Designer of the Month: Annamarie McHugh

A variety of materials go into the pieces made by Annamarie, including silver and enamel, with the designs in her handmade jewellery collection being inspired mainly by fantasy and faeries. In the following Designer of the Month interview, we spoke to her about her background, what she has learnt from her time as a jeweller and more…

Let us know a bit about yourself, detailing your background, study and training in the jewellery making industry.

My working background is within the corporate sector. However, I’ve been making jewellery as a hobby for many years – beadwork, wire work and simple silver designs, but there is only so many presents you can give to the same people over and over! In 2015 I tried to start my current jewellery business whilst still working full time in order to minimise the risk of a new enterprise. However, the nature of my work and the hours were not conducive to any consistent or sustainable outcomes for my little enterprise. So, in mid-2017 I left my role as Operations Director to finally pursue my passion full-time and Jewellery by Annamarie was born. Not sure whether my subsequent conversion to vegetarianism was an ethical decision or a consequential financial one!

Anyway, as I have been making jewellery for years I am largely self-taught but have augmented this with part-time courses at the Birmingham School of Jewellery and the Midlands Art Centre, concentrating primarily on traditional silversmithing techniques and stone setting.

Tell us about your work – are there any particular materials or techniques that you favour?

This is where I am going to make an effort to be concise as I love learning new skills and having my work evolve with them, and so could go on and on. The challenge is to stick to my business plan and know that there will be new collections to come, with which I can incorporate more and more techniques.

I love reticulating silver and predict that featuring in a future collection.

enamel leaf pendant

I love silver and gold – in the form of wire, sheet and metal clay. One thing that excites me is the symbiotic potential of using all three mediums to make something beautiful, detailed and unique.

I also love colour, and have started using vitreous enamel. Whilst my current work is predominantly silver, future collections will incorporate more colour and when I have the money I will hopefully be booking myself onto a course with Ruth Ball.

How would you best describe your design style?

Away with the faeries! Just joking.

I think that style is innate – some more distinctive than others – but this means that whatever you make, it is in your own style.

The type of jewellery I make is mainly whimsical – some of which is detailed and smaller pieces a little more simple.  I make faery houses and doors and little toadstools – some not so little! Tiny little toadstool house charms hanging from mirror finished bangles and earrings in the shape of a rolled newspaper engraved with the words Faery News.

toadstool charm

I am currently working on a new collection, Ould Man Oak, which will include oak leaves, a green man, acorns and little green gemstones – a mixture of Peridot and Chrome Diopside. They will be ready for the British Craft Trade Fair at the start of April.

As a jewellery maker, where do you like to get your inspiration from for your pieces?

My inspiration is mainly drawn from nature and my imagination – which is a place of magic and fantasy. I am a prolific reader and, amongst others, one genre constant is that of fantasy…this also feeds my imagination.

That being said, the shape or flow of a piece can be influenced by the curve of a railing which catches my eye or a Christmas bauble – so there is magic to be had everywhere.

Do you have a piece that you have made which you favour or are particularly proud of?

I oscillate between love of every piece I do and hyper-criticism which renders none of them any good. I’m sure other designer makers go through similar emotions…or at least I hope I’m not the only one!

If I have to choose one, it is probably the first faerie house on which I used a little vitreous enamel – I think the colour made it ‘pop’ a little. The house has a leaf roof and the use of transparent enamel allows the natural leaf vein structure to remain visible through the colour. The little toadstool on the doorstep has a door and window to house a tiny family of sprites and is highlighted with opaque red enamel. The house (pendant) hangs low on a substantial chain which avoids being chunky with the use of various chain types, little beads of Peridot and chalcedony and small silver pieces; flowers, a dragonfly and butterfly.

toadstool house

What is the one item in your jewellery making workshop that you could not live without?

Hmmm…just 1?

Well, if I can have only one it will have to be my polishing motor – both my Dremel and my stand-alone motor. Oops…did I sneak in 2 there?

There are so many tools that I can’t do without. However, these tools save me so much time when sanding fiddly little areas, in polishing or frosting. I am currently thinking about buying a new pendant motor tool ‘just in case’ because if anything happened to my Dremel, I would be hard pushed waiting for a replacement to arrive.

What upcoming trends do you see being popular soon?

I think CAD is becoming more prevalent and also more acceptable. By that, I mean that it is becoming accepted by designer/hand makers as a way of augmenting some designs, but not taking the place of the bench work that is so loved.

I also think that metal clay, whilst it has been around for over 10 years, is now becoming more popular with jewellers who appreciate the quality of what can be achieved. More makers now see it as another medium rather than a pseudo product.

With regards to what is selling – anything with a nature theme seems to be eternally popular. The latest fashion editorials have predicted that big, statement jewellery will be the pick of 2019, with colourful and quirky jewellery being a hit. I hope so, as this would suit my work…I don’t make many huge statement pieces but I make very few tiny pieces and most of my work is definitely quirky.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt from your time in the jewellery making industry?

Plan…plan…plan.

You know that old chestnut…’Fail to plan and you plan to fail.’

toadstool on chain

There’s a balance to be had between artistic pursuit and business plan outcomes. I can easily be drawn away to try new ideas and techniques – some of which come to fruition and others which…don’t! This is where the balance comes in.

I would happily pursue every appealing design thought that pops into my head and if I see an Andrew Berry YouTube video, I just want to get on with trying out a new technique straight away. I think it’s important to make time for this because it can lead to good things, but it’s a balancing act.  I always ask myself – does it contribute to this year’s business plan? What outcome will be achieved? How will it benefit?

Of course, it may not contribute or add value straight away, but I look at the potential, either immediate or long term, and plan accordingly. Well, that’s the plan! And, I do my best to stick to it.

Do you have any particular advice that you would give to up and coming jewellery designers, or someone interested in getting into jewellery making?

Write down a little reminder of something that puts a smile on your face or a feeling of joy/pride/success in your heart. Keep it near. When times are tough – look at it and keep going.

Listen to the valuable advice of others but only take on board that which fits with your journey and strengthens your plan….it can be easy to lose your way…so when you have your nose to the grindstone, working hard, lift your head regularly to check you’re going in the right direction.

Give it time – it won’t happen overnight, just believe in yourself and your product.

…and finally, time for a bit of fun in our quick-fire round! Tell us your favourite…

…drink – pina colada

…book – Lord of the Rings

…gemstone – Peridot

…sport – swimming

…animal – wolf

For more details on Annamarie’s work, you can visit her website, or feel free to check out her Facebook page, Twitter profile or her Instagram page.

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