In the next of our Meet the Maker features, looking at contemporary Shetland craft makers showcased in our current ShetlandMade exhibition, we talk to Karlin Anderson about her jewellery work.
Where do you do your work?
I am very blessed to primarily work out of my studio gallery in beautiful Hoswick. It is a lovely, tranquil space which is positioned in a particularly beautiful spot looking south out over the seato Levenwick beach. I am also very lucky to still have a base in London at The Goldsmiths’ Centre where I used to have my main workshop. Now it is a space I am able to work out of when I am in London.
What is your background?
I have been making jewellery since 1994, when I started working at Hjaltasteyn straight out of school and I have worked in the jewellery industry ever since... so, 28 years now and counting. I left Shetland in 1996 to study Jewellery Design and Business management in Glasgow and on finishing my course began working full time for one of the top jewellers in the city. In 2004, I moved to London where I worked in Notting Hill for a coloured diamond specialist creating pieces for the rich and famous before setting up my own company in 2008 in the heart of London’s Jewellery Quarter - Hatton Garden.
Who or what do you draw inspiration from? What motivates you to do what you do?
I have found over the years that I am primarily inspired by people. This has driven me to focus my energies and skill on creating bespoke pieces which tell my client’s individual stories. Jewellery is about memories, occasions and wonderful moments in life and I love to create beautiful and unique pieces which reveal and reflect those moments as well as the style and personality of the individual who wears them. I also love to create collections around stories which have inspired or motivated me and often woven into those at some level is the rugged, beautiful landscape and rich, distinctive culture of Shetland - the islands I have always called home.
How do you work, what is your process? What's your favourite part of the process?
I work in a fairly traditional way - by starting with a moodboard of inspiration. That could be from an individual person showing their style and the things they hold dear. Or it could be taken from a story, situation or an aspect of nature which has caught my attention. From there I sketch lots of ideas, lifting shapes and textures, altering angles, stretching, repeating and basically playing around with this inspiration until I have initial design ideas. These are then worked and re-worked to a final design which I usually draw up as a technical drawing if it is for a client - this always helps them to visualise what I propose to make. I then decide on the best method and manufacturing techniques to create this piece whether it will be all by hand from bullion metal, carved in wax to achieve organic flow, created in CAD for precise dimensions and angles... or maybe a mixture of all of these and more.
My favourite part of the process is revealing the finished piece to my client. I want it to be a piece they will love and treasure, whether it has been made bespoke for them or whether they are choosing a piece from one of my collections.
Why do you choose to use the materials that you use? Where do you source your materials?
I choose to use precious metals and gemstones as my medium. I am fascinated by the beauty in the natural gems and metals which are found in the earth and which we imbue with value in and of themselves. And to be able to use these to create mini pieces of art which become hugely precious in sentiment to the wearer - it really gives me a thrill! I source these materials from some of the top suppliers in the world - people I have worked with and built relationships with over my 28 years of being in the industry. It is important that the people I buy from have a strong ethical stance for their own companies and are people I can trust to make the right decisions when they purchase from suppliers, cutters or mines.
Do you have a favourite piece to make?
My favourite piece to make is usually a bespoke piece which is full of meaning and symbolism. A piece where I have been able to draw out strong stories from my client which I can then use as inspiration to create a piece of jewellery which is truly unique to them.
How long does it tend to take you to complete a piece?
How long it takes me to complete a piece, really depends on the piece I am making. It could be anything from 1 hour to 50 hours, and usually stretched over a number of stages, over a number of weeks - from concept and design, to hand crafting, to sending away for hallmarking in London and then back to me for setting, finishing, photographing and boxing up. It’s quite an involved process and keeping many of these projects going at their different stages all at once can be tricky sometimes.
What does your craft mean to you?
My craft means so much more to me than just being an occupation - it allows me to give something to others that they cannot do for themselves. I have enjoyed every minute of learning the skills I have developed over the years, and I take huge pleasure in deploying those skills in various ways to produce something meaningful for the person I am creating for at that time. I also love that I can use my craft to tell stories that are meaningful to me and to highlight issues like human trafficking and people’s value and self worth. I can’t imagine ever getting tired of it!
What constitutes a successful piece for you?
A successful piece for me is one which my client adores. That is what it is all about!
You can see Karlin's work as part of the current set of ShetlandMade exhibitions at Bonhoga Gallery during opening hours Wednesday - Sunday, 10:30am - 4:30pm until the exhibition ends on Sunday 4 September.