OK. I’ve been spending a while thinking about the advice I would give rapt and interested would-be jewellery designers should they ask for it…

Blogs seem to be for stuff like this so here we go. If you want to be a jewellery designer, here is a by no means exhaustive list of tips.


1. Pen and paper. Always. Everywhere. It used to be a case of remembering to take your camera. But you have that, it’s on your phone. So the next step is ensuring that you can do the fancy stuff like writing notes and doing sketches.

The ideas will come but usually at an unfair time. I tend to have my breakthroughs when doing something else that is totally unrelated and completely urgent or standing in a queue or just about to drop off to sleep.

If you are more tech leaning then there are apps that can just about fill the gap of a pen and paper when you are used to them. But come on. A pack of post-its and a biro… That’s so much more sexy.


2. When you have had the ideas….organise them. This coming from me is hilarious. There are bits and bobs of my work dotted about everywhere… but getting your sketched notes annotated and redrawn if necessary and into a notebook (another great feature of the humble post-it) or scanned and into well labeled soft folders for use is vital. Otherwise that sketching wasn’t design at all. It was litter manufacture. And that helps no one.


3. DON’T ERASE OR OBLITERATE. INSTEAD COPY PIECE, COVER OR FADE ERRORS OUT, AND WORK OVER. Here’s a story. In the dim past, I started working on a comic book called Smallfish with a guy. I was not at all confident and I hadn’t even thought of anything art based as a career. I drew out that damned cover about 12 times. I went wrong, even a bit and I binned it. I was later mocked for not using sticky labels to cover the error and draw over. So simple. A pro trick. So much easier in this aged of advanced tech.

The method = Like it? > Save it. Hate it? > Archive a copy of it, cover the bad bits, replace with different bits, ask again.

And I found my title logo. I am rather proud of this.


Post-it notes. Even then.


4. Look at what’s out there. Notice what makes you angry. If “bad” design makes you angry, you’re likely to be passionate enough to make a decent fist of things. There are a few things that niggle me every time I see them. They get to me because it is lazy design, or it’s not generous, or it’s just not design at all.

  • an identical form, scaled up or down to form a different thing. Like when there’s a flock of birds and bird 1 is a bigger version of bird 4 and 2 is a slightly rotated 3. Was it so hard to draw them? Or are you rationed (limited) to drawing only 2 bird shapes in your life? The wallpaper in my mum’s last house drove me crazy. It had 2 birds on it (always birds!) The designer had designed the second bird by taking the head from the first, flipping it and sticking it back on its body. To hate drawing that much…. wow. They got paid too much for that. Even if they weren’t paid.
  • identical earrings used as pairs. Designers so lazy that they can’t even be bothered to flip an image. I hate that.
  • hollowed out work. Cheaper to manufacture. Transparent greed. That’s the only reason it’s done. I see Absolutely Zero Excuse for it because the weight of a piece is one of its qualities. Weight in a larger piece is soothing and gives its wearer additional pleasure. Pleasure you can hollow out and cash.
  • jewellery that is supposed to resemble something but doesn’t (unless intentional.) Research is such a major part of design that if you can’t be bothered to research, you can’t really be bothered to design.
  • 9ct gold. Sorry.


5. JEWELLERS’ TOOLS. Be careful when buying tools… I must have read “you get what you pay for” with regard to jewellers’ tools at least 20 times. That’s right….sort of….sometimes.

Here’s the heads up. There are some tools that will become the bane of your life if you don’t spend out on them. Some that you can’t get (new) without a solid injection of money and some that you can pay a couple of quid for. It has taken YEARS for me to work this list out. Good job I am feeling generous really.


