Jewellery Masters: Jen Neame-Collins

Jen Neame-Collins of atelier jen makes jewellery from her studio every hour she can. She creates stunning and dramatic statement pieces for customers all over the world. and Each piece is handmade from papier-mâché.

South-West France-based Jen uses only paper as the basis for her jewellery designs. 2017-02-28 20.40.34Surprisingly they are completely waterproof, and can be worn for any occasion, in all weather, day or night. They provide the wearer with a beautiful and light weight statement piece. These amazing pieces radiate in colour and style and feature gold, silver and copper leaf as well as different patterns. Each item gives off a different, complex and decorative effect, becoming completely captivating to look at. They are also very sophisticated, fun, stylish and ooze glamour. The wearer will definitely feel special displaying her works of art.

Jen was kind enough to do a Q&A with me. She chatted about her work, jewellery and design, and much more.

Tell us about yourself, and your love affair with Jewellery.

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Papier-Mâché Jewellery Set

My first love is for pattern and colour. I studied for a Textile Design degree at college and worked as a designer in a London studio after graduating. I started making 3D papier-mâché pieces to decorate my flat. This led to several exhibitions and a gallery in London, where I exhibited and sold decorative objects. Trompe l’oeil mirror frames that looked like draped fabric, tables with draped cloths over them – all in paper. Since moving to France I have been experimenting with smaller pieces. A gallery owner here suggested jewellery……..no stopping me now!

When did you first realise you wanted to make Jewellery as a career and what has been the best thing about following this career path?

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Papier-Mâché Earrings

As I started making jewellery only recently, it is all part of my whole career. This seems to have been about decorating anything that doesn’t move! However now I am so full of ideas for jewellery collections and designs, there are not enough hours in the day. I will be doing this for many years to come.

As a designer, where do you draw your inspiration from?

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Papier-Mâché Earrings and Necklace

I am inspired by and love many things including history, renaissance, fashion, Dolly Parton, Mexican art, Versailles, Elvis, textile design, memento mori, ornament, kitsch.

How would you describe your designs?

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Papier-Mâché Earrings and Necklace

More is more, gold leaf on everything, the bigger the better. Although I also do a range of smaller pieces and drop earrings as I realise statement jewellery is not for everyone! But I do love the more dramatic pieces.

What is your favourite piece you’ve ever created – and what made it so special?

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Papier-Mâché Charm Necklace

My favourite is usually a recent piece as I feel I get better and better all the time. At the moment it’s a tie between the charm necklace from my new collection, and the layer earrings. These have given me the theme for my next collection.

What are you currently working on?

My new Charm collection, and ideas for the next statement earrings. And at the back of my mind, thinking about layer pieces.

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Papier-Mâché Layered Earrings

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Papier-Mâché Charm Bracelet

You can find Jen’s talent and creativity at:

Website: http://atelierjen.com/

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/jen.neamecollins

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/atelierjen/

Jewellery Masters: Anna Ancell

Hampshire, UK-based jewellery designer and maker Anna Ancell has been making jewellery from her home for the last few years. She creates beautiful, unique and custom handmade pieces for customers all over the world.

2017-02-20 18.54.51You’ll find her pieces completely captivating as they draw inspiration from the elegance of nature to cute animal motifs. Her jewellery always displays a beautiful flow and energy. The love and detail that she puts into every piece really make them stand out – they simply speak to you. The array of styles she has to offer makes her jewellery appealing to all ages.

Anna was kind enough to do a Q&A with me, talking about her work, jewellery and design, and much more.

Tell us about yourself, and your love affair with Jewellery.

I am currently a busy Mum to two children aged 12 and 7. My previous background was in Finance. But when I left to have my first child it was made clear that the role I had was not a part-time position. I wanted to be at home to look after my children. So I made the decision to stop working and be a full-time stay-at-home Mum.

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Sterling Silver Moon Gazing Hare

I have always loved Jewellery. But when I discovered a product called Metal Clay I combined this love with the desire to capture mementoes of my children as they grew. This then led to friends asking if I would make pieces for them. It progressed from there like a ripple effect. I have now been working with the clay for several years. As I progressed it led me to develop more silversmith techniques and to take further training. I really love creating one-of-a-kind special pieces for people to cherish and treasure for years to come. From children’s fingerprints, loved ones’ handwriting, or a pet’s paw print, I truly appreciate the sentiment behind each piece.

