Hands up! Who isn’t moved by the stirring pace, flowing dark locks and rippling muscles that greet our screens during Poldark?…. Those horses really are in peak condition… and many rate Ross Poldark too! The filming for the BBC Series is done in a place that is dear to my heart and has had a huge impact on a major part of my jewellery development and design.
My relationship with Cornish Tin, workable, non-toxic and a beautiful white metal, began with a commission from a client from London who requested a unique pendant to present to his Cornish wife for their tenth wedding anniversary.
Around the same time, an opportunity for an artist’s residency in the St. Just mining area came up and I was very fortunate to be selected to work on my designs and exploration of the world of Cornish Tin.
As with all my design themes and projects, I don’t feel that I can create anything authentic without really understanding as much as I can. Safely ensconced in a converted mine building in Priests Cove on the tip of Cape Cornwall, I spent an intensive time alone working.
Just as the miners faced adverse conditions, the typical Cornish weather hindered my sketching and I instead resorted to using wire which could withstand the rain and wind, could be easily shaped, and dried off quicker than I did!
The shape of the first ‘Kerensa’ pendant (‘kerensa’ is Cornish for ‘love’) was based on the simple leaf shape of the ancient wooden shovel used by the Cornish tin miners.
The first time I worked with it, I was startled by a phenomenon known as ‘the cry of tin’. It is an eerie, creaking, singing sound, which is emitted whenever the metal is stressed or bent and sounds almost as if it is alive!
For my ‘Surf’ pendant, I developed a method of interlocking tin and silver using the properties of their vastly different melting points.
I spent many days capturing the raw beauty, dramatic textures, lines and colours that inspired me. Whilst there at the mines, I met the composer, Richard Nye, and we subsequently spent two years on a collaborative work that explored the mine and its people.
My insights led me to look more broadly the ethics and environmental issues connected to mining the precious metals that I use, and at that point I became one of the first jewellers to be registered to work in Fairtrade / Fairmined gold and silver.
While tin mining is no longer an active industry in Cornwall, its lasting impact continues to influence our lives today in ways that often go unnoticed. It is a privilege to work with such a beautiful native metal and convert it to pieces that are worthy of the hardships and skills endured to extract it.