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Jes­sica Poole: Be­spoke Crafts­man­ship

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JES­SICA POOLE is known for her be­spoke bridal cre­ations. Her mas­tery lies in bring­ing a fab­ric-like soft­ness, flu­id­ity, twists and folds to pre­cious met­als. She rev­els in the tra­di­tional meth­ods of gold­smithing and de­rives great sat­is­fac­tion from spend­ing hours at the bench – slowly craft­ing metal into a de­fined shape. She fur­ther trained in An­twerp to master the art of mi­cro pave set­ting so that she has greater con­trol over the fi­nal prod­uct. When you know so much pre­ci­sion, ef­fort and love goes into each piece, the re­sul­tant jew­ellery shines with a deeper ra­di­ance.

Jes­sica worked with top Bri­tish jew­ellery brands like De Beers and Boo­dles be­fore set­ting out on her own. She speaks to ALIYA LADHABHOY about fo­cus­ing on high-end be­spoke cre­ations and bridal col­lec­tions.

Did you al­ways want to be a jew­ellery de­signer/gold­smith?

I think I was al­ways des­tined to be my own boss. At the age of 14 I be­gan mak­ing jew­ellery from sil­ver wire and beads and my dad en­cour­aged me to take them to a lo­cal bou­tique to see if they would like to stock them. When I walked out of the store, not only had it placed an or­der, but all the em­ploy­ees work­ing there that day had bought a piece from me. That very mo­ment I re­alised that I could mak­ing a liv­ing from do­ing what I loved.

What is it that drew you to jew­ellery de­sign? Tell us about your jour­ney.

I love work­ing with metal, I love its prop­er­ties and the fact that when you ma­nip­u­late the metal it holds its form un­like clay, for ex­am­ple – the ran­dom­ness and volatile na­ture of clay would drive me mad! Strange as it may sound, I en­joy the time-con­sum­ing, slow de­vel­op­ing na­ture of a craft such as jew­ellery mak­ing.

Once I re­alised my true call­ing and de­cided my ca­reer path, I set out to learn the craft of gold­smithing. Af­ter a de­gree in jew­ellery and ap­plied arts, I knew I had to learn tra­di­tional tech­niques as I was burst­ing with ideas from the art col­lege train­ing but had none of the re­quired skills. I then com­pleted an in­ten­sive jew­ellery skills pro­gramme in Kilkenny, Ire­land, which was based on the Ger­man ap­pren­tice­ship scheme. From there on, I worked with var­i­ous jew­ellery houses and was lucky enough to make pieces for some of the top names in the Bri­tish jew­ellery world, in­clud­ing De Beers and Boo­dles.

Why and when did you decide to launch your own la­bel?

I al­ways wanted to be my own boss. I had a clear vi­sion of what I wanted to make and en­joy all the var­i­ous as­pects of run­ning a busi­ness. Af­ter many years in the trade work­ing for other

jew­ellery houses I de­cided that once I com­pleted my train­ing in mi­cro pave I would set out on my own. It was a leap of faith and I did it slowly. At first, I worked part time. I was for­tu­nate enough to be in­vited to take part in the pres­ti­gious Gold­smiths Fair in 2010. This was the launch pad for my own la­bel and I started to build up a net­work of pri­vate clients from there. Do you con­tinue to fol­low tra­di­tional gold­smithing tech­niques or have you adapted them to in­clude modern tech­niques? I am very much a fan of tra­di­tional gold­smithing tech­niques. These tech­niques and skills have been per­fected over cen­turies. There is a right and wrong way to ex­e­cute them in or­der to pro­duce well-made jew­ellery ef­fi­ciently. A hand­made piece of jew­ellery will al­ways have a cer­tain qual­ity over a printed CAD file. Of course, modern tech­niques and equip­ment play a huge role, but it is all about know­ing when and where they can be used best. Mi­cro pave, which I use a lot in my work, would not be pos­si­ble with­out the use of mi­cro­scopes. Modern cut­ting and en­grav­ing equip­ment can help per­fect a tra­di­tional tech­nique, bring­ing it to the next level of ac­cu­racy, but I do use tra­di­tional gold­smithing tech­niques to craft my pieces. You spe­cialise in the mi­cro pave set­ting fol­low­ing your train­ing in An­twerp. Why did you decide to spe­cialise in mi­cro pave set­ting? How many mi­cro pave set­ters exist in UK? I could al­ready set but I wanted to learn how to set re­ally well so that I could have com­plete con­trol over the jew­ellery mak­ing process. Set­ting is like any other form of craft; ev­ery set­ter has their own style or in­ter­pre­ta­tion of how a stone should be set, so all too of­ten I was either dis­ap­pointed with the qual­ity I was get­ting or the piece would come back from the set­ter af­ter be­ing set in a slightly dif­fer­ent way from what I had en­vi­sioned.

