There is something deliciously tactile about Hannah Bedford’s contemporary fine jewellery, that you can't help but want to get a closer look. So when a few weeks ago, Hannah Bedford took to twitter to announce that her company had become a Fairtrade Foundation registered jeweller, naturally we wanted to quiz about her fine jewellery.
What made her decide to turn to Fairtrade gold and what secrets of her success would she pass on to our readers. If you are contemplating creating pieces using Fairtrade gold, or if you are a jeweller who is also creating contemporary fine jewellery or perhaps you are looking to launch your own jewellery line – read on, because Hannah Bedford’s jewellery success story is a must read.
How long have you been in business creating fine jewellery?
I set up my practice in 2005.
What led you to starting Hannah Bedford Jewellery? What’s your background?
I always knew I wanted to do something creative. I love that jewellery is both functional, yet it has such a creative scope to it. When I was 16/17 I worked in an independent art gallery. Above the gallery there were artist spaces. I loved the jeweller’s studios and was fascinated by the process and creativity.
I went on to study a BA in Jewellery Design at Birmingham School of Jewellery – we were encouraged to explore our creativity. Even at this point I was fascinated by repeating patterns and circles in nature.
After this I went to Bishopsland Educational Trust and really developed my technical skills and my practice, it was here where I began to develop my granulation work.
Do you love what you do?
Yes, working is a real pleasure, I feel very lucky that I get to explore my creative passion with my work. The rapport with clients, particularly during the commission process, is very special. I feel privileged to create jewellery which has a significant meaning to the people involved and the response when a bespoke piece is finally revealed is always priceless.
You make your jewellery using the art of granulation - what is that?
Granulation is an ancient process, dating back over 5000 years. I handcraft each unique granule on a charcoal block before they are cleaned and individually applied to form designs. The bonding of these minute precious granules requires great skill and precision, a careful steady hand and, above all, patience. There is always an element of the unknown when you are working on such a delicate scale.
Your designs are stunning and so unique, where do you get your inspiration from?
Thank you. I’m drawn to natural growth patterns and organic formations - in particular sea life, corals, mussels and lichen. The way these forms are clustered, scattered, embedded and interact with surfaces and other elements helps to inform the natural way I design with granulation. I love the granulation technique and I’m always experimenting and exploring the process in different ways. I often find that my most creative ideas can come out of the unexpected.
You have tweeted that you are now creating your jewellery in Fairtrade gold? Is this right across all your pieces or just a specific range?
I recently announced that I have become a Fairtrade Foundation registered jeweller. I’m really happy about this development as it means that customers now have the option to commission any of my pieces, or a bespoke design, in Fairtrade Gold.
What led you to switch to Fairtrade gold? Have your customers been requesting it?
I have always believed in the ideals of Fairtrade Foundation and the option to become a registered jeweller was something that really appealed to me. Issues around ethics can be complicated - I wanted to provide some clarity on what Fairtrade Gold means, to spread awareness and to be able to provide this option to my customers.
Fairtrade gold is a little more expensive - do you think this will detract sales or attract sales as consumer awareness of all fairtrade products grows?
Customers buying handcrafted jewellery from an independent maker are choosing an alternative to mass production or large corporates. So yes, for some the ethical factors are an important part of the package. I’m keen to spread awareness and I feel it is important for my customers to have the option to choose Fairtrade Gold should they wish. It is very early days but I am very hopeful that it will catch on.
The jewellery industry is a tough nut to crack – what were your first steps to gaining exposure for your jewellery?
My studio is based at Cockpit Arts which has a community of 170 designer-makers and provides on-site business support. They hold popular Open Studios events and these were particularly helpful when I was first starting out - getting direct feedback on my designs, building a loyal customer base and generating exposure. Today, even though I now sell online and through select shows and stockists, these events are still really popular with my customers. Social Media, particularly Instagram has also been great for spreading awareness.
If you could start again – with hindsight, what advice would you give yourself?
I’ve found that perceived ‘mistakes’ or difficult challenges can lead to unexpected creativity and even a renewed sense of motivation. For that reason, I’m grateful for the learning curves that have shaped what I do creatively and in business. Perhaps I would have explained that to a younger me, but then again - perhaps it is something you have to learn first-hand.
What are you working on at the moment?
Alongside some beautiful bespoke commissions, I am currently developing new pieces which really push my exploration of granulation within negative spaces. I am fascinated by the way the granulation can be used as a link, creating an open network of spaces.
For more information visit www.hannahbedford.co.uk