Monday, 6 December 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

This weekend I did something a bit different: I spent all day Saturday roaming around Wolf & Badger in Notting Hill while playing the fiddle.

I wasn’t there to create a nuisance; The Liberty Belles, a banjo and fiddle duo of which I am half, were asked to provide background music for a trunk show there. Showcased in the “Vogue Top 50” boutique were brogues, boots, and loafers by carreducker, who make beautiful bespoke footwear in the time-honoured, hand-sewn tradition.

Music has been a lifelong hobby of mine, so when I’m not designing or making jewellery I can usually be found playing the fiddle (or violin – call it what you will). I am obsessed with a rather niche genre of music called Bluegrass, as well as it’s sister genre, Old Time. Although fairly well known in the USA, old American music is practically unknown to the British public, apart from a very small community of acoustic musicians.

Upon our arrival at Wolf & Badger, Lois (the banjo half of the Liberty Belles) and I were greeted by the lovely James and Deborah of carreducker, as well the passionately fashionista shop staff who made us feel right at home. Within five minutes of arriving we’d all got onto the subject of underwear and had all flashed our knickers at each other (The men’s fashion pants put our old stockings & suspenders to shame) – and this was all before we’d got hold of the whiskey.

But we weren’t there to compare undergarment brands. We were there to provide background music while an unsuspecting public shopped for shoes. After a wee snifter we tuned up our instruments and began wandering the shop while playing some of the more genteel tunes from our set, carefully giving customers a wide berth so as not to serenade them out of the shop. Although it was certainly a new situation for me to find myself in, nobody seemed to find it strange. I guess when you’re shopping you just take things as they come – if two ladies are roaming around a shop playing banjo and fiddle, well, so be it.

It would have been downright greedy to keep the music indoors so we decided to brave the cold and take it out onto the street. Planting ourselves on the shop forecourt, we burst into a rousing rendition of “Cripple Creek” – always a crowd pleaser. A crowd soon formed, dancing toddlers, yummy mummies, and intensely curious retirees. Even better, after staring at us for a few minutes, they went straight into the shop, which made us feel useful as well as entertaining.

We were dressed in Christmas red frocks which happened to match the festive wrapping-paper-teradachtyl window display. But in a telling lesson in the power of branding, Deborah was accosted by a woman on the street who asked, “What’s going on there? Is it something to do with Virgin Atlantic?”

With near-freezing temperatures we did return indoors at various points throughout the day, but the most fun was had playing outside. The joy and curiosity on people’s faces when they see and hear something totally new to them is a delight to behold. At one point I noticed what I thought was a gentleman down on his luck; he stood on the corner nearby with his head hung low, carrying a large bag and swaying slightly. It was only when he came over to us after a few tunes that I realised he was just a regular guy doing his Christmas shopping. He was fascinated by the music but obviously just wanted to enjoy it from a slight distance for a while.

The day was a success for all involved. Shoes sold, music played, hearts won. Not bad for a Saturday afternoon in December.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Electrum Christmas Events

I just thought I'd let you contemporary jewellery fans know about some events coming up at Electrum Gallery. If you haven't been in recently it's worth visiting just to see the lovely new refurb! The gallery is located at 21 South Molton Street, London W1 5QZ, just a minute's walk from Bond Street tube.


11th November until 8 pm: 
TREASURE private view and late night shopping

13th November 3-5 pm: Launch of GERDA FLOCKINGER CBE focus and VINTAGE JEWELLERY book


Tuesday 16th November until 8 pm: 
South Molton Street shopping event with a discount of up to 20% off

Every Thursday in December until 8 pm: 
Late night shopping evenings 

Life at Cockpit Arts

I’m often asked what it’s like working at Cockpit Arts. I’m not really sure because I don’t have a lot to compare it to. I’ve never worked in a bank (except for a stint of temp work when I was in college – I had to borrow my mom’s clothes to look the part) and I’ve only ever had one full-time job in my life (I could never get my head around the idea of only two weeks’ holiday a year - this was in the USA) so my experience of “normal” working life is limited.

What I do know a lot about is being at college. (I’ve done nine years at university and can finally say that as of this year, I have matched that in working years.) And being at Cockpit is actually not all that dissimilar to being at university, with the one exception that you are now judged by punters - not professors - and it is ultimately the saleability of your work that determines your success.

You rent a space of your own here but in most cases you share a workshop with other craftspeople, often from various disciplines. Here in Studio E2G, I share with two other businesses, one that makes bespoke hand-sewn shoes; the other is a woodwind technician. As a result, the studio soundscape ranges from gentle tippy-tappy hammering with the odd swear word, to hundred-decibel sax solos wailing from the far end of the room as another Selmer Mark Six emerges from its overhaul. Add to this the fact that I often practice my violin in the studio first thing in the morning, and you can forgive the curious looks from passers-by.

