July’s Designer of the Month is Lydia Taylor. An artistic silversmith that enjoys working with copper and silver, as well as sculpting with metal clay. Learn more about her, her background, what inspires her and what she thinks will be the next trend to take off with jewellery makers in this month’s Designer of the Month.
Let us know a bit about yourself, detailing your background, study and training in the jewellery making industry.
I have always been artistic and had always made jewellery as a child; first it was sculpting polymer clay, then creating paper beads. It was something I kept coming back to. Then whilst on maternity leave from being a primary school teacher, I was looking for something to do as a night class and booked myself onto a silversmithing course. I loved every minute, working with Copper and Silver, with a group of like-minds.
It was 2 years later, after a family move to Wales, that I received a gift certificate for a metal clay workshop. After this, I signed up for some online learning with the Jewellers Academy, read every metal clay and silversmithing book the library had to offer and began making pieces for friends and family. I was totally hooked and knew I would have to start selling the pieces I was making. Out of this, The Creative Phoenix jewellery brand was born.
Tell us about your work – are there any particular materials or techniques that you favour?
I use traditional silversmithing techniques and combine these with metal clay. I really try to exploit the benefits of each technique to combine effects to make the most interesting pieces possible. Metal clay is easy to texture and is a fabulous material to sculpt with, but I like to use silver sheet and wire to give strength to some of my pieces, especially when making rings and chokers.
How would you best describe your design style?
Eclectic. I create many sculptural and lifelike pieces such as my red kite, and detailed landscape pieces. But also pieces with bold shapes, eye catching textures, and polished finishes. All of them can be traced back to be firmly rooted in nature somehow.
Where do you like to get your inspiration from for your pieces?
I now keep a little notebook by my bed as inspiration often strikes at the most inconvenient moments, when my brain is quiet. Often thoughts around jewellery come from nature, the sound of the sea, patterns in the sand, flora and fauna and their many varied textures. I think part of this being drawn to nature, is that we can become very removed from it.
There is something pretty special about the feel of icy cold sea water and sand between your toes. Since having my own children, it has really re established that connection with nature and reminded me how great being closer to the natural world makes us feel.
Do you have a piece that you have made which you favour or are particularly proud of?
My favourite piece would have to be the piece I am most known for, my fine and sterling silver mistletoe choker with mother of pearl berries. In the words of one customer ‘I recognised the choker, before I recognised it was you.’ This was the piece I created on the Channel 4 craft show ‘Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas’.
It is not the fact that I won the competition that this piece is so special, but what it represents. It reminds me of every failure, every redesign, every sleepless night on the journey to making that one perfect piece. (But winning the show, was most certainly icing on the cake)
What is the one item in your jewellery making workshop that you couldn’t live without?
Without a doubt, it would be my blow torch. It is used in some way for every piece of jewellery that I create. I don’t really have an expensive torch set up, using the Go System torch my husband bought in a hardware store after I managed to wear out my crème brulee torch.
The torch I use has carried me from hobbyist working out of my kitchen, torch firing the odd piece of silver metal clay, to transitioning into my home based workshop, torch firing, soldering and annealing metal, to create jewellery for customers. It is a real workhorse of a thing.
What upcoming trends do you see being popular soon?
I really see metal clay becoming more and more popular with British crafters and jewellers, because of the little amount of tools needed to produce some stunning pieces of jewellery. Before lockdown it was noticeable the increased number of metal clay workshops that were being advertised.
There are some incredible British jewellers using the material and teaching students and who are definitely raising the profile of it. It is still a surprise to many customers at present though, when I explain that the silver I use starts in a clay form, but that it is turned into assay quality pieces. Whereas, in the US metal clay has been around and popular for much much longer.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt from your time in the jewellery making industry?
Two lessons really. The first, that you don’t need to fit the same profile as your customer. It has taken a while to realise that. The things that I like to wear are not necessarily the same as the things my target audience would buy. This has really made me consider my design choices much more carefully. The second is that learning in this field, like many others, is never finished.
There is always a new material, new tool, new technique to learn. So even though I would consider myself a jeweller, rather than hobbyist now, I know my learning journey will never be complete. I think if the moment ever came where I began to think I knew it all, it would be time to hang up the hammers and torches.
Do you have any particular advice that you would give to up and coming jewellery designers, or someone interested in getting into jewellery making?
Really, just to do it. Throw yourself in. There are such a wide range of jewellery making techniques, from beading and soutache, through to wire wrapping, metal clay and silversmithing. There is a style and technique to suit everybody with an interest in jewellery. I would positively encourage booking on to some courses, have a go and see what you think. But be warned, it is a little addictive.
Finally, time for a bit of fun in our quick-fire round!
Tell us your favourite…
Colour – I should say silver…but no, at the moment it’s yellow
Biscuit – Pink wafers. They were always in the biscuit tin at my Grandparents’ house
Drink – A large mug of Earl Grey tea
Place – Isle of Anglesey, the beaches and the mountains nearby. It feels like home. There is nothing not to like.
Animal – Butterflies. The children and I looked after a group of caterpillars recently. It was an awe and wonder moment for us all, watching the transformation.
Gemstone – Lapis lazuli. My favourites change. There are ones I love to wear and then there are ones I love (or really dislike to work with)
Food – I love the delicate flavours of Thai food
Sport – I would probably have to say hockey. I was either drawing, or on the pitch through school years.
Film – I can only choose one?…that’s too hard. A different film for different moods. ‘The Little Shop of Horrors’ with Rick Moranis, a quirky comedy musical and ‘Labyrinth’, an 80s children’s classic.
City – Venice. It is such an inspiring place, with so much art, culture and the atmosphere, which is unlike any other place I have visited.
Many thanks to Lydia Taylor for being our Designer of the Month this month and for sharing this information.
Want to discover the work of other jewellery makers?