  • saw-blades
  • flat nose pliers
  • solder (strip – personal hatred of this – I once got a dodgy batch)
  • wet and dry paper
  • vices (OK with serious modification)
  • motorised drills
  • drillbits
  • tap and die sets
  • snips
  • large files

LIST TWO – BUY THEM – NOT SURE IF YOU CAN GET THEM CHEAP (make sure that 2nd hand ones are perfect)

  • ring bending and all smooth nosed pliers,
  • doming block and punches
  • long frame saw
  • barrel polisher
  • mandrels (all sizes)
  • burnishers
  • solder paste (all types)
  • polishing compounds
  • needle files


  • most textured pliers
  • hammers
  • centre punches
  • steel rulers
  • gas
  • beeswax
  • ring measuring tools
  • regular saw frames (as long as the blade clamps work – ideally get an adjustable one)
  • lighters
  • alphabet punches
  • tweezers/reverse action tweezers
  • polishing cloths

What do you think of the list? Disagree? Did I miss anything out? I’d love to hear from you! (and yes, I have [just] noticed that list one and list two can be merged together. shush.)


6. Talk to people – find out what the humans want! It’s all very well to make stuff you think rocks… but if you never engage in proper, open conversation about it, you will miss out. Recently I have been granted 2 amazing commissions, the first client wanted two pieces in my style but he wanted a different animal. The second wanted a collection of pieces plus a showpiece. The collection requires a different scale from the one thats currently available, and the showpiece is a version of something I have only ever made once before!

Design is wicked fun, but unless you let other people play, it is limited by your imagination and patience. Factor in other people’s desires and it just gets better and better.

By the way, engaging in proper, open conversation requires confidence, both to stand up for but also question your ideas and work. You need to be up to that. Tantrums or deep inner hurt at feedback won’t rub. Please learn that one quickly.


7. Time and cash. Right. It’s a ridiculous balancing act you have here. If you are looking to be a sole trader, then your job description is basically one word; Everything.

Give yourself a solid way to make money for rent and bills. If that’s a day job, that’s fine. Actually limiting your “business time” in this way is great. It gives you more business cash by taking care of personal cash, keeps you grounded, reduces stress (well, the type caused by dodgy cash-flow anyway) forces you to socialise and – perhaps most importantly – shows you how much you love design. It also forces you to prioritise like a demon. I would recommend it.

I can’t advise you on family balance. I have a mum and a brother and I make time for them. I also have a strictly structured working day and time off to myself.

You need this structure and the will to stop. Throw yourself at 50 all nighters on the trot and you won’t end up with a sturdy business. You will probably end up sectioned. It’s going to be different for everyone. Married people, people from wealthier families or existing businesses…the pressures will be different but still present….

My tip for organising workload is to be one person in your business a day. I have split my role into 7 disciplines; Management (very similar to admin!), Design, Making, Finance, IT, PR and Sales.

Each day, I work out what my business needs most, and give the day to that. I also have an active and “easy to achieve each tiny step” list on the go in Evernote, always.


8. Learn the things. If you can build your website, resize and edit your own photographs, write your own press releases etc etc etc, you are going to be a damn sight more in control and spend a damn sight less than the person who can’t. If you choose to delegate these things later one – or get some horrible thing troubleshot, you will have a clue about the things the grown up will be doing.

I have spoken to so many people who have mentioned the length of time they have to wait to get an image on their site changed. That’s just weird to me.

I would be so frustrated if I weren’t hands on. And I love knowing the magic tricks being done by the people now doing the stuff I used to do…


9. Allow yourself to multitask. I honestly haven’t switched my TV on in a year. I’m not one of those people who is proud of that sort of thing – in fact I am slightly appalled to own stuff that I don’t use. Fact is. I listen to comedy while working … I don’t want to do things that prevent me doing other things.


10. It’s not not enough that people merely tolerate you. Reserve your affections for those who quietly, brilliantly give a damn about you, your life and your love of your work.

But don’t be hurt if they aren’t as wired about your work as you are. That’s not their job. They love YOU, not the metal…




Things I did before I was 37.


This might look at first glance to be one of those “swim with mountains and climb a dolphin” sort of list. It isn’t. Don’t worry.


It isn’t one of those lists for two reasons. 1 – I find them bossy, impossible to emulate and slanted to inspire envy/a feeling that ones own life has been wasted and 2 – I haven’t ever been swimming with dolphins and I don’t want to climb a mountain.


I tried to find the list of 30 things I did before I was 30. Sadly, the medium I used to create it was myspace. Part of the construction of their great new look (myspace is impossible to use or like but it does now look great) involved getting rid of everything everyone had ever put on there. Except tiny pictures of people you had connected with. That’s it now. But oooh! Pretty, unusable nothing!