The mi­cro pave set­ting, in par­tic­u­lar, is a beau­ti­ful ad­di­tion to my work; the style lends it­self well to my de­signs, work­ing with minute stones, some­times as small as 0.5mm, means that I can make what­ever I want and add the stones to the piece, rather than the stone be­com­ing the main fo­cus. Set­ting col­lec­tion qual­ity small di­a­monds in this way also gives an amaz­ing sparkle and when done well is beau­ti­ful. When I first came back from my train­ing in An­twerp there were very few mi­cro pave set­ters like me. Most mi­cro pave set­ters were work­ing for large jew­ellery houses and were not very ac­ces­si­ble. How­ever, over the past five years or so more and more jewellers are train­ing in it as the style is in such de­mand, but there are very few fe­male set­ters in the UK. What in­spires you? It is very dif­fi­cult to pin­point one thing that in­spires me. I strive for a qual­ity in my work that gives a feel­ing of soft­ness, flu­id­ity and or­ganic sym­me­try.

Are you work­ing on a new col­lec­tion? I largely fo­cus on be­spoke jew­ellery tai­lored for each client. This process can of­ten be time con­sum­ing and daunt­ing for the cus­tomer who can’t al­ways en­vis­age what the end prod­uct will look like. I am work­ing on a col­lec­tion of en­gage­ment and wed­ding bands, pen­dants and earrings. So that clients, es­pe­cially the gents who are plan­ning a sur­prise pro­posal, can pick a ring straight from the col­lec­tion. Do you pre­fer work­ing on your own col­lec­tions or de­sign­ing a be­spoke piece for a client? Which is tougher and why? De­sign­ing my own col­lec­tion can be very free­ing as I can de­sign any­thing I want. How­ever, with that comes a lot of pres­sure. I find de­sign­ing my own col­lec­tions to be tougher. It’s of­ten hard to know which pieces to make and which ideas are for the scrap heap as I have hun­dreds of sketches. I re­ally en­joy the be­spoke process, work­ing one-on-one with the client. They give me a brief, some in­spi­ra­tion and I start the de­sign process from there. Their feed­back en­sures I am on the right track and al­though the de­signs are my own ideas, of­ten I would never have pro­duced that work with­out the client’s brief and in­put, so it’s al­ways an in­ter­est­ing process for me. You are known for your be­spoke bridal com­mis­sions. Tell us about a com­mis­sioned piece that is close to your heart. When I am de­sign­ing bridal jew­ellery, there is so much emo­tion that is tied up with the piece – what the piece rep­re­sents as well as the ma­te­rial it­self in case I am re­set­ting heir­loom gem­stones. The ex­pe­ri­ence is such that I re­mem­ber al­most all of the clients and what piece of jew­ellery I made for them as each piece has been made with care and con­sid­er­a­tion. It’s a great feel­ing know­ing that some­thing I made is cher­ished ev­ery day. If I had to pick one piece then it would be a ring I made for my sis­ter. My now brother-in-law asked me to de­sign a sur­prise en­gage­ment ring for my sis­ter. I felt im­mense pres­sure and was quite emo­tional when mak­ing it. Thank­fully she loved it. You bring move­ment, twists and turns and flu­id­ity to gold. How long does it take you to craft a piece of jew­ellery? It is very hard to an­swer as to how long a piece takes as it de­pends on the de­sign, the tech­niques re­quired, type of stone set­ting, etc., and of course if it’s a good day or a bad day at the bench as some days things run more smoothly than oth­ers. Run­ning a busi­ness means I very rarely get to sit at the bench all day. It can be any­thing from eight hours to a full week. Tell us about your Fo­lia col­lec­tion. What was the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind this col­lec­tion? My now hus­band in­tro­duced me to an­ti­clas­tic rais­ing over 12 years ago and I love this tech­nique as it pro­duces beau­ti­ful fluid forms. The Fo­lia col­lec­tion draws in­spi­ra­tion from na­ture and rep­re­sents the curves and curl­ing of leaves. This tech­nique helps me cre­ate el­e­gant and ef­fort­less shapes. Which is your most pop­u­lar col­lec­tion/jew­ellery piece? The Fo­lia earrings have al­ways been very pop­u­lar for many years now. The Vi­en­nese ring and Crushed Vel­vet ring are cur­rently the favourites. They are my most loved pieces also as the soft fab­ric qual­ity makes them very wear­able ev­ery day. How do you un­wind? I have a young fam­ily so all of my time at the mo­ment is spent either in work or with my chil­dren so there is very lit­tle chance to un­wind. I love gar­den­ing so as and when I can, I get out into the gar­den or I take a trip to the lo­cal flower mar­ket bring­ing back more plants than I can carry. I have re­cently taken up swim­ming which I am en­joy­ing and this gives me some alone time, and is great for the body and mind. Where do you see your­self five years down the line? I took on an ap­pren­tice one year ago. I am teach­ing her di­a­mond set­tings, in­clud­ing mi­cro pave. It is a long process that takes ded­i­ca­tion to be­come a good craftsper­son, but she is get­ting there and is al­ready very good. Hav­ing more staff and help will free me up some time to de­sign and cre­ate more elab­o­rate pieces and de­velop col­lec­tions. I am cur­rently known for my be­spoke work. In five years, I would like to have es­tab­lished a pres­ence in the jew­ellery mar­ket for my bridal ranges and con­cen­trate on even higher-end be­spoke work.

The Sy­camore di­a­mond earrings crafted in 18-karat gold ver­meil cel­e­brates the con­tours of curl­ing leaves. Di­a­monds ac­cen­tu­ate the midrib.

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