To me, this is preferable to sharing with a studio full of jewellers. No offence to all my lovely jewellery-making buddies, but it is very easy to lose perspective when you are embroiled in your chosen displine all day. I judge my work from the persepective of a jewellery designer, so if I want a second or third opinion, I’m much more interested to know what a non-jewellery person has to say about it. That’s where space sharing really has its benefits; you’ve got an instant soundboard to bounce ideas off, and constructive criticism if and when you need it. You’ve also got loads of tools to borrow.

Of course the biggest benefit of being at Cockpit is the Open Studio events, which I visited with wide-eyed envy as a student. As every designer knows, taking part in an exhibition is not a matter to be taken lightly. There is not only the expense but the colossal effort involved in getting your work to the exhibition, along with its requisite showcases, props, wall hangings, and all the clobber necessary to make the work look amazing. In addition to the time you need to take off to be at the fair you can usually write off a day for packing, one for setting up, one for unpacking, and one for recovery. Not so if you are exhibiting in your own workshop. I can do all the prep work in a day now. I think the Open Studio experience is probably a bit more interesting for visitors than that of your average fair or exhibition, especially for couples – she can try on necklaces and earrings while he admires the Durston double rolling mill.

Our next Open Studio event is just around the corner - from 26th-28th November 2010. If you are a fan of the handmade, or if you’re just nosey, it makes a great day out. Or to find out more about Cockpit Arts visit

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Goldsmiths' Fair - The Other Side

Black jade earrings and brooch by Nicholas Yiannarakis

Platinum necklace by Tom Rucker
Here we are, the other side of Goldsmiths’ Fair.

This year, I was very pleased to be placed again in the drawing room (affectionately known as “the shiny room” owing to the higher-value work which tends to be displayed there). This space holds less than 20 exhibitors and is slightly more spacious (and much cooler) than the livery hall. As ever, I was surrounded by an array of humbling work. My next-door neighbour this year was Tom Rucker, who laser welds amazing Buckminster Fuller-esque structures from platinum wire. Opposite me was a former stand-mate, Nicholas Yiannarakis, whose tactile and elegant stone carvings are somehow both precise and organic. I was surrounded by outstanding work by brilliant designers and craftspeople, but what is perhaps more important is that these are people I am happy to be stuck spending a week with. And what better place to spend it!

The punters at Goldsmiths’ Fair are superbly appreciative. Never in the week did I feel I had to “sell” my work. These people know what they’re looking at and they recognise the effort and skill that goes into designing and making it. Contrast this with other fairs I’ve done in the past (and I blame myself for trying to pitch my jewellery to the wrong audience) where my pieces have been met with blank looks from a bling-hungry public, or worse – gasps of incredulity at the prices. But the admiring crowd at Goldsmiths’ makes all the hard work feel worthwhile; I feel vindicated in my dedication to designing and making beautiful, delicate, intricate pieces of jewellery.

All that preparation, the late nights, the running out to the stationers to get printer cartridges to chug out those last-minute price lists, the hobbling into the street in too-high heels to get a taxi to Goldsmiths’ Hall, giant suitcase in one hand, massive A0 poster in the other, plus a laundry bag full of acrylic display blocks slung over one shoulder. It’s not a glamorous job, getting ready for a show. But once you’re standing there behind your stand, with your work lit up and looking sparkly, and a glass of wine in your hand, life is good. 

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Origin: The London Craft Fair

Going to Origin? Don’t forget your jumper. In fact, if you’re a knitwear designer down on your luck you’d probably do a roaring trade as a roving scarf seller – whether “made” or “manufactured”. The chill factor at the new, rather exposed venue at Old Spitalfields Market reminds us that craftspeople are basically market traders with university degrees.

This year sees Origin’s second change of venue in five years. Formerly the Chelsea Craft Fair, the Craft Council’s flagship event started out some 30 years ago in Chelsea Town Hall, where it remained up until 2006 when it moved to Somerset House and rebranded itself as Origin: The London Craft Fair. The move was viewed with skepticism by many, as exhibitors had come to rely on the loyal Chelsea clientele.

Origin at Somerset House turned out to be a success. The Chelsea ladies didn’t neccessarily venture out, but plenty of new punters did. The modern, spacious venue (a sunny marquee spread over the courtyard) was actually a vast improvement over the somewhat cramped and stuffy Chelsea venue. It felt like the fair had grown up.

