Lesley Watt is well-known for her beautiful jewelry. And it seems her talent has no end as her gorgeous bronze and copper components, which she creates and sells since the beginning of 2012, are a huge success as well.
As a bead addict (yep, I admit it) I too have some of her beautiful bronze and copper bracelet bars and bronze pendants (love my owl).
You can understand my excitement when Lesley agreed to do this interview.
Q: You’ve told me once you were a communications manager in a “previous” life. You are now a full-time jewelry and component designer. When did you decide to switch careers and was the transition difficult?
A: I gave up my full time marketing career at the end of 2010 and to be honest it wasn't a planned switch into full time jewellery design. After working in the same field for the best part of 30 years I realized I'd become jaded and was no longer enjoying what I was doing so I decided to quit. I thought I would probably take a few months break and then look for some part time work. I'd been selling my jewellery to friends and family for about 12 months and had been toying with the idea of setting up an Etsy shop for some time so this seemed like the perfect time to bite the bullet and see if I could sell more widely - I never looked back.
I must point out though that my jewellery making in no way shape or form matches the income I was earning before. I consider myself very fortunate to have been financially secure enough to do this on something of a whim and had I needed it to fully provide me with a living income to cover mortgages and the like it would have been a far more considered decision and would have been a far more difficult transition. As it was, once I'd made the decision to stop doing something that was making me unhappy and devoting all my time to creative pursuits with only myself to answer to wasn't that difficult. Yes it's a big and scary leap to cut yourself off from a good regular income but if you can find a way to do it it's also very liberating and exciting.
Q: Are you self-taught?
A: Partly...I started off teaching myself beading techniques from books and online resources and the more I got into it the more I wanted to to put something of myself into my work rather than buying all my materials. I took a couple of weekend courses in basic silversmithing and silver clay and got completely hooked. I find that if I learn the basics in this way it's much easier to teach yourself the more advanced techniques as it gives you the confidence to experiment and try things for yourself. I've also taken 1 day courses in kiln enameling and metal etching and I now try to attend at least one course a year to learn a new technique – apart from anything else they're great fun. For 2014 I'm aiming to do some sort of ceramics course. Maybe extending my skills beyond jewellery.
Q: You are a successful jewelry designer. Since the beginning of 2011 you are a successful component designer as well, working with bronze and copper. Why did you decide to venture out in this direction.
A: As I've mentioned I wanted to put more of myself into my jewellery designs and that's why I started making my own components and I began working in bronze clay because of the soaring price of silver. When I showed these pieces on various social media sites I started getting enquiries from other jewellery designers about buying some of these pieces. So eventually I made the decision to set up another shop selling components just to test the water as I had no idea if there really was a market for my work. I was absolutely astounded by the response and I quickly became very busy with this side of my work. This has worked really well for me because I've have a huge passion for trying new things and it gives me huge scope for doing that. I love the feeling I get when I post new designs and watch the reaction of my customers ...and you always get an instant response from jewellery designers who use art beads - they're just so enthusiastic.
Q: Since a couple of months you are exploring ceramic. Do you like to explore other materials as well, like glass or polymer clay?
A: I'm absolutely loving working with ceramic and there are just so many techniques to try out within this medium that I'm pretty sure it's going to be high on my priorities for a long time to come. I love the fact that you have some time to work with clay and that it can be used sculpturally and in so many other ways so I want to use it to develop more original and individual designs and rely less on commercial tools. With bronze clay you have to work so quickly to avoid drying that you're more limited to what you can do and of course, the cost influences the scale you can work on.
I have tried lamp-working and although it was fun it didn't grab me in the way other techniques have so I didn't pursue it. This is no bad thing as it's easy to spread yourself too thinly and there are so many brilliant lamp workers that I'm happy to support them for my glass needs. I use polymer clay for mould making and testing designs but don't have any plans to take it any further at the moment. I'm sure I will discover something else along the way that takes my fancy though...that's just how my brain works.
Q: What inspires you in your work?
A: I take inspiration for my work from many, many things but particularly my everyday surroundings. I live in Dorset, a small and very beautiful county on the south coast of England between a Jurassic coastline that has been designated a world heritage site and the 'New Forest' which is not actually so new having been the hunting ground of William the Conqueror. Beach, sea and nature themed pieces feature heavily in both my jewellery and component work. Texture and colour are also of huge importance to me – camera phones are a godsend for snapping pictures of inspiring palettes and if I go out for a walk you can guarantee that my pockets will be stuffed with shells, leaves, stone...anything with an interesting texture on my return.
Q: You are designing jewelry and components, you write blog posts for your own blog and are a regular contributor to Art Jewelry Elements. I’m curious: what does a typical day in the life of Lesley Watt looks like?
A: There's really no such thing as a typical day for me and I'm really pretty lucky to be able to work in a fairly relaxed way. I usually go straight into the studio in the morning and check out my emails and Etsy sales whilst eating my breakfast. If I'm firing ceramics or bronze that may dictate the activity for the day as I try not to fire overnight when I'm not around to keep an eye on things. Making ceramics is a long process and the process itself dictates my working day once I get going...a day or two making, a day firing the bisque, a day glazing, another day firing the glaze and so on. When the ceramic kilns are on I may be working in bronze (same process but shorter firing times), designing jewellery, photographing and listing pieces for my Etsy shop, writing blog posts or tutorials...a whole host of things. So while I have no hard and fast schedule and can be very flexible with the way I work things do tend to fall into a pattern and I always have a mountain of things to do.
Q: There are a lot of bead and jewelry artists. Is there a particular artist you admire or who you consider a role model?
