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The Magic of Labradorite

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

I've made quite a few pieces of work with the inclusion of some sumptuous pieces of labradorite, so I thought I'd better learn a bit more about this iridescent rock!

Raw labradorite

Raw labradorite

Labradorite is called Spectrolite sometimes and is considered by mystics to be a stone of magic and transformation.  It occurs in orange, yellow, colourless, and red, but the material that shows a play of colour, or "schiller" or "labradorescence" is the most popular for using in jewellery.

 

The amazing array of colours and patterns found in labradorite.

The amazing array of colours and patterns found in labradorite.

Labradorite occurs in metamorphic and igneous rocks in Labrador (Canada), Finland, Norway, and Russia.

Mystically Labradorite is supposed to help provide clarity and insight into your destiny, as well as attract success.  Stress and anxiety are said to be reduced by the powers of the stone, possibly by its energy of self-confidence.

For those with a large budget it can even be used to make a sink!!

Labradorite sink

Labradorite sink

Spring Studio Sale 2017

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

I will be holding an intimate studio sale at my premises in Frome, Somerset on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th March 2017.  This is a great chance to come and chat to me, try everything on, and hopefully get yourself some unique jewellery at an amazing price.

Opening hours:

Friday 17th March 10am - 7pm

Saturday 18th March 10am - 2pm

Please contact me for further information including location address.

Muddy Stilettos Awards 2016 - Winner, Best Jewellery Store

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

I am absolutely thrilled to have been voted best Somerset Jewellery Store in the Muddy Stilettos Awards 2016.  My heartfelt thanks go out to all my customers and supporters who voted for me and are always full of encouragement. 

Designing and Developing the Hermes Wings Range

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

This range of jewellery was inspired by a piece of classical jewellery that I saw in a glorious reference book - it was heavily jewel encrusted and ornate.  I simplified the shape and modernised the settings creating a winged, rock-chick kind of statement!

The pieces are set with various stones including ruby, amethyst, green onyx, labradorite, moonstone, carnelian, citrine, peridot and chalcedony.

Upcycling, recycling, reworking

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

Last year I seemed to become the “Divorce Ring” go-to jeweller!  Didn’t know it even existed?  No, nor did I.  But not all wedding and engagement rings maintain that sentimental “love you forever” meaning, especially when a couple separates.  Many women don’t want to carry on wearing those rings in the same way – they need to be re-fashioned into a “this is the start of my new life” ring or another piece of jewellery altogether.  Lots of people inherit old-fashioned pieces of jewellery that they love, but it just isn’t their style, so why not get it revamped?

My first upcycled piece was a very personal one to me.  My dear father died at a crazy young age.  I ended up making my mother a new ring with 2 types of metal wrapped together to signify the two of them, and their initials pierced out on the inside – she loved it and decided that it was all she wanted to wear on her ring finger.  A while later, she asked me if I would like her engagement, wedding, and eternity rings to use in other pieces.  I was a bit taken aback – surely they had huge sentimental meaning – but she insisted that she wanted me to have them and didn’t want them left in the back of a drawer.  I ended up cutting the gold shank off the engagement ring and using the classic solitaire diamond setting as a gorgeous pendant on a gold chain for my mum – she hasn’t taken that off since either.  I made myself a ring with all the remaining gold and the diamonds and emeralds from the eternity ring – it was the kind of primitive, medieval style that I favour and the only extra bit I added was a gorgeous ruby.  I think of my dad every time that I wear it.

Sometimes I am asked to retrieve the stones from settings and then use them in completely new metal.  There might not be enough metal for me to be able to melt down and re-use – if there are only small amounts I might melt it down into tiny balls and use them as additional detail on the new piece.  Cutting stones out of old jewellery is not a fun job, so don’t expect that it will be a cheap way to get new jewellery – it is actually pretty stressful, especially if the tiny stones are flush set in hard white gold or platinum.  I break out in a cold sweat worrying that a diamond is going to ping out and fly across the studio (this hasn’t happened yet I hasten to add – the stones have usually become so grimy through wear that they are pretty well stuck into the metal!).

