Abby Frances: Project #3, 2017
June 30th 2017
In my blog post for Project 2, I alluded to not being a particular type of jeweller and so this time I would like to spend more time explaining who I am as a jeweller and maker. This motivation to validate my practice is driven by a question fielded via my Instagram feed, asking why I adopt labour intensive piercing rather than using laser cutting to produce my work.
The answer is easy: I don’t want to make lots of the same thing.
Laser cutting, for me, is a technique adopted when multiples of a product is required. In honesty, I have explored laser cutting for my work in the past; before my Hothouse course and when I was trying to makes batches of products. It took all of the fun out of it for me. To bore you with the details, the laser required to cut precious metals is different to the most common type of laser cutter and there seems to be very few people in the UK who can cut precious metals (please correct me if I’m wrong; I did spend a long time researching this but I am not infallible). Not only this but where I thought I would be utilising my silver sheet in the most economic way possible, I was informed that a clearance would be required around each cut-out, sometimes as much as 10mm! This doesn’t make the most of the material and drives the cost of metal per product up so much that it is not cost effective process for me either! Lastly, for those of you with an eye for detail, the quality of a pierced line is far superior to that of a laser cutter (just a personal preference, obviously!). Piercing also happens to be my favourite activity when making so I won’t give it up lightly!
In addition to this (as if I needed any more reasons!), my design process doesn’t work in this way. It may seem, because I draw my designs using a 2D drawing computer program prior to making any piece, that I have it all figured out. Quite often, however, things change throughout the making process. I see things which might not have occurred to me on the computer screen, I play with layering pierced sheets or formed structures and designs constantly develop. Batch production techniques would not allow me to do this.
There’s something I have figured out about myself that perhaps I didn’t know before. I have a constant need to learn and develop and change in my making. That’s why I need to make one-offs. I always knew that I wasn’t a concept driven art jeweller, I am driven by aesthetic and technique. The things I am impressed by and wish I had made myself are the things I wouldn’t have the first clue how to make. These incredible objects, in turn, drive my learning. In short, all I’m trying to do is impress myself, my worst critic!
Which brings me onto Project 3... I am missing yet another deadline and trying not to feel downhearted about it. I already knew self-imposed deadlines weren’t really working for me! I have a snazzy, new, large piercing saw and a brand spanking new sheet of copper so I can make my vessel. My vessel design is almost there and I will keep you posted, as always. The fact that I am attempting a vessel is enough for me.
In other news, I am currently re-stocking to exhibit at The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair and Lustre later on in the year and I have completed a collaboration with Rory Longdon Knitwear this month. Check out his Spring 18 collection @rory_longdon_knitwear on Instagram and pay particular attention to those dazzling earrings.
Remember to follow Abby Frances Jewellery on Instagram @abbyfrancesjewellery or Facebook www.facebook.com/abbyfrancesjewellery.
Abby Frances: Project #2, 2017
April 30th 2017
The beginning of April marked the one year anniversary of getting my studio and has forced me to reflect on how much has happened since then. Every year passes so quickly and yet it feels as though so much has changed that it can’t possibly have all happened in just 12 months?! Just over one year ago, I was still working full time as a Manufacturing Engineer and I vividly remember spending a weekly hour long link call with colleagues listening in with one ear and day dreaming of jewellery (I hope my managers aren’t reading this!). After one short year, I am now part time in my engineering role, have completed the Crafts Council Hothouse program, done my first BIG exhibition at Handmade at Kew and have what I feel like is a good, strong plan for myself and my work.
Not only that, but everything else has changed for me as well: the place I live is different, the people I spend my time with is different, the things I spend my time doing are different, the things I think and talk about are different, my thought patterns are different, how I feel about myself is different and on the whole, it all feels much closer to what I thought I would become when I was a little girl.
The 17 days of Project 2 have flown by and, yet again, I find myself missing my deadline. My pieces will be delivered to the powder coaters 2 days after my project deadline but I’m still pleased with my outcome. I have had chance to explore a pattern and idea that’s been niggling at me for some time and although I still have assembly details to figure out when they’re back from the powder coaters, I’m excited to see the finished articles. This, in itself, is an achievement. Before Hothouse, I wasn’t very excited about my work anymore – I was on a track of becoming a batch producer, trying to reduce my manufacturing time and costs and in turn, producing more of the same thing and selling at a lower price. I know with absolute conviction now that this is not who I am as a jeweller (at the moment, anyway!). I am enjoying doing these explorative projects and it’s making me excited again! Although I am so much worse at adhering to my own deadlines than I thought, it’s all driving me forwards, one step at a time, and it’s working well for me.
