Jewellery maker Derek Prescott keeps coming back to jewellery making, as his passion for it is so strong. His work is experimental, inspired by nature and easy to wear. View some of his work, read about where he gets his inspiration from and more in this month’s Designer of the Month interview.
Let us know a bit about yourself, detailing your background, study and training in the jewellery making industry.
My introduction to jewellery making came in 1969/70 when I made the transition from engineering to training as a Physical Education teacher. That might sound a little strange, but as my qualifications to enter the college were engineering based I was “encouraged” to study metalwork, as well as P.E. I had no intention of teaching metalwork, but I was eventually influenced by a new tutor at the beginning of my second year at college. He was a silversmith and his first project was to make a punch to produce shapes which would be made into a necklace. From then on I was completely hooked and continued making jewellery as a hobby.
I taught P.E. and then Outdoor Pursuits from 1969 until 1979 when I made the decision to turn to jewellery making full time. Unfortunately, this was around the time when two Americans, the Hunt brothers, tried to corner the world silver market causing the price of silver to rocket. I struggled along for around 6 years or so until I made another career change to become a professional photographer. Three years ago I was forced to give this up, having some mobility problems, and so here I am again, sitting at my bench making jewellery again and enjoying it immensely.
Tell us about your work – are there any particular materials or techniques that you favour?
Most of my work involves using silver wire. I really enjoy making chains, pendants and rings but have also included some pierced work. I find that rings can present a problem when making for exhibition in galleries. Sizes vary so much and it often means making another ring to a specific size for a customer – Pendants don’t have this problem. I also work with stones, but mainly cabochons.
Particularly with chains I insist on every part being soldered and some of my pieces have well in excess of 100 soldered points – I very rarely use anything other than hard solder.
Since returning to the bench I’ve been thrilled to have customers from 40 years ago saying that they still wear my jewellery, some being in gold which I now only produce to order.
How would you best describe your design style?
I suppose that my design style could be described as “experimental”.
My greatest failing is that my drawing skills have not really changed since I left Primary School and I find it difficult to put my ideas on to paper. I tend to make up shaped pieces of wire and arrange them into units, which are used to make the chains, or as a freeform for rings and pendants. 40 years ago, I made chains which could be described as filigree of sorts. I still make them, but slightly larger.
Where do you like to get your inspiration from for your pieces?
As many of my pieces use tree designs I gain much influence from to world of nature, often referring back to my own photography.
I feel that jewellery should be wearable and not simply a means of demonstrating how many parts can be added to the design. Some work I have seen shows a high levels of skill but is often too impractical to wear.
Do you have a piece that you have made which you favour or are particularly proud of?
This is one of my original Tree of Life designs which now are part of my identity as a jewellery maker. I make lots of variations with no two ever being the same.
What is the one item in your jewellery making workshop that you could not live without?
There have to be two items – my eyes are not what they were 50 years ago, so my Optivisor is a must, and because of all the fine soldering work – my solder pick is essential, but don’t let my wife see this as she will ask why I have to have so many other “essential” tools.
What upcoming trends do you see being popular soon?
Jewellery making is becoming more and more popular as a hobby. Although it is not something I wish to follow, I notice that wire wrapping and PMC work is increasing. As for me I would be happy to learn more about stone setting. Fold forming might not be new, but it is to me and could have great possibilities.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt from your time in the jewellery making industry?
Not to give up when things go wrong….keep trying and research, and learn from other jewellers methods of working if necessary
Do you have any particular advice that you would give to up and coming jewellery designers, or someone interested in getting into jewellery making?
Get a good background knowledge of basic techniques such as sawing, filing, bending and soldering. Seek advice from other jewellers and don’t be afraid to ask if you are not sure. Youtube videos are very useful.
Just like any activity – practise, practise and then practise some more.
Pricing your work will be far more difficult than actually making it. Don’t undersell yourself. People will not appreciate how much time you put into each piece, but you need to cover your costs, overheads and more.
Finally, time for a bit of fun in our quick-fire round!
Tell us your favourite…
- Colour – Autumn colours
- Biscuit – Chocolate digestive
- Drink – Tea
- Place – West of Scotland (where I live)
- Animal – Dog
- Gemstone – Crazy Lace Agate
- Food – Gammon
- Sport – Gymnastics
- Film – Jungle Book
- City – Glasgow
Many thanks to Derek for being our first Designer of the Month this year and for sharing this information.
Want to discover the work of other jewellery makers? Take a look at our interviews with even more Designers of the Month to learn more about their designs, inspiration and more.