Another week, another instalment of Folks' Tales!
This time we are hearing from Alice Barnes Jewellery, who as well as making amazing work in sterling silver, is one of my oldest friends. We bonded in art college over our shared love of obscure music and have now had a decades long friendship! Alice tells us about how she makes her ideas, what she's up to in her spare time and her plans for the future of her jewellery business.
Ready? Let's go!
Alice models her Pleated Drop earrings, in front of a backdrop of jeweller's hammers
Could you start by giving us a quick biography of who you are and what you do?
I'm Alice and I'm the designer and maker behind everything that is Alice Barnes Jewellery. I grew up in London, studied Art and Design at Chelsea (where I met Hanna from Heavy Gretel!) and then went to the Birmingham School of Jewellery. After working for many small jewellery businesses over the years I finally set up my own in 2014 in Brighton where I live.
Tell us a little bit about your design and making process. We’d love to hear about how you formulate your ideas and bring them to reality.
My work is inspired by repetitive patterns, all things linear, and more specifically the cuts and folds found in paper art. I begin each collection by sketching out ideas and then playing with paper models until I'm happy to translate them into solid forms, either straight into recycled silver sheet/wire or by carving jewellers wax and casting those shapes into silver.
Alice holds one of her carefully carved wax beads, ready to be cast in silver.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I always thought I'd be satisfied designing, making or selling the work of other jewellers, but after a while I realised something was missing and that I really wanted to create my own collections. The experience I gained from those other businesses over the years was invaluable though, and I still use many of the skills I picked up from that.
Alice at her jewellery bench using a piercing saw to cut silver.
What is the best thing about being a jeweller? (And the worst?!)
The best thing is making people happy - jewellery can bring such joy. Someone might simply be happy that they've bought themselves a piece they'll treasure, or they might have gifted it for a special occasion and that jewellery will always be associated with that moment in time. We attach a great deal of sentimentality to our jewellery because it can stay with us always and be passed on. The worst has to be what jewellery making does to your body. It can be really physically demanding, and I don't know many jewellers who don't have back problems, arthritic hands, or both!
Alice wears the Double Drop Shard Necklace
What is your favourite piece that is stocked at Heavy Gretel?
I love anything by Silvia K Ceramics, but her serving platters are something I have always lusted after. She uses bold colours and beautiful glazes to accentuate her strong shapes.
A serving platter by Silvia K Ceramics
Do you have any tips for how best to look after sterling silver jewellery?
Keeping silver jewellery in an airtight container (such as a solid jewellery box or tin) will help avoid tarnishing. The gift boxes they come in may be pretty but they aren't airtight and the glues used in them can also speed up the process! However, tarnished jewellery can be easily cleaned with a silver dip or polishing foam. A soft toothbrush for hard to reach places is handy... and always thoroughly rinse the items afterwards.
I'm a big music fan - what music can't you get enough of at the moment?
Songs for the Deaf by QOTSA is a favourite album of mine (as you know!), but recently I've been tuning into a lot of live streams by various DJs on Twitch. I love going to gigs and club nights, but over the last year live music obviously hasn't been an option, so I've found this to be a bit of a lifesaver. I have really eclectic taste in music and DJs such as The Nextmen tend to blend loads of different genres together, which suits me to a T!
What are your plans for the business – recently you brought out a new collection, so do you plan to develop more new work?
I've always got ideas for new things lurking in the back of my head and often sketch them out for future use. There's a few that I'm currently trying to pull together and make more cohesive as I think they could make a great new collection for 2022...
Alice's cat Bodhi is the real boss, obviously
Thanks Alice for letting us into your world - it's always fascinating to hear about how you make your ideas from folding paper. It seems such an opposite material to work in for metal, but makes sense with how this translates into your designs. Thanks also for the tips about looking after sterling silver jewellery, so interesting - hopefully that helps our readers. Really excited to hear more about this new collection, we can't wait to see what you create!
You can shop for Alice Barnes Jewellery online with Heavy Gretel. We have a great selection of her pieces in stock waiting to find their new homes!
Find Alice Barnes Jewellery online...