So it was with great curiosity that I hopped off the tube at Liverpool Street today to see how this year’s Origin would compare.

Spitalfields is not the first place you would associate with contemporary craft, but step into Origin’s whiter-than-white landscape and you could be just about anywhere. The standard of work was excellent, and there seemed to be a better balance of disciplines than in previous years; no longer did I feel that every second exhibitor was a jeweller.

However, when I asked exhibitors how they were doing, the reply was always the same: “Cold!” Protected from the elements only by the old market roof overhead, everyone was taken a bit by surprise, especially as they’d all braced themselves for the usual stifling heat of this particular fair. One exhibitor had expressed her disomfort by covering her stand and allegedly walking out in protest; speculation was rife as to whether she’d just gone home to get a jumper or if she was planning on sitting the whole fair out due to pigeons using her jewellery for target practice.

Still, there was plenty to keep me distracted from the chill. As a precious jeweller I always find myself attracted to big, bright things which are the exact opposite of the delicate little gold pieces I surround myself with in my studio. Margo Selby’s sofa upholstored in her luxurious woven fabrics was a welcome sight, as was her hand-knotted banana fibre rug. And of course I couldn’t help but stop and do a double-take of carreducker’s amazing Winkers – loafers made of reflective tweeds that “wink” as you walk past. One of my other constant favourites is John Moore, who makes bold, kinetic jewellery in anodised aluminium. His structures are perfect in every way, and his sense of colour always surprise me – who would have thought pink and grey could look so tasty?

Unusually, there were furniture designers exhibiting at Origin this year, and my eye was instantly drawn to the amoebic Corsica chair by the Yard Sale Project, a beautiful piece of useful sculpture which I failed to photograph because I was quickly distracted by this piece:

Perhaps this is the start of a new era for British craft. No longer can designer/makers rely on ladies of leisure to come back year after year to the cozy confines of Chelsea Old Town Hall, or even to the relative safety of Somerset House. Craft meets the real world at last! But are we ready?

Friday, 24 September 2010

Goldsmiths' Fair - The Wait is Almost Over!

This will be my fourth year exhibiting at Goldsmiths’ Fair and I feel very lucky to be doing so. It is notoriously difficult to get into and I don’t mind saying that I had to apply five times before I was finally accepted. Even now, just because I’ve exhibited four years in a row doesn’t guarantee me a place next year. As is standard with these kinds of shows, everyone must re-apply each year, a bit like orchestral musicians defending their seats.

At Cockpit (where my studio is based) the arrival of a giant stack of envelopes from Goldsmiths’ Hall in early April brings news of victory or defeat. At least with this particular fair, the acceptance and rejection letters are in the same sized envelopes so you can sit down quietly on your own to digest the news. With Origin (the Craft Council’s annual craft fair) you’re in if you get an A4 packed full of gumpf, and out if it’s a flimsy A5. Everybody else knows too – it’s not uncommon to see people rifling through the envelopes just to see who got in.

And now, with Goldmiths’ just over a week away (I’m in Week 2) all that anxiety is just a distant memory. It’s a different kind of anxiety now of course! Will I have enough work? Have I made too much? What have I forgotten? (I did once show up to a fair having diligently packed everything on my list, except for the jewellery – which wasn’t even on the list because it’s just so obvious!)

I look forward to seeing some of you there!

Friday, 10 September 2010

We’re live!

After several months in development, the new Angie Boothroyd website is now up and running! Have a look at

I shudder to think that I actually built my first website in HTML. Yes, I sat down with a book and typed out all those little bits of code way back in 2001. In those days, people were just amazed that you had a website. It didn’t need to have anything fancy like an online shop; the very fact that my website had more than one page was enough to make an impression.

The site has had many improvements in the years since, but this time round I am happy to say I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Instead, I hired a company called Pretty Mannox to take care of the design. They then brought another company, Dizzy Heights, on board to help with the implementation. (Meanwhile, I was doing what I do best – riding my motorcycle through France.)

The part of the website that is most exciting for me is the gorgeous lifestyle photography that you see on the homepage. This was entirely orchestrated by Pretty Mannox; they found the photographer, the model, the location, and even managed to get the sun gods to cooperate for a few hours. (It rained all afternoon but they’d managed to get the shots they needed before lunchtime.) All this while I sat blissfully by the Loire River helping myself to another slice of baguette and brie.

I say I had nothing to do with it, but I suppose designing an entirely new range of jewellery counts for something. I was obviously feeling rather ambitious at the start of the project and decided I needed to update all my collections. So if you go to the site you’ll see all the pieces are brand new, although a few pieces may seem strangely familiar. (I’ve kept a few key pieces from the “Palm” and “Petal” ranges, but they are now hiding in the “Desert Palm” and “Shimmer” collections.)

