Friday 20 October 2017

Jeweller Interview with Leisa Howes Jewellery

One of the things I love about Folksy is that it can be easier to find new gems than on some of the bigger online craft platforms.This was how I discovered Leisa Howes' wonderful work; just as I browsed around Folksy one day, it was waiting for me to find...

Silver Mermaid Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

Scattered with natural and mythological imagery, all created in sterling silver, the work is both detailed and simple, striking and yet subtle - it has an artisan feel to it, the jewellery is well crafted and yet also hand-crafted, individual and special.

I do hope you enjoy this interview with Leisa, learning more about her inspiration and techniques and her plans for the future.

How long ago did you begin making jewellery and what prompted you to start? Are you self-taught or have you attended classes?

I started a jewellery making evening class at Hull College in 2007. My youngest was only a few months old at the time and I was still on maternity leave. I have always loved art and wanted to find something creative to do. I became hooked very quickly and as the course progressed I had the chance to study for a degree in 3D Metal Craft. I was really pleased to graduate with a first class honours.

Where do find ideas for your designs and how do you develop them into the finished piece of jewellery?

I try to research my designs but with time constraints I'm not always very good at doing this! I am drawn to nature, British wildlife and looking deep into our past. I'm really drawn to the mystery that surrounds our ancestors especially around the neolithic period and I love ancient landscapes and standing stones. I am also drawn to medieval art which inspire some of the animals which feature in my work. I try to draw my designs but they also develop as I make them too. I love to work in silver for jewellery although I will use copper and brass in brooches and other objects such as boxes.

Three Silver Hare Rings by Leisa Howes Jewellery

What is your workspace like? Is it set up exactly the way you want, a work in progress or a kitchen table?

My workspace is a converted 10 x 8 foot shed. My husband insulated it for me and I have electricity which is essential. If I had to improve it I would have a sink but as it is, it works fine, even in winter I am warm and cozy. It's my space and I love it.

One of your key design themes is nature (especially hares!) and the sea - when did you decide to focus on this?

I have always loved hares and worked on them as a theme at college. They are beautiful creatures and I love all the mythology that surrounds them - I never tire of incorporating them in my work. My love of the sea comes from holidays in Cornwall and days spent on the North Yorkshire coast. I love tales of mermaids, the beautiful blues and greens of the water and whenever I'm on a beach I'm always on the lookout for little pieces of treasure, sea glass, driftwood and other found objects. At college I studied the work of Barbara Hepworth and looked at patinas on metal, I find the way the sea weathers objects and metal over time quite beautiful.

Silver Hares Gemstone Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

What jewellery making tools could you just not do without, and what is still on your wish list?

I love working with my hand engravers and use them in most of my work and so I would have to say I couldn't do without them. I'm lucky in that I have built up my tools over time but I would probably like to get back into etching metal and maybe experimenting with sand casting.

On Folksy you talk about your degree in 3D metal craft (congratulations!) - how has studying for this affected your approach to making jewellery, both in terms of the design and the physical construction of your pieces?

As part of my degree I had to research my pieces in-depth and create thorough designs as part of my work book thinking not only about if a piece would be aesthetically pleasing but also how it would work. My studies really helped me to find and develop my style of work. At college I made the engraving tools I still use now and the course allowed me to experiment with etching metals, creating patinas and working with mixed media such as incorporating found objects from beaches.

Silver Badger Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

What is your favourite part of making jewellery?

My favourite part of making jewellery is working with my engravers to breathe life into the metal, be it a hare or a tree!

Do you take your own jewellery photos and, if so, do you have any photography hints?

I have a decent camera and I have recently bought a simple light box but I still find my best photo's are taken in the garden in natural daylight using the camera on my phone! I tend to photograph against pieces of driftwood and sometimes pick some flowers and pop those in too.

Do you use any social media sites to help promote your work? If so which one is your favourite?

I use facebook and have recently set up on Instagram after being told I should be my daughter! I don't really have a favourite but I wish I had set up on Instagram ages ago.

Silver Hares Pendant by Leisa Howes Jewellery

How do you find the balance between making your jewellery and marketing and selling it?

I really enjoy the making process and don't spend nearly enough time marketing my pieces. I think in time this will change but for now I am always so busy I just do what I can.

How do you see your jewellery evolving over time? Do you feel happy with what you're creating or do you hanker after new styles or materials to experiment with?

I want to incorporate etching, patina's and more mixed media into my work. I have lots of ideas! I think my work will naturally develop over time but my style will not change too much.

What is the best tip or advice you've been given, in jewellery making or life in general?!

The best tip I've been given was during my studies when I interviewed a lady who has enjoyed a successful career in jewellery and sculpture. She told me to be true to myself and not to follow fashion. With family commitments and a day job, I have also learned that patience is essential and things will grow and develop naturally in time, the main thing is that I enjoy creating what I do.

All photographs in this post ©Leisa Howes Jewellery

Many thanks to you, Leisa, for this interview - and for answering all the questions I asked! It makes for a really interesting read and I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did.

Do check out more of Leisa's jewellery at the links below:


You might also like to read some more jeweller interviews - click here for more

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