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CONFESSIONS of a jewellery designer.

Q How long have you had your job? AI graduated in 1993 and set up my business in 1994, so about 15 years.

Q What's your employment history? A To help pay for my first workshop in London and early collections, I did outwork for other jewellers such as Sian Evans, Jenifer Corker and Alex Monroe. They introduced me to some great buyers from Japan and the US and business took off. I spent a few years showing at London Fashion Week, which gave me a great platform to sell internationally and gain press recognition. As well as running my label I then freelanced as a designer to Freedom @ Topshop and Next. This job took me out of London and while there I decided I wanted to move back to Wales. Since 2005 I have been freelance designer and trend consultant to Clogau Gold, also taught a jewellery making course for the Vale and this year launched my first website selling my own pieces.

Q How did you become involved in the field? What inspired you to choose it as a career? AI always wore loads of jewellery as a teenager out clubbing in Cardiff - it was the 80s after all. During my A-levels I met a local jeweller who worked in silver - she taught me soldering and other techniques and I was hooked from then.

Q Is there a lot of training involved? AI did a four-year degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing at London Guildhall University. We had two terms out on industrial placements which were fantastic opportunities to learn how businesses work. I did metalwork, including welding for Tom Dixon, the creative force at Habitat, and jewellery and different crafts for The New Renaissance design group. It taught me that almost anything is possible to work with. Now though things have changed in the jewellery world and you can make lovely pieces with a few basic techniques and all sorts of materials. If you can thread beads on a ribbon you can make jewellery.

Q What are the best and worst things about it, the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the job? AI've made pieces that people are still wearing years later. It's rewarding making treasure for someone. Having your work in Vogue for the first time or seeing Kylie wear your jewellery is good too. The other side of self-employment is sometimes having to be maker, PR, accountant - all roles in one, and income can be erratic. Also competition is fierce nowadays.

Q What's so special about your job? AI get to work with beautiful materials - beads and semi-precious stones. Thinking that my silver pieces will last for ages and people like to wear them gives great satisfaction.

Q What's the most unusual or complicated piece you've been commissioned to make? AI've made a silver face mask for a catwalk show. The poor model had to hold it in place with her teeth.

Q What qualities do you need to do your job, why does it suit you so well? A Determination, devotion and a thick skin, quite literally, because it can hurt your fingers cleaning up metal castings.

Metaphorically, because jewellery making and being creative is so personal. But it's all I've ever wanted to do.

Q What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps? A Try it even if you don't think you can do it.

Some of the students I taught at first didn't feel confident but once they were shown a few techniques they were unstoppable.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 20, 2009
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