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Finished Sawing Charms in the Workshop

My absolute passion now is piercing.  I love nothing better than a long session in the workshop hand-sawing pieces from sheet sterling silver. I also enjoy the challenge and variety of custom work and working with a customer’s ideas to create something truly special.

When did you first realise you wanted to make Jewellery as a career and what has been the best thing about following this career path?

Once both of my children were in full-time schooling I made the decision to take my very part-time ‘as and when’ Jewellery making to the next level. I am very uncomfortable with face-to-face sales, such a craft fairs. So I opened an Etsy shop and began listing items. Worth a try I thought, and it was even easy enough for a very non-techy person such as myself. I made painfully slow progress to begin with, struggling to be seen within such a massive market place. Slowly but surely my sales on Etsy increased and I took the next step and set up a Facebook page my own website, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

I absolutely love my time in the workshop. Considering myself so fortunate to be able to do a job I adore, and that I can fit around busy family life. Any parent will relate to the very real struggles of working around the children, school runs and holidays.

As a designer, where do you draw your inspiration from?

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Sterling Silver Bracelet and Earring Set

I make lots of custom pieces and many items listed in my shop started life as just that. So you might say it is often my customers that inspire me. When I make a piece that I am making of my own accord, my inspiration is always drawn from nature. I love the beauty that can be found in the simplest of things. I own a working Cocker Spaniel and spend many hours a week walking around the beautiful countryside that surrounds my home in Hampshire.

How would you describe your designs?

Most of my designs are of a simple nature and some are probably a bit quirky. I have a broad range of items due to the number of custom designs I have undertaken. I am hoping I am nearing a point when I can make more of the designs that really show who I am as a maker.

What is your favourite piece you’ve ever created – and what made it so special?

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Feather Pendant with Set Stone

My favourite piece currently is a fairly new piece, a feather design that is set with a stone. I enjoy the different processes involved in making it and feel it is a step in the direction I wish to take my designs. I am very new to stone setting but am determined to stop shying away from processes that ‘scare and challenge me’.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a large amount of orders including spinner/worry rings, fingerprints, handwriting, T-Rex, Swallow pendants, to name but a few.  I have a new design I am excited to get finished and off my bench. It’s based on a dandelion and I am looking to set them with various stones. As with any new piece it always sits on the back burner until I am up-to-date with my orders…….which I currently am not!

What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the jewellery design business, or having an online business?

For anyone looking to get into Jewellery making, or start his or her own business, I would categorically tell you to GO FOR IT. Being self-employed is without question, the hardest I have ever ever worked, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Follow your passion and let it take down the unknown path to your future. It isn’t easy and there are many many very talented makers out there already.

Make your designs unique and yours, make them stand out, and follow your designing heart. Use social media, it really does work. Whilst face-to-face I struggle to talk up my work, but with social media I can shout it from the rooftops without feeling too much like a fool. Etsy has been amazing for me, I have just reached a milestone of 600 sales which completely blows my mind. It is just me, in my workshop and I am immensely grateful for each and every one.

You can find Anna’s talent and creativity at:

Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AnnaAncellJewellery

Website: https://www.annaancell.co.uk/

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/annaancelljewellery/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anna_ancell/

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/AnnaAncell

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/anna76silver/

Viking weave to your heart’s content in Oslo

Where better to come for a long weekend break but Oslo, Norway, particularly if you love Viking weave. I am staying at the First Hotel Millenium and currently sitting in their quiet café. Through the window I can see typical Norwegian weather, freezing cold outside, crisp snow on the ground, fog above the city, where your cheeks feel as though they are numb to touch.

IMG_20170218_125924_306Making Viking Weave

But I am nice and snug inside, happily relaxing with my favourite pastime, knitting Viking weave. I was only introduced to Viking weave about a year ago by a friend, but I have completely fallen in love with it. I often sit for a few hours at a time just knitting away, and because it takes patience and concentration, it is a great way to relax the mind. For me, it is the best form of mindfulness ever, since time has no meaning when I am working on Viking weave.