Anyway. Couldn’t find my 30th birthday list. But I am 37 tomorrow. I thought I’d share some things that are really great and if you get the chance, you should try them. Or not.


MAKE AN IMPROBABLE TOASTIE – Or smoothie or BBQ thing, or ice cream. Just combine some things that you like the taste of and eat them. One of the finest discoveries of my young life was banana wrapped in bacon and stuck on the barbecue…AKA “Monkeys on Horseback”. My goodness they are good.


NAME THINGS – being given the chance to name a thing is awe-inspiringly wonderful.  If it’s a kid, you have basic care/bullying needs to consider (or not). I, a few years ago, had the golden opportunity to name pedigree kittens. Thanks to me, Mr Doyle kitten, Taptaptap kitten, and Ordinary kitten can now step out in style. It’s brilliant fun.


BE A TOURIST IN YOUR HOME TOWN – Easier in some places than others. I have a funfair visible from where I am currently sitting. Just mill about, buy postcards, collect leaves, go brass rubbing, have a burger, go on a guided tour. No one ever said you had to be an adult. (And if they did well… they were probably miserable being adult themselves and wanted to see someone else suffer too…) AND if you’re abroad, be properly abroad. If you are on a beach, enjoy beach things, don’t dick around with your phone. In fact just avoid dicking around with your phone in company forever please.


IF IT’S THE BEST, MAKE IT BETTER! – You know baths? They are great. Why not make every bath the best one you’ve ever had? Candles, cup of tea, good book. Don’t skimp on nice stuff just because it’s not Christmas. You might die tomorrow… It’s not a question of greed or gluttony or hedonism…more a sense of gratitude and staying in the moment. This is (was) your only 15th April 2014… did you…do anything good? Did you do anything? Also if you can do stuff that makes you stride in a puffed up way, that’s good. Striding is excellent. I once strode down Oxford Street, took the tube to the London Eye and had a ride on it in an immensely puffed up way. It was fabulous.


REDISCOVER. Get into things you were into/wanted to get into as a kid. About 10 years ago, I bought the entire set of Panini WWF stickers. Because I am an adult and I could afford more than 1 packet a week. I also had all bar 1 of the Garfield set – and Shaun W. had all of them – and that broke my heart. That’s why. I also really love Ricicles.


FOLLOW THE LINE – As a scientific atheist, I have issues with the concept of fate – BUT it is fun sometimes to follow a line and see where it takes you. My only real attempt at this led me to my mentor and great friend Judith Lockwood…. – I didn’t win the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Brooch Competition …but that was good because I badly injured my back and was immobile for the 3 weeks I would have needed to spend making it …and I was bed ridden watching a lot of daytime TV …including antiques programmes which got me into the idea of auctioning work for charity …so I got involved with the Born Free Foundation and was due to attend a Ball in Derby …which was cancelled due to horrible illness …but I went anyway …and slotted in a visit to Birmingham …and noticed that the BJA were having a meeting on the day I was there…so I went…and met Judith…and Gordon Hamme, the organiser of the new mentoring initiative…and….well…you see?  And it’s all the fault of hours of “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”. Bizarre and lucky and very satisfying.


TALK TO STRANGERS – No kids, never those strangers. I mean useful strangers. You know when you go into an Asian Supermarket and there are all of those things everywhere. You know your favourite takeaway food? If you ask the person behind the counter, they will give you everything you need, knowledge-wise to make it – and sell you the rest. It’s in their interest and yours. It makes life better (oh salt and pepper chicken wings…)


GIVE MONDO-GIFTS – You know those presents that make people cry with the joy and the thoughtfulness of them. Endeavour to give those every time for every occasion. You’ll look forward to other people’s special occasions more than you look forward to your own. And no…if your first thought is “it’s too expensive,” you are already doing it wrong. Imagine them weeping with happiness then work backwards.


