Theo Fennell began his training at art school, first at York and later at the Byam Shaw (now part of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design). He found that his obsession with detail and his ability to interpret grand design on a miniature scale made jewellery and silver the perfect vehicle for his art.
Theo got his first job working as an apprentice in the Dickensian surrounds of the silversmiths, Edward Barnard, before establishing a small workshop in Hatton Garden and going on to open outlets across the globe.
His belief is that jewellery and silverware can be engaging and romantic as well as beautiful and should, above all, give a renewed thrill of pleasure every time it is looked at.
Intelligent, witty design and exceptional craftsmanship are the cornerstones of Theo’s philosophy. To ensure the highest quality, he insists most of his jewellery and silver is created by some of the most talented craftsman in the world, many of whom have worked with him for over 20 years.
Creating exceptional and one off pieces every day, their attention to detail is in a league of its own and they share the same passion, love of experimentation and humour as Theo. Still using some of the most difficult and arcane techniques, Theo employs craftsmen whose art might otherwise have died out.
It is our pleasure to share Five Top Tips from the acclaimed workshop team at Theo Fennell Jewellery.
1. Alex Sheridan (Mounter):
I can best define my tip as process and communication. When producing any piece of jewellery you can not work in isolation or only consider one aspect of the design. You should always be aware of each process that the piece will undergo as well as others who will be working on the same piece. This could involve setting, polishing and engraving, amongst others. Each requires a different skill to complete the job successfully. These considerations will determine the techniques and processes used. We are perhaps in a unique position here to be able to work so closely with other craftsmen and the skills they possess, but the self same issues are present whether twenty people or one person are involved with the creation of a piece. All these elements are interdependent and this will always be the case if the process is to produce positive results.
2. Richard Lang (Mounter):
As you are going to be sitting at the bench for many days, months, years, it is probably a good idea to get your posture and environment correct from the start. Most workshops in the past were built for the stature of the people of that era. We have since grown considerably. The minimum height for a bench should be 90cm, 100cm is preferable so that the back is straight and the legs bent at right angles. Sitting square to the bench helps.
Light should always be focused on the piece being worked on and not in your eyes. Natural light and fresh air are both things which will help you to get through your day without stress or strain. If you have music in the workshop go for really good quality sound as cheap tinny ones will give you a headache. At lunch go for a walk and lift your spirit.
3. Murray Warner (Setter):
A good finishing touch on any setting job is to make sure that the table facet of the stone is set in line with the piece of jewellery into which it is being set. This can be done either "on the points " or "on the flats", i.e. the points or the flat sides of the octagonal table facet. When setting stones in a circle this can be done using the radius in relation to the centre point of the piece. Large solitaires, where the table facet is more noticeable, particularly benefit from this extra degree of accuracy.
4. Colin Mabey (Engraver):
Use a clear plastic sheet, like you find covering a shirt box. Then rub plasticine over the engraving and then place the plastic sheet on top. Rub a burnisher over the plastic until you have gone over all the engraving. Lift the plastic from the engraving and a rubbing of the engraving will be on the plastic. To use the print, place the sheet on the item to be engraved and hold in place with tape. Gently burnish over the plastic and lift off the sheet when you have covered the whole area and a print of the engraving will be left on the surface of the item ready for you to scribe on and engrave. This method is good when you have a few repeat items to engrave and on flat surfaces.
5. Steve Goldsmith (Polisher):
Ultrasonic cleaners are very handy but beware, some stones such as Emeralds, Pearls, Kunzites and Opals are not suitable to be cleaned with this type of machine. It is better to use soapy water with a soft brush but always be careful. Never put your fingers in the solution while the machine is running as the vibration attacks your bone marrow and can give you arthritis.
When you repair antiques, do not forget they are often over 100 years old and your client will not appreciate their family heirloom looking brand new. Therefore there must be a balance with value and time taken to repair. A minimum polish is best. Never use rouge on antique products.
And a footnote from the man himself.........
Theo Fennell (Designer):
Sometimes a stone designs itself and sometimes an idea for a piece appears by magic, but sadly this is not often the case. Keep your mind open to all influences and catalysts, music, architecture, nature, taste and, if you have the magic that blank piece of paper will fill up. The real talent is then to edit the ideas down to the ones that really work.