I have gained many new followers of my blog this week so I thought it was time for a little introduction!
When I left art school with a degree in silversmithing, I went self-employed. That’s what you did. That’s what everyone did, needless to say, with varying degrees of success. I had learnt a lot of practical design skills through my studies but certainly not business ones and going it alone was a shock to the system. We were artists and designers but with no idea what should be made to make money.
From there, I decided the best thing to do would be a year-long postgraduate study programme. Live in the bubble a little while longer – why not?! I did learn minimal bookkeeping and most importantly, what I can claim tax back on when filing my end of year accounts! I made beautiful things out of a beautiful, but extremely expensive, material and hardly anyone bought my silverware.
Luckily I had made some good friends on over the last few years which led to a job working for a large silversmithing company in London. A few of my classmates fell by the wayside early on, and a few are now sought after for unique commission work and are making beautiful pieces for galleries and private clients. But I was lost and gladly accepted a real full-time job with real full-time pay!
Through doing work designed by others, I was learning more than ever. New techniques and processes building my confidence and I began to feel like a valuable member of the team. I indeed spent my time realising the ideas of other people. I didn’t miss the design work too much, and occasionally I was asked my opinion, and my input was valued. However, my career there was short-lived due to the recession, and I returned to self-employment.
I stayed in London and picked up some freelance silversmithing work with a couple of other manufacturers. But before long I had become a full time “deli girl” at a brilliant deli, cake shop and cafe. I loved it there, learning about cheese and wine. However, it was purely my stubbornness to admit that I’d finished my London life which kept me there so long.
I moved back to my home in Glasgow, with two cats and some life experience in tow!
For me coming home put things in perspective, and I gave myself some time to find my feet. I helped a couple of friends set up a jewellery studio in Glasgow’s West End and found my technical skills had drastically surpassed that of any of my peers. They looked to me for help with the more complicated techniques, and I began to teach jewellery evening classes from the studio. It was a wonderful and experimental time for me but unfortunately didn’t quite keep the cash flowing in!
Alongside my creative work, I took a job in a bakery. In the beginning, I just worked the counter, but it didn’t take me long to persuade the master baker to teach me how to make their delicious array of bread and cakes. I was good at it! Early starts didn’t bother me and meant I was usually finished around lunchtime. Then I would pop up to the jewellery studio to spend my afternoons.
I love baking. It has a magic to it, similar to silversmithing. From fundamental ingredients come beautiful forms and textures. My time in the bakery helped me to realise a truth which ultimately defines me. I am not a silversmith or a jeweller or a baker – I am a maker.
I am a maker. It does not matter what the end result is it’s that I will have made it. This, my ultimate truth has led me through my life and continues to power me. I can learn to make anything, and I will love it.
From my bakery, I moved on again. I became a bookbinder. I learnt how to make books. Bookbinding is another magical craft, and I am mastering how to work with paper, board, cloth and leather to produce brilliant books. Following my usual pattern, I blagged my way into working for someone else and learning as much as I can while earning a full-time wage.
Currently, I am the bindery manager at a bindery in Glasgow. I organise all the work coming in, and my small team and I do all the hard work to make sure it goes back out to customers on time. We bind journals for libraries and undertake massive cleaning projects alongside creating bespoke artist bindings and repairing old books for individual clients. The work is hugely varied and fulfilling.
Then, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, life changes again. In a matter of days, I’ll have finished making something else. My little boy is due to be born in July 2020.
Over the past months, I have been desperately trying to work out what I can do to be a maker with a child. Do I just take my maternity leave and head back to the bindery? Or do I attempt something new? Now’s the time to try, right?
And so we come to Blazing Rebel. It’s the side hustle I’ve been playing with for years now but have ultimately never had the courage to run with. Running my own business is a scary thought! But things are different now. I have a lovely husband, my own home, and with that, a degree of stability. I want to continue to make, but I want to be flexible with the time I can spend with my family. There is just one question I need to find the answer to – what can I make that will make me money?!
Silversmith to Jeweller to Baker to Bookbinder to Mother to…