Make Jewellery Magazine talks to jeweller, Erica Sharpe, about her delicate creations and the design process in their April 2013 issue.
Since I was a small child I have always been making things, drawing and painting, so a career in the arts was always on the cards. During my art foundation course I was introduced to jewellery making. I felt an instant connection with working in metal and the fusion of art, design and technical craft; sculpture in miniature.
A small observation, for example the flight of a swallow, is enough to get me thinking up designs for jewellery.
I think ethical jewellery production is extremely important. I was one of the first jewellers worldwide to receive a licence to sell pieces from Fairtrade and Fairmined gold. As a jeweller I have a responsibility to ensure my items, which are often bestowed with great meaning and sentiment, are created in a fair way which has not caused suffering. Jewellery should make the wearer, giver and maker feel special
After art college, I got an apprenticeship making traditional Indian jewellery and I am very grateful for the culture and work ethic I was introduced to. Following that, I worked making fine jewellery and have been very fortunate to have worked for some brilliant master jewellers. I studied granulation and micro-wire work with the Italian jeweller Giovanni Corvaja and also qualified as a gemmologist with Gem A. My designing has been helped by drawing tuition with illustrator Cliff Wright, and painting with watercolour artist Jake Winkle. I was given the confidence to launch my own jewellery workshop by Michael Page, a master jeweller who I had been trained by.
My father is a zoologist, and mother a botanist – so as a child I was immersed in the natural (and scientific) world. However, my father came from an engineering background and was keen to pass on technical skills. My mother came from a family of craft workers, mainly cabinet makers. She created beautiful botanical illustrations and taught me patience and to observe things in detail. More than anything else, my parents supplied materials and allowed me to make a mess! My mother kept the first piece of jewellery that I made when I was about 5 years old – a raisin threaded onto a piece of string! She must have had a feeling of things to come.
I love the blend of art, design and technical skill with beautiful and rare raw materials that comes from making jewellery, and the creation of something so personal with meaning and a story. I combine my jewellery with sculpture, sketches and painting. I’ve always found so many aspects within the jewellery world to study and explore and enjoy passing this on to the next generation – I really can’t imagine doing anything else!
The natural world has always been close to my heart. My Kerensa collection features textured gold and silver inlaid with Cornish tin. The designs are inspired by the dramatic and beautiful coast which is the source of the the tin. I also walk daily in the Somerset countryside and enjoy seeing the changing landscape and wildlife. A small observation, for example the flight of a swallow, is enough to get me thinking up designs for jewellery.
Winner of the British Jewellers’ Association 125th Anniversary Award 2012.