Gold and garnets recycled from an unwanted brooch

Gold and garnets recycled from an unwanted brooch

9ct gold and silver with garnets

9ct gold and silver with garnets

Silver and rose gold with diamonds, emeralds, peridot and tourmaline

Silver and rose gold with diamonds, emeralds, peridot and tourmaline

18ct gold around silver with sapphire and diamonds

18ct gold around silver with sapphire and diamonds

If there is a good amount of metal to melt down (and hallmarking is important here – you need to know exactly what you are working with), I melt it into a nugget and then spend a considerable amount of time and energy hammering it out, re-annealing it, and putting it through my roller to give me something to work with.  It might also require the addition of some metal grain to increase the volume.  Because my work tends to be chunky and bold, the re-fashioned gold and silver may form a layer over new metal.

A lovely piece that I made recently included 2 narrow rings of 9ct gold that didn’t have a lot of value, but they had belonged to my client’s late grandmother – she wanted something made from them so that she’d always be reminded of her.  My client liked my Juno rings, and I struggled for a while wondering what to do with the small amount of metal.  I decided to hammer and texture the bands and then solder them together to form one ring – it was then topped with a carved silver bezel containing a blue topaz.  She was thrilled with the result – one of my Juno rings plus the added meaning offered by her grandmother’s jewellery.

Another client had never particularly liked the setting of her engagement ring – it was one of those awkward situations of having to admit to her husband after 10 years that she’d really rather have it re-styled.  The diamond was an absolutely stunning princess cut stone – very valuable.  She liked the style of my jewellery, but I don’t do any traditional claw-set pieces – mine is all pretty contemporary.  I warned her that her diamond would not get the same amount of light shining through it once set in a carved rub-over setting.  She decided that she would rather have the contemporary style and have something that she really would enjoy to wear.  Luckily she was thrilled to bits with her new ring and I breathed a sigh of relief!!


Colour

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

I often have people who tell me that they “don’t do gold” or “I only wear silver”, “I can’t wear red” or “I hate yellow”.  It has got me thinking about colour and how I think that sometimes people (especially women it has to be said) get a fixation about colours and what works on them.  I have to admit that I am drawn to certain colours over others – I realise that I choose turquoise and teal and those greeny-blue colours without really realising it (my bathroom, my exhibition stand, the ribbons on my packaging, my daughter’s feature wall!!), but not necessarily for my jewellery or my clothes, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that what you like looking at is what you feel works “on” you.

Sweetie rings with amethyst, aquamarine and blue chalcedony

Sweetie rings with amethyst, aquamarine and blue chalcedony

I had a rather under-confident woman come up to me at a show the other day and tell me that she had had her “colours” done years ago and she had been told that gold was her colour (in terms of jewellery), so that is what she had religiously stuck to.  She then went back to another colour consultant (and I hadn’t even realised that colour consultancy was still a thing!), who had told her that silver was her colour for jewellery.  Well she was thrown into such a quandary!  I have to admit to a quiet inward chuckle and thought surely that proves that this colour thing can hardly be an exact science.  I added to her confusion by saying “what about wearing both depending on how you feel?”  What about maybe even choosing jewellery that is made with a mix of metals?  Surely by wearing mixed metal jewellery you are not limiting yourself to one palette and you can have lots more fun!

Black opal set in 18ct gold with Sterling silver shank

Black opal set in 18ct gold with Sterling silver shank

Historically, I believe, there was an issue with mixing metals in pieces of jewellery because of the hallmarking process.  Jewellers would stringently stick to one carat of gold for instance.  Now if you create a piece primarily in Sterling silver with details in yellow gold you can get part-marks detailing the different metals – the Assay Office has eventually moved with the times.  Jewellery has become so much more experimental, fun, not only for the rich and showy.

