Here is another instalment in my slightly sporadic series of interviews with jewellery makers. Please welcome Heather from Moon River Jewellery.
Heather makes wonderful jewellery in silver wire and silver clay, including fingerprint work. She also uses gemstones and is inspired by nature and the natural world.
How did you decide on your shop name and does it have a story behind it?
My shop name comes from the song Moon River in my favourite film, Breakfast at Tiffany's. I wanted something that reflected natural inspiration of my designs so it worked perfectly. Family later told me that it was the song that my Great Uncle was always singing so they were really pleased with it which made it extra special.
Where do your design ideas come from and what is the process that sees them through to the finished product? (Do you doodle on paper or take photos for inspiration? Do your designs then evolve on paper or in your hand as you make them? Do you experiment with the metal you create finished designs in, or do you use a base/cheaper metal for experimentation?)
Most of my designs are inspired by nature – what better influence is there! I am fascinated with trees and leaves and love the patterns and textures created by their branches and roots. How I design pieces varies depending on how it will be made. I usually start out with rough sketch and then either go straight into production letting it come together as I work or sometimes I do several more detailed drawings before I start.
My wire work Tree of Life pieces tend to evolve in my hand and find their own way to go, which I think best suits the depiction of a tree. I use mainly silver clay so I usually experiment with the real thing as it behaves in its own unique way but when I'm developing new wire work ideas I sometimes use copper or silver coloured wire first to make sure I don't waste the good stuff!
Where do you create your jewellery; do you have your own studio or use a kitchen table? Does your physical space affect how you work and what you create?
I work from my home in Gloucestershire – technically I have the end of the dining room to use as my work space, but in reality that means I take over the whole thing. It is certainly a challenge sharing my workspace with a study, a piano, guitars, a violin, and that's before we get to the basic function of using it to eat in! As a result, my space is very untidy where I keep moving things around to make space for other activities. I'm hoping to be able to transform our old garden shed into a dedicated workspace next year – it might be chilly in the winter but at least it will be mine!
How do you motivate yourself to keep on creating?
I don't find it too difficult to come up with ideas – it's finding the time and money to put them into practice that slows me down! Like everyone else out there, I get stuck in a rut every so often but I find that being asked for more stock by a shop focusses my attention and soon gets me back to work. Although they can be exhausting, I don't think anything beats a really good craft event to get you feeling inspired – it's fabulous to have the opportunity to talk about your work with so many generally interested people.
What jewellery making tools could you just not do without, and what tool/item is on your wish list?
My favourite tools and ones that I wouldn't be without are my kiln and my tumbler. They are my most expensive and my cheapest pieces of kit respectively. My kiln has revolutionised how I work – previously I had been firing all my work by hand using a butane torch which limited the size I could work too but also was incredibly time consuming and terribly tedious. Now I can concentrate my efforts on all the lovely making and then put lots of pieces in the kiln in one go while I carry on with something else. This has really helped me increase my production which has meant that I can better stock my online shop, my stalls and the shops I sell though. My tumbler was free - I won it in an online competition (which goes to show it IS worth entering)!
What is your favourite part of making and selling jewellery?
My favourite part is that someone goes away with something that has come from my imagination and that in some ways has a little life of its own. I hope that they will enjoy wearing it for many years.
Do you take your own photos, and if so do you have any photography hints?
Yes I do – and it can be hard. Silver is shiny which presents issues to the camera. Lighting is the key thing – everyone says that outside in natural light is best but I have had no success whatsoever with that technique. Up until now I have been using my bath – yes, don't laugh! It's white and I have three spotlights in the ceiling so don't have issues with shadow. I have been fairly pleased with the results and have had many compliments on my photos but there are issues with the method (such as when people want to use the bath!) so I have just invested in a table top portable studio to help me. I've been really pleased with it so far.
As for hints – be prepared to take and retake your photos until you are happy with them. Also – the best thing I've found is to use a tripod (or to rest the camera on the side of the bath!) and to use the macro mode on the camera and turn the flash off too. Also – if you can try and use the timer function so pressing the button doesn't vibrate the camera and cause blurring. It's always important to edit the photos too, crop them, resize them and alter the brightness/ balances if needed before you publish them.
When did you start your blog and how much input have you had in its design? How do you maintain and update it?
I started my blog in January 2013. It was originally using Wordpress but in February this year I moved to Blogger as I found I preferred the format there. I've designed it all myself and have chosen to keep it fairly clean and simple – I'm no tech expert so I had some fun and games installing the Folksy and Instagram feed widgets but I got there in the end.
I also designed and maintain my own website – being a one woman business means that there isn't always the money available for fancy web design services. It's not perfect but I'm really pleased with the result. I have a few changes planned for the future but I think they will have to wait for the new year as I get fairly busy in the run up to Christmas.
Which social media platform do you find the most enjoyable and helpful, and how do you use it?
I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I probably prefer Facebook but I find Twitter really useful. I love the simplicity of Instagram too. What's really interesting is how people behave differently on different platforms – I find people chat more on Facebook but that I get more people clicking on my links on Twitter. I need to be better with social media – I'll add it to my to do list.
How much time do you spend online promoting your work and how do you balance making with selling?
Not enough time! That's the thing – promotion is key to getting views and sales but you have to balance that up with the time it takes you away from designing and creating. I've taken the 'a bit here and a bit there' approach which isn't always great but something is better than nothing. I've just recruited my husband to help me out with Twitter, he's much better at it than I am.
Heather, thank you so much for the interview and the insight into your work, it makes great reading and I especially love your bath-based photography hints!
If you want to find more of Heather's beautiful work then click through on these links -
Website - Moon River Jewellery
Facebook - Moon River Jewellery on Facebook
Blog - Moon River Jewellery's Blog
Folksy - Moon River Jewellery on Folksy
Twitter - Moon River Jewellery on Twitter
Instagram - Moon River Jewellery on Instagram
All photographs in this post ©Moon River Jewellery