Today we speak to the jewellery designer and maker, Carole Allen, who is lucky enough to live in the Wild West of England.
Okay, Carole, it's time to let everybody know that you're more than 'that woman with the enormous shed!'
How did you get started in jewellery designing/making?
I took an adult ed course in jewellery making just to pass the time about 10 years ago. I found that I really loved bashing metal around and continued with the courses for about 2 years.
What was the piece that made you think “yes, I can do this”?
I think it was probably my first anticlastic bangle which was one of the first pieces to go on my website.
Have you had any training? Where do you get your knowledge from?
Apart from those early adult ed classes, I’ve done courses at Bristol Uni, Birmingham Jewellery School, West Dean College and Mid Cornwall Jewellery School.
Where do you work?
I started out in my spare room but soon outgrew that. I now have a gorgeous studio in my garden.This works much better as I now “go out to work and come home for lunch”! It’s divided into different areas so that I can keep my materials separate. There’s a space for silver, one for enamel and another for aluminium. There’s also an area for teaching.
Are there any artists or jewellery designers you admire? Why do you admire them?
I love the work of American enamellist Jan Harrell. I’m attracted to the bold use of colour and the carefully considered but seemingly randomness of the forms she uses.
Having taken a look at Jan's website, I can certainly see how she might inspire you. Where else do you get your inspiration from?
I’m always inspired, first and foremost by colour, particularly the aquamarine of the ocean and the greens of the landscape. Of course living in the beautiful county of Cornwall constantly stimulates my creativity. It’s no coincidence that Cornwall is packed full of artists and craftspeople.
Have you got a 'signature' style? How would you describe it?
My signature style is my enamelled silver daisies. These seem to be perennially popular though they’re not my own personal favourites. They are my “bread and butter” pieces, so I continue to do them. They have improved though over the years and I think I’ve got them just about right now.
Yes, those silver daisies certainly say 'Carole Allen' to me. Having perfected those, are there any other skills or techniques you'd like to learn?
I’d really like to improve my stone setting skills. I’m not bad at bezel setting but would love to have a go at flush setting.
Which piece makes you most proud?
I don’t think I’m ever proud of anything I make as I always think I can do better, and striving for perfection is what keeps me going. I am though very proud of my children and was delighted when my daughter agreed to be photographed modelling my wedding jewellery.
How fortunate to have such a beautiful model at your beck and call! Apart from your children, do you have any other pets?
Our cats Feivel and Chris arrived in Santa’s sack 3 years ago. Two tiny bundles of black and white fluff who caused much delight and amusement. Our old cat had been put down just before and everyone was missing him, so I managed to find two kittens and keep them hidden at my in-laws until the big day. They’ve now grown into mischievous cats who, as typical sisters sometimes get on and sometimes don’t. They’re kept in order and often led up the garden path by next door’s cat Frankie.
Which of your personality traits comes through in your work, do you think?
I think I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I strive to get a good standard of finish.
That's a very good trait to have. What pieces are you currently striving to perfect?
In my quest to include colour in my work, and the brighter the better, I’ve recently started to use anodised aluminium as a medium. Since introducing this metal into my range last summer, I’ve found it to be very popular, particularly with galleries. At craft fairs at least half my sales this year have been aluminium as the beautiful colours attract attention.
I’m currently working on using burrs on my aluminium to give another dimension to the work.
You seem to have achieved what many of us strive for. Even so, us creative folk never stand still, where do you see yourself and your work in 1/5/10 years?
Next year I’d like to increase my galleries and decrease my craft fairs. I’m also working on optimising my website for search engines, so I’d like to increase my online sales.In five years time I’d like to have raised my profile so that my work is recognised more widely. In ten years – well that’s in the lap of the Gods!
Where can we see more of your work?
You can see my work on my website www.caroleallenjewellery.co.uk
Hmm, Carole Allen is certainly more than just a woman with a big shed!