I do have a few legitimate reasons (excuses!) for missing this month’s deadline too, do you want to hear them?
One bout of illness (-2 project days)
2 jewellery workshops at my studio (-2 days)
Applications sent for retail show ‘Lustre’ and moving up to Flair level with Design Factory (-1 day)
Visit to the seaside and taking a break at Easter (-2 days)
Which leaves only 10 project days!!! (Which isn’t strictly true as I have been working some weekends as well but it makes me feel like I’m superhuman so I’m going to pretend it’s real!).
The jewellery workshops have been a bit of a surprise and so enjoyable that the inner workings of my mind are already building this into my future business model.... I had 2 lovely students from New College Nottingham come for the afternoon to learn how to make silver rings and handmade brooch backs and a group of friends who all wanted to make something slightly different and all left with a new piece of silver jewellery to wear. Not only that but I get to spend time chatting, drinking coffee and eating biscuits; anyone fancy joining me and learning something?
Roll on Project #3 which is all about Large Scale. I have a few ideas for this one but not sure which one I will run with yet. Only time will tell! You can still keep up with the projects as they develop, by following Abby Frances Jewellery on Instagram @abbyfrancesjewellery or Facebook www.facebook.com/abbyfrancesjewellery.
Abby Frances: Project #1, 2017
February 28th, 2017
You know those people who always seem to learn the hard way? Who can be told many times but still have to find out for themselves? Well, I’m one of those people! I feel as though I have fought against many of the processes I have been through in my life, to the point where I have sucked the enjoyment out of some things. Take sketchbook work, as an example of this. I used to hate it; akin to showing your working out in Maths. Why do I have to prove this decision or design or product to anyone else? I longed for the day I wouldn’t have to do this anymore and yet, around 7 years after finishing my degree and putting the dreaded sketchbooks down, I’ve picked them back up again!
This time I will not fight it. I am consciously attempting not to fight against things anymore, and being more aware that going with the flow actually brings me more happiness. I see the value in my sketchbook now (only a little bit later than required!). My brain is, at times, clouded with images, ideas, designs and words which are very difficult to get into a logical order. This is what my sketchbooks are doing for me. This first 2 month project has been a wonderful whirlwind and I have achieved things which excite me a lot! I need to document these ideas now so that in a years’ time, when I have time to revisit this work, I can look back and hopefully pick up where I left off. There is still more left to explore with these structures and it’s going to be painful to put them down for a while.
Other things that have changed: the way I arrange my day. As a creature of habit, when I went part-time in my Manufacturing Engineering role last year, I kept to the same schedule on my studio days. My alarm would be set for 6:00am and I would drag myself out of bed and drive through the dark to sit on my own in a cold studio. I felt that if I was working in this way, my choice to alter my working pattern would be justified. Not anymore! I am giving myself a more pleasant morning. I get up when I wake naturally now, have a leisurely coffee and nice breakfast with a little dog sitting at my feet (begging usually, you would think we didn’t feed her!). I get to the studio at maybe 10am and keep working until my eyes or fingers get tired. I thought that slowing down and working this way would make me lazy but actually I am far more productive than before. It’s not about making a certain number of pieces of jewellery or beating myself up over working a certain amount of hours, it’s about making quality decisions and giving myself time to learn. It’s working very well for me; I would recommend it! I can see that my schedule will probably change throughout the year. I imagine when the summer sun is out, I will want to get to the studio early so I can leave earlier and spend part of my afternoon sitting with the sunshine on my face. I am going to allow myself to do this, it is important for me to balance my time in this way and look forward to the little things.
Shall we get onto the fact that I have missed my deadline? I’m laughing as I type this, I’m not going to beat myself up about this either. I got to the point about 2 weeks ago when I knew it was a hazard that I would miss my 28th February deadline. I had a choice to make: I could have made fewer pieces or stopped my development work before I was ready but I was mid-flow and I wanted to make a series of rings which I would be proud of. So I have taken a little longer. I still have to figure out what I need to do to have them plated and send them off. It was worth taking longer, because I have enjoyed making these immensely. I will keep you posted for the grand reveal!
Abby Frances Project #2 is Colour and Composition and will still start on 1st March as intended. The remaining tasks for Project #1 work will have to fit in around this, probably at the weekend. I have a feel for what a 2-month project feels like now and aim to meet the next deadline with ease (challenge accepted!). I can’t wait!
To keep up with the projects as they develop, remember to follow Abby Frances Jewellery on Instagram @abbyfrancesjewellery or Facebook www.facebook.com/abbyfrancesjewellery.