Let me know what you think! And don’t forget to join the site’s mailing list if you want to receive news about forthcoming exhibitions and special promotions. If you’re a facebooker you might want to “like” the Angie Boothroyd Jewellery facebook page too; it’s at And thanks to everyone who's already emailed me with your kind comments and feedback!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Autumn/Winter 2010 Jewellery Fair Guide

With only a week to go before set-up day at IJL (International Jewellery London, a big trade fair I do each year at Earl’s Court), I am reminded that this marks the beginning of every jewellery designer’s busiest time of year. It’s nose to the grindstone from now until December.

Yes, it’s exhibition season again! If you’re a jewellery aficianado you’ll be gearing up for it now, planning who you’re going to see where, ogling the postcards you picked up at last year’s shows.

To help you on your way I've compiled a show listing. It’s only a short list of eleven fairs at the moment but the plan is for it to grow into a more comprehensive guide, so feel free to send in your suggestions. These are all selling exhibitions and are open to the public; some show exclusively jewellery and some encompass a wider range of crafts. Most are UK-based but I’ve included a couple of important ones not too far from our shores.

I’d advise checking websites for for further information such as admission prices and opening hours. I would also recommend bringing your chequebook along, as not everyone accepts credit cards!

Any suggestions or reviews would be greatly appreciated...

23 - 29 September 2010
Origin: The London Craft Fair
Old Spitalfields Market
London E1 6EW
(Contemporary craft)

Goldsmiths' Fair, London
27 September – 3 October, and
5 October – 10 October 2010
Goldsmiths’ Fair
Goldsmiths’ Hall
Foster Lane
London EC2
(Jewellery and silversmithing)

22 - 24 October 2010
Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair
Pavilion in Spinningfields
Hardman Boulevard
off Deansgate
Manchester M3 3AQ
(Contemporary craft)

4 - 7 November 2010
WesterGasfabriek, Amsterdam
(Jewellery and silversmithing)

6 November 2010 - 11 January 2011
Dazzle (London)
Olivier Foyer
National Theatre
South bank
London SE1 9PX

21 November 2010 - 2 January 2011
Dazzle (Manchester)
Manchester Town Hall
2 Albert Square
Manchester M60 2JT

26 - 28 November 2010
Cockpit Arts Open Studios (Holborn)
Cockpit Yard
Northington Street
London WC1N 2NP
(Contemporary craft)

26 - 28 November 2010
Winchester Guildhall
SO23 9GH
(Jewellery and silversmithing)

26 - 28 November 2010
Place Vendôme

26 - 28 November
Made In Clerkenwell
Craft Central
33-35 St John’s Square
London EC1M 4DS
21 Clerkenwell Green
London EC1R 0DX
(Contemporary craft)

3 - 5 December 2010
Cockpit Arts Open Studios (Deptford)
18-22 Creekside
London SE8 3DZ
(Contemporary craft)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Designers' Favourites

My favourite piece of jewellery that I own is a beautiful pair of oxidised silver earrings by the Norwegian artist Tone Vigeland. I love them because they’ve got everything that makes Vigeland’s jewellery so sublime: Movement, texture, sound, the satisfaction of one tiny element repeated dozens of times. I’d admired Vigeland’s work for years before buying these from Electrum Gallery, where I was working at the time, and had had the privilege of handling and ogling them for months before taking the plunge. When I finally did, I found it hard to believe that I now owned a piece by my favourite jewellery artist and biggest source of inspiration.

What about other jewellery designers? I asked a few what their favourite pieces of jewellery were and why. Their answers reveal an intriguing mixture of individual expression and sentimentality.

Tine de Ruysser chose a necklace (pictured), given to her by an uncle who’d bought it in Africa. “It already looked old and worn when I got it. (The bare patch of twine was smaller, but there were beads missing even then.) The beads are made from silver and have a wonderful patina. It is the only genuine object I was ever given by those family members that live in Cape Town. Even though it is old, and made from thin silver beads, it looks both contemporary and classical. (It makes me think of twenties pearl necklaces because it is fairly long.) And because of all of this, I actually wear it. Which is more than I can say of most of the jewellery I own.”

Barbara Clamp also favourited a necklace received as a gift, chosen by her husband for their anniversary. “It makes me feel special,” she says. “I wear it all the time as it reminds me of special times.”

Some chose pieces of their own making. Alexandra Simpson picked her engagement ring because “it is sentimental to me and I designed it, so it is an extension of me and my creativity. I also like the sparkle!” Sally Lees says of her own Etched Roses ring, “It was one of the first pieces of silver I etched and is my favourite as it is easy to wear and goes with everything!”