THAT? YEAH, DO THAT! Last year, I applied with my pal Josie (after whom the Josie Rose collection is named) for the gameshow Pointless. We got an audition which was a lot of fun and an excuse for an adventure and to revisit Bristol. I occasionally enter competitions – win stuff even more occasionally – but when it’s a pair of kickass headphones or an evening with the head chef from Gu and a load of diamonds in nick james’ old place in Hatton Garden – it really is quality that counts! It might be geeky or odd to ask or participate but if you want to DO.


PLEASE UNDERSTAND – It’s only in the last couple of years that I have realised that the judgement that is supposed to be falling on all of us – by society – so BY EACH OTHER is just horse-shit. Live, kiddo. Live before you die.




If you don’t follow me on twitter (and IF you don’t, it’s a shame. I have come up with something truly awesome for the advent countdown…. Follow me here!! – you’ll have missed me dying my hair orange and white earlier this week too. It’s too late now!! It’s back to blondish again, but I did have a couple of important meetings looking like I had had an egg fight in a TippEx factory. AND I didn’t even cry. Not even once. I am grown up.)


You may also have missed the announcement that I was working on a design for the latest British Jewellers’ Association competition. This time it’s one to design a Cocktail Ring.

Cocktail Rings aren’t my specialty – as you can probably deduce from the massive number and variety of them I have never made – but I create things. I design jewellery and I know what looks nice. I’ll have a good stab at it….


And as I said in the tweet, It’ll blow your collective bum clean off.


So… this is how I work…(I wish this wasn’t so accurate).

  1. Instantly come up with a title for the Cocktail Ring I want to make. No idea what the piece involves or what it will look like but this time I was convinced that it would end up being called “DISCO WOLF GOES ON HOLIDAY”. Suffice to say, it won’t end up being called that – or anything like that.
  2. Spend a couple of weeks scribbling on post-it notes, inventing something absolutely impossible to make in the time. And too small for a catwalk cocktail ring. And not colourful enough. And barely functional. But it fits the title.
  3. Decide instead to listen to sanity and go for something completely different.
  4. Again with the post it notes and tiny pieces of paper, researching idea 2 until it is all I can think about… then realise that this is even more complicated than idea 1. And will take forever to make and at least 2 complex mechanisms… and springs….Decide to forge ahead.
  5. Speak to someone about it and note that they respond much more favourably to idea 1 than to idea 2.
  6. Procrastinate by doing other things – e.g….. dye own hair white and orange.
  7. Chat to a friend – who reminds me that I was talking about doing a design with this animal at some stage…wouldn’t that be cool?
  8. Realise that I have had a Kinder Surprise toy of this animal sitting in front of my face (balanced on the computer!!) for the past 5 months.
  9. Design Cocktail Ring (in about 2 minutes).


Horribly true. It will be brilliant though. …. (I hope)

competition sketch bundle...

just a quick note, each of the pages you can see is the front of a little booklet …of 8 pages…. I’ve been taking these EVERYWHERE…

Note  – I make these books (perfectly pocket sized) from a single sheet of paper, using this method I found on Etsy a couple of years ago.

It is so much better than paper for note making and mechanism sketches – you also get a neat little buzz every time you complete one – which is quite regularly seeing as they only have 8 pages…. Use and enjoy – and of course you don’t have to stick to A4 paper…

8 page booklet...


AND if you go to the PocketMod site , they have coded loads of very useful drag and drop pages for you to print onto your paper to transform it into a RIDICULOUSLY useful little cheap thing…. Those clever, altruistic humans…They deserve love and money and toast with good things on it.


If you’ve got a little more time, you might want to go even further….. This is a fantastic animated tutorial for making a slightly more complex larger notebook – with just tabs and slots holding it together – and glitter!

http://www.designlovefest.com/2012/04/make-it-10-2/ Kudos to D E S I G N L O V E F E S T for this. It’s chuffin’ genius.


More news… I am hopelessly addicted to Masterchef the Professionals – mainly for Monica’s face, but also for the food, I suppose. I love the premise of the show coming up on Monday, in which the 4 finalists are going to be given a load of manky kitchen scraps from which they have to produce something awe-inspiring and terribly fancy.

After work, I find it tricky to bring myself to even open the fridge, let alone do anything more complex than stare at its contents… these people are alchemists…I want a takeaway. Or toast with good things on it.