I grew up in Crail, Fife, a beautiful fishing village on the east coast of Scotland where I was given a tremendous amount of freedom to roam and play beside the sea, collecting shells and tiny fragments of coloured glass. I have always had a childlike excitement about colour and drawing ….this has been with me for as long as I can remember.
From childhood, I have a memory of two very significant Christmas presents… a huge box of Cumberland Derwent Coloured Pencils (seventy two different colours!) and an ‘Enamelaire’ Kiln, which were very important to me on my journey to becoming an enameller. I vividly remember the excitement of opening the box, finding the different phials of enamel and all the special tools….it was magical!! And so from the age of thirteen, I was hooked on enamelling and began to make brooches, rings and pendants for all my friends and family.
Inspiration has come from many unexpected sources such as the large collection of sweet wrappers and packaging I accumulated as a teenager; the bright colours and shiny metallic foils have been a perfect source material for many enamel designs!
At Secondary School my art teachers were very encouraging; one had previously worked with a jeweller and gave me an early introduction to the mysteries of silver soldering and saw piercing. In my final year at school, we were taken to the Glasgow School of Art, to visit the Degree Shows. I was totally overwhelmed by the beautiful details of the building, and the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh; from that day, I knew that I wanted nothing more than to study at the Glasgow School of Art.
My first choice was to study Textile Design, working with colour, pattern and printing, However my heart was drawn to the Jewellery and Silversmithing Department and I returned full circle to enamelling.
Enamel is absolutely my medium; I feel comfortable with its particular technical challenges and results. By building up fine layers of enamel, pieces can be fired several times and by adding fine gold and silver foil, one can create a depth and intensity of colour that is quite unique.
As a 21st birthday present, my Mother bought me my individual hallmarking punches and registration to the London Assay Office…… which I felt gave me my professional credentials.
In my final year at Glasgow, I was awarded an RSA Travel Bursary and combined travelling across Australia and workshop experience at the Sturt Workshops in Mittagong, with jeweller Ray Norman.
The colours and textures of Australia, along with the jewellers I met there, had a profound influence in the direction of my future designs.
On my return, I studied for a further three years at the Royal College of Art in London. This was an important time; not only did I acquire many new skills; it provided an introduction to a larger range of contacts such as the Goldsmiths’ Company, the Crafts Council, the trade, and several influential individuals.
After running a workshop for three years in London, I moved to South Norfolk with my husband Rod Kelly, silversmith, where we now live and work. Over the past ten years we have been renovating a small croft in Shetland, and in 2013, the construction of a purpose-built studio was completed, establishing the South House Trust as a workshop for other makers and students.
A Place in the Collection
In 2011 one of my enamelled bird brooches was purchased for the Goldsmiths’ Collection and in 2012 I was delighted to be commissioned by the Goldsmiths’ Company, to design and make a silver and enamel vase.
For part of the design process, I produced a series of drawings which captured the wild landscapes of Shetland and the wheeling; circling birds ….my aim was to try to convey a sense of movement and atmosphere.
To achieve the roughness and texture of the cliffs, I heavily etched the surface of the silver, then engraved the recess for the enamelled area and layered the enamels with gold and fine silver foil.
This particular commission proved to be a very significant one in terms of scale and technical challenge, as it is by far the largest piece that I have enamelled… it pushed me out of my comfort zone and ultimately gave me the confidence to develop my ideas even further in a completely different direction.
Broadening my horizons
Following on from the Goldsmiths’ commission, I worked on a series of eight silver beakers which were inspired by British wildlife. In combining my drawing and painting skills with enamelling, I feel that my work now presents a very distinctive style.
I also produced a range of ‘tartan inspired‘, bespoke silver tumblers, which are designed to be enamelled in the colours of any particular tartan.
Pieces close to my heart
My favourite pieces of work to date are…. the Goldsmiths’ Commission Vase … and the other is a small copper plaque 60 mm x 60 mm which I enamelled at the age of sixteen, it was a detail of ferns, enamelled with opaque and transparent enamels and fine wire… I remember feeling really proud of it; I made it into a pendant and wore it constantly.
My drive and inspiration
Over the years I have acquired many different techniques and skills…. I now enjoy passing this knowledge on to others through teaching and workshops, at West Dean, Chichester and in my own studio.
I truly appreciate the great many friendships that have grown through commissions and meeting customers.
My greatest pleasure as a craftsman is to know that my pieces are admired and enjoyed.
… I am still on my journey, and always learning….