There are always changing fashions of course – bright shiny gold might not necessarily be so in favour, and some people think that silver is just the cooler, more wearable metal – it might not actually be down to what “suits”.  And what about what jewellery means or says about you.  We all know that gold is so, so much more expensive than silver – if you like bold statement jewellery like me, there is no way that I could afford to have those pieces in solid gold.  I have no issue with the “colour” gold – I love it – but because I’m not a billionaire I choose to wear pieces that are mainly silver with detailing in gold.  I love a gold bezel around certain colours of stone – 18ct yellow gold looks so regal around a blood red ruby.  The coolness of an aquamarine is set off beautifully by a paler 9ct yellow gold.  And the gold doesn’t have to be mirror polished – I prefer it subtly brushed or textured.

Juno ring with blue topaz, 9ct gold, and Sterling silver

Juno ring with blue topaz, 9ct gold, and Sterling silver

There are lots of cultural differences around choice of metal too – we know about the Indian preference of investing in gold and wearing your investment as jewellery.  I once worked with a fascinating guy who travelled constantly as an event electrician – he was constantly up in the rigging of big music venues and the like.  He had multiple piercings (I didn’t see them all!) and wore huge gold chains around his neck all the time with big gold rings on his fingers.  I asked him about all his jewellery and he said that while he was travelling and working without any commitment or ties, he would invest his money in gold and wear it proudly.  When the time came to settle down, he would sell off his jewellery as he needed – as good a choice as any I thought!  Plus he looked pretty damn cool – an identity completely of his own.

I think that you also need to look at why you wear jewellery – who is it for?  Personally I wear it for me – I love it.  I love the fun of it and I really love the colours and the texture.  Through making jewellery I’ve had quite a journey with colour.  I always felt a bit funny about yellow – whenever I tried to wear it I’d look at myself and think I looked unwell!  But now I can’t get enough of yellow and orange gemstones – they really, really work in jewellery – they are bright, attention grabbing, and happy.  Even if you feel a bit daunted by a colour, try it in your jewellery – you’ll be surprised how it works.  If you can’t have a splash of brilliant colour in a ring or in your earrings, where on earth can you?

Double flower earrings with lemon quartz

Double flower earrings with lemon quartz

Inspiration

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

I am constantly inspired by all sorts of things around me.  And the problem is that sometimes I have to switch off the ideas part of my brain in order to get on with the job in hand.  I find myself jumping up from my seat throughout the day to further research an idea or delve through my drawers of stones and metal – before I know it, I’ve used up another hour of my “making” day trying to work out another new idea.

Eleanor Christine Jewellery

Eleanor Christine Jewellery

When I started making jewellery I actively sought out inspiration and I probably looked in the more obvious places – I marvelled at the work of other jewellers and invested in book after book of exquisite and inspiring jewellery.  It wasn’t that I had the skill or experience to try to recreate that work, but I would be inspired by small details that would lead me into a style of my own.  For example, the textures created on metal, or the simple beauty of a hand-made clasp, or the mixing of metals to create contrasting colour.

One of the first places that I visited was the jewellery collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum – I was mesmerised by the techniques that goldsmiths have used for hundreds of years – the days when making jewellery required many years of apprenticeship and a maker would hone one particular skill until it was perfect – engraving, enamelling, filigree.  But I was mainly drawn to tribal and primitive jewellery – in fact I always have been.  It is the materials that speak to me most – I love the malleability of metal, the way it can be shaped in ways you would not have believed possible.  I still have my sketchbook from my first visit to the V&A (you can’t take photos) – I was drawn to pattern and sculptural shape.

My biggest inspiration is Alexander Calder – he had a modernist take on tribal ornament.  All his life he carried pliers and bits of wire in his pockets.  As he once put it “I think best in wire”.  Calder is now best known for his sculpture and his huge scale mobiles, but he was working out his ideas in jewellery.  The first time he exhibited his jewellery in 1929, it was right beside his sculpture and his paintings.  I love the beaten metal (he doesn’t polish out the marks), and I love the repeated swirls of the almost liquid metal.  I find his work hugely sexy and edgy.

