on your opinion alone. As the creator you have a slightly different relationship to a piece than the wearer. My lovely creative housemate Anna has done this for me this time around, and it’s also really useful to see the pieces being worn by another person to perfect the size and weight.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into my process, if you have any questions, leave a comment below and let us know!