EMILY PARKES talks to London based jewellery designer, Charlotte Bezzant. Charlotte creates beautiful and intricate pieces from silver. She fills us in on her creative background and the ways in which she has progressed her business.
What do you do and how did you start?
I am a jewellery designer/maker. Although I have been working with silver for nearly 20 years, it was originally only as a hobby. I have a degree in Fashion but, after four years at art college, I fell into a non-creative job in the industry, so I enrolled on an evening class just to have a creative outlet. I started a small business after demand for my jewellery has increased.
What steps did you take to create your own business?
I was getting many requests and commissions for my work and, with the encouragement of Scottish silversmith Linda Robertson, I decided it was time to make my work available to a wider audience. The first step I took was to take part in my local Open Studio event. I live in the Borough of Richmond, and over 60 artists participate. This meant I had to get a large body of work together to make it worth people coming to have a look. With a collection in place, I decided to open an Etsy Shop and in order to feed the shop I set up a blog where I write about what I am making and post photos of it. The Open Studio event was a great success and I approached the Landmark Arts Centre in SW London. They hold Summer and Autumn Art Fairs and I was accepted to participate in an event called Sparkle in the lead up to Christmas.
Describe your work setting.
I have a workbench that overlooks my garden and my chickens(!) but my husband has recently been muttering something about buying me a garden studio. I have a young family so at the minute, I try really hard to fit my work around my family.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I am inspired by all sorts of things. I am a bit of a magpie and love collecting and hoarding, and I'm especially drawn to objects in small scale. My 'Family' necklace came about as I wanted to make a piece about the women in my family. It has miniature black and white photographs of my Grandmother, my mother and me, set behind glass, as well as important family names and dates. It has proved to be a very popular piece for commissions as people seem to love unique and personal jewellery. Earlier in the year, I took a trip to the Arctic and was greatly influenced by the nature, the snow and the ice. I came back from that trip bursting with inspiration.
What are your tools of the trade, which is your favourite?
People are astounded by what you can produce with a saw, a file and a blowtorch. I don't use very special tools, but I really like the results you can achieve with photo-etching. I love to use the process to add words to my pieces. Occasionally it can be a bit hit and miss, which is very frustrating, but when it goes well the results are wonderful.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
It would be really great to have a successful creative business that could fit in with family life. As well as showing my work along side other artists, it would also be nice to have some more basic pieces that are more readily available. Whatever happens, I hope I am still able to work on unique commissions as I love the process so much. It makes me smile when I see people wearing my stuff.
If you had time what new craft would you like to learn?
Since I love text on my work, I am considering enrolling on an engraving course at West Dean. I keep trying to tell myself that I could avoid the hit and miss bit of etching, but I have a feeling this might be a skill that might just take a lifetime to master.
What is the best part of what you do?
The best part is just being able to be creative.
Did you always dream of being an artist/designer maker when you were growing up?
Absolutely! I went to a very academic school, and I remember that they were quite thrown when it came to Art School applications as not many people there did them then. When I did my Fashion degree, although it was hard work, I remember feeling lucky that I was spending all day, everyday, doing creative stuff - a bit like now!
If you would like more information on Charlotte's work, please visit her website.