Technique

It is a beautiful form to work with and one of my favourite techniques. It’s based on a very old wire work technique, also known as Trichinopoly Chain. It is believed to date back to 8th to 10th Centuries, when Anglo-Saxon, Celts and Norse used it for decorative purposes, such as bracelets, necklaces or trimming clothes. I produce a variety of different pieces of jewellery through this method, using the traditional skills. I like to bulk knit, when I am in the mood, so that I can have a lot of stock in the cupboard. I mainly knit with sterling silver as it gives a beautiful shine when finished and I use 0.4mm gauge half hard wire so that it is easy to work with and pull through the loops.

Viking Weave Blue Druzy Sterling Silver Bracelet

Viking Weave Bracelet

An example of one of the bracelets I made quite recently for a commission. You can use all Viking Weave, or like I did in this piece, you can use smaller amounts to set off a stone with sterling silver chain.

If you have never tried making Viking weave then give it a go. Like me, you could end up having a new love affair.

Creativity Combats Cancer

Music in my soul

As long as I can remember I have always been a “maker”. From a young age I was extremely lucky to have creativity in my life and loved doing art, music, photography, sketching and painting.

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Creativity in my hands

At the age of 6 I started to learn the piano. Very soon this became my passion in life, to the point that it was my voice. My way of creatively communicating my feelings and emotions, whilst reaching out to people. This really made me feel connected to others. This passion soon turned into a career as I trained to be a professional concert pianist. My life was heading in a very focused and passionate direction.

Like many musicians and artists I had to have a regular day job, in order to pay the bills. For me I was lucky enough that the day job was working in Edinburgh College of Art. This was brilliant as I was able to help support students and staff, in a fantastic creative environment and institution. The community was full of creative life. Everywhere you looked, from inside an office, to inside a studio. But music was still my true heart and soul.

Life Changing

However, in January 2008, aged 32, i was given one of the most challenging news, experiences and episodes of my life: I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

At that time I had already lost a dear friend a few months earlier from a stroke. My mother was also undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Therefore, cancer was already in my daily life. This personal diagnose shook the very core of my passions, creativity, career, confidence and life. How could I tell my family, particularly since mum had only just started her own chemotherapy and other treatments. It was a harrowing few months as I came to terms with the news. I tried to support mum through her own journey as best as I could, whilst trying to find the inner strength to face the world myself.

One foot in front of the other

On 8 April 2008, after undergoing extensive surgery to remove the tumour and part of kidney, I woke up to find myself paralysed from the neck down. Arising from a stroke during the operation, caused by complications with the anaesthetic. This completely changed my world.

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Creativity changes mindset

Over the next few weeks my right hand side returned to normal but my left arm and left leg remained paralysed. After a long period of physiotherapy at a specialist residential rehab hospital in Edinburgh, I learned to adapt to my life again. Although, initially confined to a wheelchair, through amazing support from physiotherapists, I was able to start using crutches to get around, and support aids to use at home. However, it soon became apparent that I was not going to regain the full use, mobility or feelings in my left arm, fingers and leg. It was then that reality hit me.

My dreams of ever plRaying professionally again were crushed, that creative voice I had since the age of 6 was gone. I didn’t know how to creatively talk any more, it felt so isolating, like a child separated from their twin. I lived my whole life in symbiosis with the piano and music, “what would happen now”, I often thought, “can I cope”.

gift in disguise

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Creativity can surprise you

However, I am definitely someone who believes that there is a reason for everything. Sometimes that belief is challenged but more often than not, I believe events take place that force you to rethink, feel and act in ways that you may never have before. Finding an inner strength that you never new existed.

After learning how to adjust to my new life with paralysis I left the world of music completely and focused mostly on managerial positions, and coaching. I loved coaching dearly, as loved helping other people on their own journey of change, success and achievement, but I missed being personally artistic and having creativity in my hands.

creativity beckons

The decision to start making jewellery only came relatively recently. I started to suffer from more growths appearing in different parts of my body, creating further deterioration in pain and paralysis. Unfortunately, due to this, I could no longer continue working in my management job, and it was at this point I felt like I needed something for me. Something to take my mind off the pain and issues and something to connect with my love of art and crafts. I had to find a way of trying to keep the deteriorating paralysis at bay and to keep my mind positive. This started my drive to the next step in my artistic and healing journey.