A: Masses of them...when you're part of a creative community you can't help but be inspired by the people you come across. In the metal clay field I'm a big fan of Wanaree Tanner – an exceptional and innovative artist who I couldn't even dream of emulating, who shares her inspiration and enthusiasm and who makes me want to try. In the ceramic world I'm a huge fan of the work of Karen Totten because the textures and colours within her designs are so appealing to me and her inspiration is always fascinating. Karen also helped and encouraged me enormously with my own ceramic efforts which I am hugely grateful for. For jewellery there are so many people I admire but one of the first I came across, and who fueled my desire to take up metal working was Stacey Perry of Hodgepodgerie. I never got as proficient as I'd have liked to in this area as other things took over but I want to do do more this year and I regularly go back to Stacey's work and continue to be inspired.
Q: You have achieved a lot in the bead and jewelry world. Is there a next goal you want to accomplish?
A: My goal for this year is really to consolidate and improve on what I'm already doing. Ceramic and metal clay are the areas I will be concentrating on for components but I would also like to spend more time on improving my etching, enameling and metal work skills.
My jewellery design has taken a bit of a back seat of late and I do think I need to reassess this area. I feel a change or development of style may be imminent...a kind of natural progression but I'm not exactly sure to what or how at the moment so that is another area I would like to focus on.
Q: If you were not a bead and a jewelry artist, what would you be doing?
A: That's a difficult one as I have a tendency to fall into things rather than plan or have a vision of what I want to do. I might well still be working in marketing if I needed to make a decent living but if I could do something for the sheer pleasure I would probably run an independent or antiquarian book shop. I doubt I would make any money as I'd be sat in a huge comfy armchair reading, drinking good coffee and ignoring customers, but then I guess I could have staff..
I would also like to finish the Open University Humanities degree I started six years ago... education is so much more fulfilling when it's undertaken for pleasure. I haven't had time to continue with this in recent years but I will finish it even if I have to wait until my hands are too old and battered to make jewellery!
Q: Do you have a life motto and if so, would you like to share this with us?A:
A: I'm not really one for motto's but a while ago I found one on Pinterest that appealed to me..
'Life doesn't have a remote, you have to get up and change it yourself'. I've made a couple of scary and brave choices to change things in my life in the last ten years that have been incredibly liberating. I wish I had appreciated this idea earlier but that's all part of life's journey and now if I find myself with doubts my mantra tends to be 'if you don't like it, change it'. Not that the 'doing' is always easy of course....
Q: Do you have tips and tricks you like to share with us?
A: If I were to offer one tip it would be be true to yourself and don't be tempted to compare. By which I mean don't compare your work, your style, your sales, your success, your prices with those of others because it will only cause you heartache. You don't know how anyone else runs their business so any comparison will be at best inaccurate. If someone is selling the same type of thing as you at half the price they might be doing it as a hobby and just covering their material costs. If they're selling three times more than you then they may be selling to friends or paying for marketing opportunities or working 3 times longer than you. They may have different goals from you too...I don't make my entire living from jewellery so selling huge quantities is not my key driver whereas for others it may be essential.
This is a very simplistic approach and obviously if you're running a jewellery making business you need to know your market and your competition but you're better off expending effort on your own designs and plans than focusing on what others are doing.
Thank you so much for this lovely interview Lesley!
You can find Lesley’s gorgeous jewelry in her etsy shop THEAjewellery and her wonderful components in her etsy shop THEAElements. Follow her through her blog and read her regular contributions on www.artjewelryelements.blogspot.com.
This interview would not be complete without some sort of a give-away.
And do I have a surprise for you. There is not going to be one give-away, no, there are going to be two (!). Yes, you heard that right.
The first give-away
Lesley is so very generous and she contributed this gorgeous ceramic beads and beautiful bronze pendant set. All lovingly handmade by herself.
The second give-away
A necklace made by moi, with that gorgeous owl pendant I have been hoarding for sometime now. To be honest, it is very difficult to part with, but I know it will get a good home. The pendant is handmade by Lesley and it's bronze. The lampies have beautiful brown/green hues which are very hard to capture in the picture. They are from Lizbeads. A copper leaf link and leather cord completes the design.
All you have to do to enter is comment on this post, to get a change to win one of these give-aways. Easy peasy.
Note: if you are not a jewelry designer and like to only participate in the necklace give-away, please say so in your comment. Or, if you like, I can always make you something from the gorgeous bead set if you like to participate in both give-aways and you win the bead set.
And if you absolutely have no interest in the necklace (it can happen ) please say in your comment you're only want to participate in the give-away of the beadset.
There are lots of ways you can increase your chances of winning too...
Do any of the following and leave an additional comment each time and you will get an extra entry for each one:
· Share this give-away on your own blog
· Share this give-away on your Facebook pages, Google+, Twitter etc.
· Subscribe to my newsletter
· Become a new follower of my facebook page
· Become a new follower of the facebook page of THEAjewellery
· Follow me on Pinterest
. Follow Lesley on Pinterest
. Follow me on google+
· Like my Etsy shop
· Like THEAjewellery on etsy
. Like THEAelements on etsy
. Follow Lesley Watt's blog
· Anything else you can think of to spread the word.
Don't forget to leave a separate comment for each method to maximize your chances though!
Please don't let the captcha scare you off. It is to prevent the spam robots enter this give-away as well.
The draw will close at 10am GMT on Sunday January 19, 2014 and I will randomly select and announce the winners later that day.
The next artist in this series of interviews with Bead Artists will be Pippa Chandler, well known from her gorgeous polymer clay art beads which she sells under the name of Pips/Pipsjewellery.