Alexander Calder Jewellery pieces

Alexander Calder Jewellery pieces

As well as Calder, there is Henry Moore and Picasso – again, that primitive yet modern approach.  The shapes, weight, and pattern that they create with simple lines utterly inspires me.  The hollow spaces are just as crafted as the solid material.

Colour and texture have developed as a major component of my work – I think that the inspiration for this comes mainly from my love of gems.  The stones that I find drive me to design around them – what will set them off well?  How can I make the most of that shape and colour?  However, I spend a long time studying colour too.  I like unusual colour combinations and the best place to see this is in nature.  My Pinterest board is full of butterflies and beetles, toadstools and flowers – they aren’t afraid of colours “clashing”, they like it dramatic – nature does it very well!   I stumbled across an exhibition of photographs by Jo Whaley – her book is called “The Theatre of Insects”.  Wow, it was just incredible – I simply had to buy the book.  The insects themselves, of course, are spectacular, but she would juxtapose them against certain backgrounds– for example a heavily rusted piece of metal, a peeling painted door, or a black and white score of music.  The backgrounds made the insects look even more jewel-like, detailed, and ornamental.

Architecture and interior decoration can even inspire me – I like the ruggedness of a skyline and just look at Charles Rennie Macintosh.  I still intend to make some jewellery based on his roses.

Charles Rennie Macintosh

Charles Rennie Macintosh

My most recent inspiration has come from animals - tigers and leopards.  Could there be more striking patterns than their coats?  It isn’t only the pattern but the texture of fur that interests me.  I have designed some pieces for men based on tiger print, and some statement women’s pieces with “leopard print”.  The metal is brushed like fur, and layered, pierced, and oxidised to give the appearance of different tones of colour.

Leopard Print Cuff - Eleanor Christine Jewellery

Leopard Print Cuff - Eleanor Christine Jewellery

I think that it’s fair to say that I’m rather a sponge – soaking up that inspiration from all around me.

Salisbury Contemporary Craft Festival

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

I had the pleasure of exhibiting at the Salisbury Contemporary Craft Festival in September - it has to win the category "Festival with the best backdrop" as it sat right beside the stunning cathedral.  A great, sunny weekend had by all.


It's a Jeweller's Life

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

I have just started writing a monthly article in Making Jewellery Magazine.  I am very proud to report that the first article has been published on a double page spread - yay!

The content was all about my recent photo shoot - thoughts around it, preparation, and the day itself.  If you'd like to read the piece you'll find it below the photograph. 

The Bigger Picture

I am Eleanor, and my business is Eleanor Christine Jewellery.  I am a jewellery artist – designer and maker – and I sell my work commercially.  As everyone in this business knows, you have to be a jewellery fanatic and lover of the craft – passion is all important in jewellery design.  Each piece that I make is bespoke, unique, and includes that little bit of myself that lays my heart bare because I care so much – yes, I am a perfectionist and a control freak!  I work from my studio in Frome, Somerset, after moving here 4 years ago.

For my first article for Making Jewellery Magazine I have been asked to write about a photoshoot that I organised recently.  Photographs and branding are key to selling and for building up an image of your business.  For my recent shoot I was concentrating on my brand – I wanted to build a mood around my work.  It wasn’t specifically about the individual pieces of jewellery – I can take pictures of my work myself.  This shoot had been in the planning (in my mind) for a really long time, but I never felt ready enough to commit to exactly what I wanted.  Was my work ready?  Was I ready?  What was I going to use the images for?  How exactly do you find the people you need to put this together, and at the right price (at an affordable price?). 

My jewellery is sculptural, bold, and artistic and often I see each piece as a work of art – the photographs that I take are still lives.  It needed to be brought to life.  Customers and fans told me that they’d love to see images of it being worn – and of course, that is the main purpose of jewellery.  I had previously organised a very low key photo shoot with friends at my house and with a friendly local photographer – this was ideal for those “seeing the work being worn” shots, but it still didn’t convey my passion and aspirations for my work – it needed more artistry and a feeling of high fashion.

