One thing I often get asked when selling my jewellery at markets and craft fairs is “so how do you make this?”. Well, allow me to explain!
My creative process is essentially simple, but it has nevertheless undergone many refinements since I first started making Urban Decoupage jewellery in late 2010. For a brief history, please see my About page.
The process starts with inspiration, which can come from anywhere – often it’s the environment: scenes from city life and nature, striking images I come across, current fashions; sometimes it’s a particular material in which I “see” a design, and it can even be music – for my latest collection I created an audio mood board – in other words a playlist of tracks that conveyed (to me, at any rate) the images, textures, colours and overall feel of the pieces I wanted to create.
My latest collection, “Exquisite Damage”, was inspired by scenes of city life, particularly the stark beauty of industrial landscapes and the “romance” (if that’s the right word…) of urban decay and degeneration. I wanted to create dark, gritty elegance in a modern, industrial style, so I started out by sourcing images that expressed the colours, textures, themes and general mood and feel that I had in mind.
Once I had a set of images to work with (largely my own photographs), I dived into Photoshop and started altering, deconstructing and recreating them until I had exactly the right grainy, high-contrast, distressed effect. At the same time, I created a template for the acrylic panels that would receive the images and eventually form the jewellery. I used this template both as a guide for cropping the images, and as an input file to upload to the laser cutter.
I don’t have my own laser cutter (yet!), so I borrowed one belonging to Studio Integrate in Dalston (who also make their own beautiful laser-cut jewellery!). Laser cutting is an extremely exciting and flexible technique, allowing designers to create almost any shape in a wide variety of sheet material. Acrylic is an excellent medium for jewellery as it is both lightweight and extremely durable, and available in a wide variety of colours and finishes, but the options are huge and I definitely have plans to experiment with different materials in the near future!
The next part of the process was the most intricate. First I printed the images I had created. I used different materials, including metallic paper and transparent film, depending on the design and the appearance I wanted to achieve. As the jewellery for the Exquisite Damage collection is shaped like shards of shattered glass, I had to carefully sand smooth the edges of each acrylic panel to make sure they didn’t cut people when worn! Then, I cut out the images and glued them to the panels, carefully aligning the corners and smoothing over to remove bubbles. Finally, I applied several coats of hardwearing gloss varnish to give the panels a perfectly smooth, glossy and tough finish.
The final stage was to assemble the pieces. I chose black kerb chain and gunmetal-coloured cable chain, along with gunmetal findings, to complement the hard-edged, jagged look of the panels, and I sourced extra-thick gunmetal-black jump rings to give the pieces added toughness and durability, plus an added touch of industrial-chic.