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Creativity is my heart

My love of jewellery started with collecting beads, silver findings and wire, like a magpie, which made me feel like a child in a sweet shop, surrounded by lovely goodies to inspire the mind. I started to enjoy the complete organic, creative flow of making my own pieces. I also began to search for old pieces of jewellery to bring new life to, or if it was damaged, to save it and make it into something new. Firstly, it was purely just a hobby, now, it’s a way of life for me.

Rewarding

Creating something from nothing or breathing new life into jewellery that has been loved once upon a time, is the most rewarding and creatively spiritual process I have ever had.

I love creating something new. With the gentle hand, care and appreciative eye of an artist with an obsession for sparkle and shiny things. It allows me to express myself in a new way, giving me a new voice and the ability to communicate to the world again, without the piano, and without feeling restricted by disability.

Of course, there are a lot of aspects of jewellery making I find physically difficult. My ability to use my left hand is constantly deteriorating. However, where there is an emotional drive, will and passion, you will always strive to find workarounds. As I discovered, nothing can take my creativity away from me. In fact, it was creativity that helped me survive through the cancer and subsequent challenges.

My passions

What attracts me every day to jewellery is the diversity of materials and techniques that can be employed to create something that will speak to others.

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Viking Weave

My specialist areas are wire wrapping, wire crocheting, silver wire-work, Viking weave and Indian bead weaving. As well as soldering everything I can get my hands on. I love to incorporate semi precious gemstones, Swarovski elements, crystals, glass beads and pearls into my work.

One of my favourite techniques is Viking weave. It’s based on a very old wire work technique, also known as Trichinopoly Chain. It is believed to date back to 8th to 10th Centuries. When Anglo-Saxon, Celts and Norse used it for decorative purposes, such as bracelets, necklaces or trimming clothes. I produce a variety of different pieces of jewellery through this method. Using the traditional skills, and also by using different materials and wires.

Much of my creative process comes whilst sitting peacefully at home experimenting with materials or sitting in a café watching life go by. I escape into my head and an idea starts to form, time stops and then a new piece begins.

onwards and upwards

Creativity moves you forward

So, this is me, hopefully I have given you a little glimpse into the way I think, who I am, where I have come from. What next? Well, I will continue to make jewellery. Sending these little pieces of me out into the world and communicate my love of life, passion, energy and artistic view to others.

But I would love to have my own studio work space, adapted tools, exposure to new materials and continue to explore my new voice. If you would like to support me then please go to www.patreon.com/celticseajewels

Please take a look around my etsy shop – www.etsy.com/shop/celticseajewels and my Instagram.com/celticseajewels and I hope you enjoy the pieces therein as much as I have enjoyed the process of making them. New stock will be added weekly.

My story, like yours, is a work in progress…….

When creativity comes a-knocking

When creativity enters your life, it can knock loudly on your door or can come quietly through the window, like a butterfly in summer. But believe me, once it enters your life, you will never forget its power for transformation. It ignites the road to innovation, aspiration, inspiration, exploring new ways to face challenges and will help your dreams become reality.

I love creativity in everything I do in life, but particularly value it in jewellery making and coaching at the moment. However, creativity belongs to everyone.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re on the bus or sitting in a café and completely relaxed, with your mind empty and watching life around you. Then suddenly, from nowhere, a solution to a problem you’ve been mulling over for weeks pops into your head. You can’t help but wonder why you didn’t think of it before.

Connect to creativity 

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In that second that the thought came to you, you connected to creativity, that secret deliverer of inspiration and ideas. Yet it is more than a brief encounter, since when the creativity comes to life it can empower your ability to innovate, explore, learn new skills and can make your dreams come true.

That moment when the light bulb switches on inside your head is actually the final moment of a journey that has taken time to grow; stepping stones along the way—the basic steps in creative problem-solving.

