Meet the Maker: Clare Lloyd, Colour Designs JewelleryPosted on 30th December 2020
Tell us about your business, Colour Designs Jewellery, what is it you do and how did you get into it?
I make colourful handmade jewellery from my studio in Frome. I started learning how to make jewellery from precious metals about 16 years ago now and was taught by another jeweller in Bath. I wanted to introduce colour into my work without using gem stones and so starting playing about with polymer and resin clays and artists’ pigments so I could create my own colours. I now make a range of statement earrings and necklaces using polymer clay and a range of minimalist, everyday jewellery using resin clay with recycled sterling silver.
Where do you source your materials for your colourful handmade jewellery and how do you choose them?
When I started making my jewellery years ago, I wanted to make it as sustainable as possible. Over the years I’ve made constant changes to try to keep moving forward with being as kind to the environment as I can – it’s an ongoing work in progress.
At the moment, I use all recycled sterling silver for my sheet, tube and wire which I source from bullion suppliers in Birmingham and Hatton Garden. My brass tube comes from a local model shop. I use two vegan brands of polymer clay (Cernit and Premo) which I get from a small UK supplier. My resin clay is also manufactured and made in the UK and my artists’ pigment comes from the local art shop.
My choice of clays are essentially a plastic product, but I use very small amounts very responsibly and I have zero waste so I hope I’m doing the right thing.
My packaging is recycled and comes from the UK too, so it’s important to me that I source my suppliers from the UK and support as many small businesses as I can.
My studio workshop is full of inherited and second hand tools and I refuse to use any chemicals in my work, so I’m a big fan of white vinegar and Ecover washing up liquid! I hope to make my processes and products as environmentally kind as they can be.
How has lockdown affected you and how have you adapted?
Lockdown has been really hard on small creative makers like me. I rely on doing lots of events throughout the year, such as local artisan markets and bigger craft fair events, and none of these have been able to happen this year.
I also sell my work through a wonderful network of small independent shops and galleries, but with lockdowns closing shops, this has had a big impact on both shops and makers. Saying that, things haven’t been as bad as I was expecting them to be; I think solo creative micro businesses are quite used to having to adapt and change quite quickly. I’ve put a lot of work into my website this year and have been doing courses on SEO and online marketing, so I hope I will have a much stronger online presence.
I’ve been able to take part in some of the online markets that have happened – a steep learning curve, but one that has been enjoyable and has created an even stronger online network of creative makers. I have really missed people though, and the wonderful community of makers that I meet at the real life events. I’ll be very glad when we can safely do those again.
Can you talk us through your jewellery making process from start to finish? How does each of your pieces come to be?
My making process is quite long-winded, laborious and repetitive! But it’s also quite meditative and relaxing too and I love it. I usually start by making the sterling silver settings and findings – my jump rings, clasps, earring wires, bezel settings, rings, bangles and so on.
I’ll make little batches of them – cut them all out by hand, solder them, sand and clean them and put them in the tumbler. I don’t use any chemicals in my studio, so things take me a little longer as I’ll only use Ecover! It’s a miracle product though and I can’t see any reason why you would need to use hideous chemicals like barrel brite when a drop of Ecover in the tumbler works wonders!
I’ll then start batch production of my beads – this involves mixing the colours together and either hand-cutting or hand-rolling each bead. This takes ages but I love mixing the colours so it’s a pleasure to lose yourself in all the lovely colours.
I have a small mini oven in my studio that I fill with baking trays full of beads. The resin clay is a different material that doesn’t need firing and cures in around 48 hours. I use the same principle as with the polymer clay and mix all of my colours from a limited palette of basic primary shades with black and white.
I have a zero waste system and never waste any of my materials. Resin clay leaves no residue to dispose off and with my tiny left over bits I make the smallest studs ever and use up every bit. I even save the filings of my polymer clay to mix back into white or translucent clay to create new colours so nothing is wasted. My favourite bit is putting the colours together and seeing which ones work well together.
Each of your jewellery designs is unique and original – how do you sustain that diversity? What inspires you?
Colour is what keeps me inspired – it’s everywhere from the changing sky to the leaves on the trees. I’m constantly taking photos of moss and interesting bits of lichen, and I’ve got a studio full of plants and succulents that are the most incredibly colours and textures.
I’ll often design a pair of earrings or a necklace around a colour combination that I particularly like. I try to keep my shapes and settings simple and minimalist so the colours are the focal point. I am a big fan of ceramics and I love the smooth, matt surfaces and soft colours that makers like Sue Pryke and Sophie Cook use, and I also love the simple colour block geometric sculptures that Sophie Smallhorn makes.