Over the course of the last year I have talked to loads of people about what I was after – they had advice on marketing, they gave me an alternative view on what I was trying to achieve.  As a jeweller, I work alone all day in my studio – sometimes you just can’t see the bigger picture.  I scoured the web for images that conveyed what I felt about my work – from fashion shoots, jewellery shoots, and general life shots.  I built up an inspiration board on Pinterest.  It became clear that my work has an “edge”, it is raw – I wanted a sexy, moody feel to my shoot – it is a mix of boho and rock.  I wanted that night after the party look – nothing too tidy, dark smudged eyes, brooding passion!

I didn’t have the money to pay for an expensive photographer, stylist, make-up and hair or models for that matter – and what about venues?  Where is this going to take place?  But because I am a perfectionist, I still wanted the best.  I was lucky to have already met Ciara in my home town of Frome – this town is packed to the rafters with creative people.  Ciara has many strings to her bow and one of them is photography – like me, she sees her craft as an art form – her photographs had an ethereal, arty “otherness” about them that I really like.  She loved my mood board and came up with ideas of who we could use and where we could shoot – everything and everybody was Frome based.  Living in a small, vibrant, artistic community meant that everyone was happy to help in my endeavour – the models are students and they turned out to be complete naturals, clothes were borrowed from local shops, hair and make-up was done by a gorgeous local girl, and we shot all the interior shots in our completely off-the-wall pub.

The result – well the pictures say it all!  I now have a look and feel that I am happy with – the images are being used on my website, on all my social media, they will be used for adverts and for posters to be used at upcoming shows.  They don’t focus on the detail (in the way that I am obsessed with as a jeweller), but they convey “the bigger picture”.

Eleanor Christine Jewellery Photo Shoot

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

Eleanor Christine Jewellery Photo Shoot

The results of my jewellery shoot - locally shot in Frome, Somerset with local photographer and local models.

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I find myself part of a Study on Craft

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

A couple of weeks ago I had a professor from Cardiff University come to spend some hours with me in the studio. He wanted to do one of my workshops and also spend some time chatting and watching me work to understand the process as part of a general study on artisans and crafts workers. He has written a beautiful piece about the process of making his own silver ring.

He sent me some pictures and here is a little snippet of his words:

"Like many makers I have met, Ellie conveys a great sense of calm, not least because she has the confidence in the things where I lack confidence. The actions that for me are clumsy are assured and habituated for her. But of course, unlike my trying to learn from a book or instruction manual, say, she can see what is “enough” and guide me appropriately – as well as offering general encouragement and advice. My silver ring is definitely another trophy... The measure of success lies in the work and knowledge that went into making it rather than the object itself. I am none the less gratified that the ring is as it was intended: round, shiny, the right size. Just as in other studios, there is a gratifying sense of entering a domain of long tradition."  (Professor Paul Atkinson)

At the bench - teaching the Professor

At the bench - teaching the Professor

Soldering a stone bezel to the ring shank

Soldering a stone bezel to the ring shank

The Ultimate Classic Beauty

Posted on by Eleanor Swinhoe

I knew that I was going to be featured in Tatler's Sleigh Bells Bling, but I did not know that the cover was to be graced by Grace.  I've always admired the beauty of Grace Kelly - cool, classy and timeless.  The article in Tatler hints that her marriage to Prince Rainier may not have been all it was cracked up to be, and that it became more like imprisonment once she could no longer accept acting work.  Well, I shall certainly be taking a trip to the flicks to watch the new film about Princess Grace, starring Nicole Kidman. 

Tatler Cover - December 2013

Tatler Cover - December 2013

Tatler Sleigh Bells Bling - Eleanor Christine Jewellery

Tatler Sleigh Bells Bling - Eleanor Christine Jewellery