Stepping stones of creative thought

image.jpegThe initial step is preparation, when you look for any information that might be relevant. This is the step when you let your imagination happily run wild. Being receptive, being able to listen openly and well, is a crucial skill here. But being able to listen to yourself, your natural ability and instincts takes time and belief.

These skills are easier said than done. We are used to our boring or limited way of thinking about solutions. Psychologists call this “functional fixedness.” We see only the first and obvious way of looking at a problem—the same comfortable way we always think about it, our thinking routines. The natural way of thinking that has developed in each of our lives, influenced by the experiences we have had etc. Another critical barrier to us letting the creativity in is self-judgement, that voice inside your head that constricts and limits our creativity within the parameters of what we deem acceptable, based on our life, ethos, belief system and perceptions. It’s your inner self that whispers to you, “I cannot say that as they will laugh at me” or “there is no way I can solve this issue”. However, through connecting to that negative thoughts/judgements and recognising they exist, then that is the first moment that you can try and change the pattern to let creativity in. Have the courage to discount its destructive advice.

Once you have considered and thought about all the relevant pieces and pushed your rational mind beyond the barriers, you can let the problem simmer. This is the development stage, when you think about all you have gathered. It’s a stage and process when much of what goes on occurs outside your focused awareness, in the unconscious. As the saying goes, “you sleep on it.”

Strangely, the unconscious mind is far more suited to creative insight than the conscious mind, since it is freer and is not limited by overthinking, and we are not able to control it in the same way as the conscious mind. Ideas are freer to mix together with other ideas in unpredictable ways, forming new patterns and links. It is also the memory bank of everything you know, including things you can’t readily recall. Further, the unconscious speaks to us in ways that go beyond words, including the rich feelings and deep imagery of the senses.

Listen to creativity

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We are far more susceptible to “hearing” the unconscious mind when we are relaxing, having a mindfulness moment and not distracted by our surroundings. That is why I find daydreams are so useful in my quest for creativity. I seem to spend a considerable amount of time each day just away in my own world thinking of possibilities. Is this a waste of time? No, I have come to realise that it is invaluable. For any time you can just daydream and relax is useful in the creative process: a quiet walk, listening to music, travelling. For example, as Sandra Schmidt Bunkers, RN; PhD; FAAN mentions in her paper The Gifts of Silence and Solitude, “Nolan Bushnell, the founder of the Atari company, got the inspiration for what became a best-selling video game while idly flicking sand on a beach”.

Thinking about the problem and daydreaming hopefully leads to that eureka moment, when from nowhere the answer appears. This is the stage that steals all the other stages’ glory—the moment that people sweat and long for, the feeling “this is it!” But the thought alone is still not a creative act. The final stage is translation, when you take your insight and transform it into action; it becomes useful to you and others.

Creativity beckons

Our lives can be filled with creative moments, whatever we do, as long as we’re flexible and open to new possibilities—willing to push beyond routine. My life at the moment is filled with jewellery and silversmithing, coaching, painting, music, and anything arty I can try. However, the everyday expression of creativity often takes the form of trying out a new approach to a familiar dilemma. Yet half the world still thinks of creativity as a mysterious quality that the other half has. In this instance the grass is definitely not greener on the other side, for everyone has the power to be creative not just with their hands, but their thinking processes as well.

A good deal of research suggests, that everyone is capable of tapping into their creativity. We don’t just mean getting better ideas; we’re talking about a kind of general awareness that leads to greater enjoyment of your work and the people in your life: an energy that can improve collaboration and communication with others.

Many of us do not see ourselves as being creative, because we don’t have much of an audience for what we do. In fact, we focus too much on “Big C” creativity—the glamorous achievements of geniuses—and overlook the ways each of us displays flair and imagination in our own lives.

imageCreativity isn’t just for artists, musicians, poets, writers, jewellers and designers etc, it is for everyone. It is not a rare gift for the professional creator, but a tool that we all can use.

Next time you “hear a knock at the door” whilst you are in the kitchen cooking, playing with your children, doing some DIY at home, doing some gardening, painting a room, wrapping a gift – open the door and let creativity in and think.

I AM CREATIVE.