I live in South Wales with my partner Paul, three elderly cats and one handsome dog. I have a grown up daughter Poppy who lives nearby. Aside from making jewellery, I’m a keen distance runner (I’ve run several marathons including running the Snowdonia marathon 3 times) and dream of living on a smallholding, but currently make do with growing vegetables in my back garden.
How long have you been selling on Folksy?
I only opened my Folksy shop a few weeks ago. I dithered for ages before hand as it seemed a big step. Previously I’d only sold pieces to friends and family.
Tell us about your work?
I make sterling silver jewellery. I describe my taste as eclectic; my style varies depending on my mood or the occasion. I love texture and pattern and use different effects to achieve this, from using a rolling mill to emboss pattern onto sheet silver, to reticulation, a surface treatment where controlled, repeated heating of the silver results in a rippled, molten, effect.
To me, wearing jewellery is more than just slipping on a ring. Each piece is an adornment and should make the wearer feel wonderful. I make pieces that I wear myself; pieces that are a little funky, a little quirky at times but that make me feel good and hopefully other women too. Whether it’s a tiny pendant or a large ring, attention to detail and finish are extremely important and I constantly strife to improve my techniques and craftsmanship.
What’s your favourite piece of work?
I particularly love large semi precious cabochons when plainly set in silver and worn as rings. They’re like a beautiful framed painting and can look amazing. But if I have to nail it down to one piece, my current love is my belly dancer necklace. It was the first piece I designed and made after purchasing a rolling mill. I think it’s such a joy to wear and quite a sensuous piece.
How do you keep your work unique?
I hope that by adding interesting, quirky pieces into the mix that I achieve this. I try to add my own signature to each piece, even when they are based around popular themes. By making and using my own components such as my tiny toggle clasp I feel the work is truly mine.
When did it all begin for you?
My family is very creative. My two elder sisters are musicians. We’re always making stuff whether it’s music, cushion covers or jam. A few years ago I found myself in a large bead store in Capetown and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I returned home laden with beads and promptly signed up for a beading class. That, together with a love of silver, led onto silversmithing. Then, after working in management for many years, I was offered redundancy last year. It presented the opportunity to overhaul my life and I accepted. Now, a great deal poorer but ever resourceful, I have the time to focus on developing my silversmithing skills, working on a jewellery range, establishing a small business and enjoying a more balanced lifestyle.
Tell us about your workspace? Favourite place to work?
I quickly outgrew working in our spare bedroom and spurred on by the thought of me setting the house alight with my torch, Paul converted part of our garage into a small workspace. It’s a fantastic space to work and designed exactly around my needs. I’m able to distance myself from everyday distractions but still close enough to nip back to the kitchen for a cup of tea. I overlook the garden and on a warm day I can leave the door open and wander outside to sand pieces by hand. Paul also built my workbench. It’s huge and I can fit all my essentials around me. I’m totally spoilt and with Radio 2 for company, I can work in sheer comfort.
Describe your day as a maker. Are you organized / disciplined?
I’m disciplined, probably bordering on the neurotic at times! I need to structure my time or I find it hard to focus. My days usually begin with a run. Running keeps me sane and makes me a nicer person to live with. I also like to get any chores out of way, check my email, etc., before going to my workshop around midday. I don’t always plan what I’m going to work on; sometimes it’s best to let creativity take the lead. I usually work till around six, when I take the dog for a walk, cook an evening meal and settle down with a glass of red wine and catch up with Paul’s day.
What three tools could you not live without?
My torch is an absolute essential not only for annealing and soldering but for the marvellous effects it can achieve. I could live without my rolling mill but really wouldn’t want to. I get excited every time I use it for patterning silver. Finally, my barrel polisher, for work hardening pieces, for adding a brilliant shine and for saving me time and effort.
What gets the creative juices flowing?
My mind is usually full of ideas and I constantly scribble and make notes. If stifled, I can generally work through it, as each piece stimulates ideas for the next. But, if that doesn’t work, a change of scene does the trick. I get out out, go shopping and look at the latest fashions, visit a gallery and look at what other artists are doing. Sometimes just a quiet walk in the park is enough to reignite my inspiration.
Are you inspired by any artists from the past or present?
Yes, there’s so much talent around that I can’t fail to be inspired. On Folksy, there is some brilliant work produced. I especially love Lindsey Mann’s work, although it’s quite different to mine. She’s so talented and I love her quirkiness. I also love Jane Adam’s work, especially her aluminium cuffs. I really admire artists that continuously come up with truly unique pieces of work.
What do you love most about being a maker?
Being able to turn an idea into a completed piece of work never ceases to delight me but creativity on all levels can be such a source of happiness.
Where would you like to be in five years time?
I feel that I’ve only just scratched the surface and I want to continue to develop and build upon existing skills. I want to get braver with my designs and am currently working on a new collection. It would be very satisfying to take what started as a hobby and turn it into a successful small business.
What would you say to any makers starting out?
Whilst it’s wise to plan and prepare, there’s no better lesson than actually getting out there and getting started. As long as you’re prepared to learn, accept that you’ll make mistakes and realise that not everyone is going to love what you do. Have faith in your own abilities, trust your instincts and most important of all, enjoy the journey.
Amanda’s jewellery can be found in her Folksy shop Luti John.