Amanda Doughty’s self-made wedding ring still bears the scars of its creation: “Although I made it myself, I especially asked a few of my jeweller friends to work on it for me to make it more meaningful.” There were a few technical hitches along the way, but, “That’s what makes it so special. To this day I can still see the tiny solder join!”

Lin Cheung chose a small badge made with 24ct gold leaf by Rory Hooper. “It's simple, pure, utilitarian and luxurious at the same time, unmistakably gold and was only £5 (at the time), just a perfect thing.”

The utilitarian luxury aesthetic is shared by Amanda Mansell: “There are two rings which I never take off. One is silver the other 18ct yellow gold. About 1.5mm wide with a texture. They are very simple, not very expensive, easy to wear, and don't get in the way which is important for me as someone who works with her hands!”

As soon as a piece of jewellery leaves the shop, gallery, or market stall, it takes on a life of its own, and will mean different things to different people. At its best, a piece can speak to one’s head and heart simultaneously. It can be a reminder of people, places, or times, while also speaking volumes about one’s personal aesthetic values and style. Probably the most successful pieces, though, are the ones that connect with a person on so many levels – individuality, sentimentality, practicality – that they are worn every day. These lucky pieces have found a soul mate in the person who wears them.

Friday, 6 August 2010

"Where do you get your ideas from?"

If I only had a dime for every time I’d answered this question (and a nickel for every time I found myself unable to give a satisfactory answer!)

For many contemporary jewellery designers, the inspiration is clearly defined: Nature, geometry, colour, irony... For me, I often don’t know what the inspiration is until I’ve finished making a piece.

I work best when I’m not looking for the next Big Idea. My best ideas have been those last-minute, seemingly arbitrary decisions that come after a hard day’s scribbling and soldering. In the run-up to my MA degree show at the Royal College of Art (way back in ‘01) I thought I’d discovered the most exciting new concept ever, a range of jewellery which was both geometric and organic. I’d taken the five Platonic Solids (my favourite being the dodecahedron) and recreated them in chain. In other words, I took these hard, geometric shapes and, by drawing their straight lines in a flexible chain, made them soft and organic. I was fascinated by the way they draped on the body, creating new and surprising shapes and curves. But after I’d made all my mock-ups using industrial chain from B&Q, it came time to make the final pieces out of gold.

But what should the chain itself look like? With only weeks to go, I grabbed whatever tools I could find – a disc cutter, some textured paper, a rolling mill, and spent perhaps two days playing with a few ideas, settling on a series of slightly wobbly-looking discs in different sizes and different colours of gold. (Admittedly, I had spent a lot of time the term before experimenting with gold alloys.) I connected the discs together to make the chain, and voila - the Angie Boothroyd style was born!

My graduation show work, and all my jewellery to follow in that precarious first year, was made up of these discs. I soon realised that it was something about these flattened pebble shapes, with their subtle texture and variations of colour, that really appealed to people. There’s not a huge demand for dodecahedral body pieces, but as simple necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, the disc system was a success!

Everything I’ve created since then has been an extension of this idea. I’ve varied the shapes and sizes, added curves here and there, and experimented with bringing colour into the mix by adding semiprecious stones. Essentially, though, the foundation for my career was laid in those hasty couple of days. (On a personal note, I might add that my life was in turmoil at the time and I was effectively homeless! Not the most conducive atmosphere to creative breakthroughs – or is it?)

With the benefit of hindsight, only now do I understand my inspiration. A graphic designer friend once said to me, “All good design has an element of contrast.” An art history teacher of mine put it another way, calling it “tension”. Not tension as in something that’s about to break, but something that causes the eye or the mind to bounce around a bit. At least that’s how I understood it.

In my jewellery, there are a couple of tensions. First, there is the contrast between order and randomness (always a favourite)! It always follows strict, symmetrical patterns, yet each individual component has slight variations which are not immediately detectible but nevertheless add a bit of humanity. The second tension is that of 2D vs 3D. I use very flat components, but these are then rounded or folded to add a third dimension, and when put on the body they really take shape – you could even say the 4th dimension of time then gets involved, with movement being a key feature to everything I do.

Now perhaps it is clear why I can never formulate a concise response to “Where do you get your ideas from?” Inspiration is something that is constantly bubbling away under the surface. I work hard to keep those creative juices on the boil, but I never know when the kettle’s going to blow its little whistle.

On that note, time for a cuppa. Thanks for reading, and do let me know if there are any topics you’d like to see covered in this blog!