We are absolutely delighted to welcome jeweller Sheila McDonald as our guest blogger this month.
Most of my work features enamel on silver, with fine gold wire and fine gold and silver leaf. Colour is very important, and has always been my main focus of interest; I love drawing and painting, especially watercolour.
I originally studied Textile Design at the Glasgow School of Art, before being drawn towards Silversmithing and Jewellery Design. In my final year at Glasgow I won a Royal Society of Art, Travel Bursary that enabled me to travel to Australia and work and meet with jewellers there and also to travel extensively.
After three years in London, we decided to move to South Norfolk, where we now live and work with our family.
Today there is still a strong textile influence in my work. Enamel is the perfect material for incorporating colour in jewellery, and although technically challenging, it is a medium I enjoy.
I usually work on small series of designs, and I like the way that pieces can coordinate well; an earring can match a necklace, or brooch without it being exactly the same design, the link is the colour.
Drawing is still very important in the evolution of new designs.
I am also a short course tutor at West Dean College and I run enamel workshops from my studio.
What do you love most about being a jeweller?
I love being able to create objects from ideas and drawings.
For a long time I thought I was a frustrated painter as I love drawing and colour …. but I now realise that enamel is my medium; I feel comfortable with its particular technical challenges and results.
Working with enamel you are able to fire a piece several times and by adding fine gold and silver foil within the layers, you can create a depth and intensity of colour that is unique.
Over the years I have acquired a diverse range of skills and techniques from other makers/craftsmen… and I now enjoy incorporating these into my own work and in turn passing the knowledge on to others through teaching and workshops.
It is a privilege to work for myself and to have the freedom to create, whilst listening to the radio all day!
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work?
As a former student at the Glasgow School of Art, I love the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I was sixteen when I first visited the Art School and I remember that the building with its beautiful details absolutely blew me away.
There are so many different aspects of his work I admire; the metalwork, the stained glass, and most importantly, his drawings and watercolours.
If you could chose a figure from history or public life to wear your jewellery who would it be and why?
As a strong courageous woman I can visualise her wearing a large, bold, enamel brooch with some panache!
I admire people with spirit and determination. Boudicca has several links with the particular area of East Anglia where I have my workshop.
If you could own a piece by another maker working in any discipline, no price limit, what would you choose and why?
It would have to be one of Grayson Perry’s large tapestries from the ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’ series. Each tapestry is humorous, contemporary and beautifully designed.
Grayson Perry is successful as both an artist and a craftsman/maker and I thoroughly enjoyed his insights throughout his Reith Lecture series on Radio 4.
How do you like to relax after a day in the studio?
To be honest, after sitting in the workshop all day, I would rather be active.
I love being out in the open air, walking, jogging or cycling.
The countryside around my home is so beautiful, and I find being outside gives me the space to think and solve problems.
If you were not a jeweller what would you like to be and why?
Whilst enamelling is my first love, if I had to choose another path I would pursue the development of my other great project; a range of Hi-Viz Cycle accessories and clothing which I have already designed and produced as samples.
My registered trademark is ‘Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead’.
I believe passionately that cyclists and road users should be seen; from a safety aspect I think that it is as important as wearing a helmet.
I would love to fully promote and market this venture properly.
Where in the world is your dream holiday destination and why?
After graduating from the Royal College of Art, I spent three months cycling across America from Portland, Oregon on the west coast to New Jersey on the east (3500 miles) It was an amazing adventure. Cycling is such a wonderful way to experience a country.
There is no one dream destination….I would just love to cycle and visit many different places including areas of Great Britain (although, preferably with good weather and comfortable accommodation!)
Sheila has a stunning selection of her enamelled jewellery on her lovedazzle shop.