Jo Bignold uses traditional silversmithing techniques to create her handmade designs from her studio in Lancashire.
When did you first start making jewellery, and who or what inspired you to begin?
I have been making jewellery in one form or another for years. The first pieces I can think of were earrings for my school friends as Christmas presents when I was about 11! It has always been a hobby which I have come back to again and again throughout my life, just because I love to make things and often had a design in my head that I could not find in the shops - so just went and made it!
It only became a full time business just over 12 months ago when I took the plunge to leave my job training fitness instructors to concentrate on jewellery. Prior to that I took as many classes as I could afford to in order to learn how to work in silver.
Do you have a studio space you work from, tell us about it?
I work from home, my studio is in the garage (very glamorous) - but I do sneak into the kitchen whenever possible, especially in the cold weather. My home is Lancashire, near to the coast, so there is always scope for a bracing walk with sea air to clear the head when things aren't working out as they should do in the workshop.
Jo at her work bench
What mediums or techniques do you work with?
I mainly work in sterling silver, although I do love to work in gold given the opportunity. I love to recycle old jewellery and give it a new lease of life. There is no such thing as scrap silver or gold as far as I'm concerned. Fashions change, and the jewellery people have with sentimental value attached can easily be brought up to date. I love stone set pieces - I am a real magpie, and have SO many stones waiting to be made into a piece of jewellery, but that doesn't stop me from buying more!
Scrap, reclaimed gold and opal ring
Are there any new mediums or techniques that interest you?
I have recently been using Argentium silver which is amazing stuff! It has similar properties to traditional sterling silver, but the addition of germanium to the alloy prevents fire stain from forming. That has got to be the answer to every silversmith's prayers! It has all sorts of other perks, including tarnish resistance and can be strengthened by heat treatment, which is not possible with traditional sterling.
Argentium silver designs
What is the main inspiration for your designs?
I never know where the next design is coming from. When I first started, I made a lot of nature based designs - and I'm still a sucker for a piece of ivy or a flower based design. I am also inspired by movement and how shapes fit together, so alot of my designs in progress reflect this.
Do you have any anecdotes you could share about your work?
I came up with a design where I wanted to make charms for a bangle that resembled brandy snaps (yes, really!) I spent ages reticulating silver sheet and even longer forging the tiny pieces of silver into rough tube or brandy snap shapes. After hours of painstaking work I was brass brushing the finished pieces when 2 went straight down the plughole! I stood there like a lemon and didn't know whether to laugh or cry, luckily my silversmithing tutor was also a decent plumber and she reclaimed them from the U- bend for me!
What has been your favourite piece of jewellery that you've made?
I have a soft spot for this ripple pendant - it was my first piece I made at silversmithing classes, employed piercing, forging and soldering which were all new techniques to me back then, and it was the moment I decided metalwork was the thing I had been missing all my life. It is made from copper because as a beginner I wasn't entrusted with silver at that stage!
Copper Ripple Pendant
What keeps you going whilst working?
I usually have the radio on in the workshop – usually Radio 4 as I like to listen to “chat” and learn amazing facts every day. Some days though it’s nice to have the music on, and I’ll listen to anything you can dance to!
I have a shocking caffeine habit, I gave coffee up years ago and drank only herbal tea for ages, but the slippery slope of coffee has claimed me again- I LOVE it!
I love dogs, and I currently have 2 Dalmatians called Isla (14) and Daisy (18 months) Daisy was originally a foster dog from North Of England Dalmatian Welfare, who was supposed to be staying with me for a few days, but I fell for her charms and adopted her. My business is named in memory of my first dog Lucylou!
Tell us about where you sell your work and any upcoming exhibitions.
I sell my work online at LucyLou Designs and the usual Etsy and Folksy shops too. I love social media and the chance to chat with customers and other craftspeople/business owners. I spend alot of my time popping onto twitter inparticular and have met some really interesting people on there.
I have an upcoming exhibition at The Guild Of Jewellery Designers event in Birmingham on November 23rd at The Waterhall, Birmingham Museum & Art Galleries, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham.
Do you have a favourite tool?
Without doubt I adore my rawhide hammer and my half round ring file.
What's next for LucyLou Designs?
I am currently planning a launch of new personalised and engraved jewellery, with a twist, in January 2014.
A big thanks to Jo for chatting with us today, it was a real pleasure.
If you'd like to see more of her beautiful designs have a look on her website