Three more craftsmen and women talk to Debbie Kingsley
More craftsemen and women
Bethan Jarvis, North Wales Silver jeweller of miniature farm animals
“I work from a unit at a maker’s yard in the grounds of Glynllifon mansion, near Caernarfon, North Wales. I graduated from Glyndwr University in 2015, with an Applied Arts & Design (wood, glass & jewellery) degree. In the third year I started the collection ‘One man and his dog’, originally meant to be an automata piece from wood and silver; but, as a twist, some items were wearable jewellery - the sheep pen would be a bracelet, a tree a necklace. I am constantly working on the design and added a Farmyard Collection of pigs, cows and horses. My handmade jewellery uses a variety of techniques from silversmithing, wax carving and casting.
“My grandparents owned a hillside farm in North Wales, a five-minute walk from my home and I spent a lot of time on the farm ‘helping’ them. They were the best grandparents a child could ever dream of having. We used to collect peas, carrots and potatoes for tea from the field, I used to help muck out the cow sheds, feeding motherless lambs, help move sheep from the farm to fields in the next village. During school holidays I would go with my grandfather to livestock sales or take cattle or sheep to the slaughter house in Caernarfon. When I was six I had a pet chicken called Hoppy, I used to wrap her in a blanket and take her for a walk in my toy pram. Memories, very fond memories, are the foundations behind my work.”
Ian McKay, Bath Toymaker
“I call myself a ‘toymaker’ which sounds pleasingly uncomplicated, sometimes a ‘maker of mechanical toys’. They are toys for grownups or at least for the child inside every adult. They mostly derive from things I’ve seen; sometimes from my pet hates - plant pests and diseases being
a major preoccupation. I use a variety of materials, particularly wood, wire, string and found objects with a sort of minimal intervention. For example, wood may be split or cut or used exactly as it is found, coloured or left natural; smoothed or worked with a knife or gouge. What I really like about toymaking is that there are no rules – if it works, it’s OK!
“I trained as a designer, specialising initially in ceramics and glass but the qualities of different materials have always fascinated me. I didn’t really know how to turn this interest into an actual thing! I can pin my obsession with toys to two events: In 1981 there was an exhibition of the work of Sam Smith at the Serpentine Gallery in London, a sort of father figure to British toymakers. He was making highly finished, beautifully carved and painted objects that were hard to define; toys that were also sculptures, with a strong sense of narrative. We also had a lecture from toymaker Peter Markey; I had never met anyone who seemed to be having so much fun and who was so irreverent about the whole business of making. I wanted to do that too.
“As well as driftwood I use a variety of British hardwoods: oak, ash, chestnut, cherry and lime and when I can find them, fruit woods like apple and pear. I use a couple of local wood yards for larger amounts but often find woody presents left on the doorstep from friends and neighbours. I also use withies grown locally on the Somerset Levels.
“We live on the Somerset/Wiltshire border, on the edge of a village, in the beautiful Limpley Stoke valley. Some horticultural training, a few years ago, has given me a lasting interest in growing plants, particularly veggies and fruit trees. We’ve kept sheep and hens for many years and I do love a good shed! The hens in ‘Pecking Order’ are portraits of three of our longest lasting inmates. All these elements feed back into the work.”
Prilly Lewis, London Machine knitter and felt maker
“I work from home in my flat in London. I use a knitting machine to make lengths of fabric using British spun lambswool on a loose tension. The pieces are felted in the washing machine which makes them shrink and turns it into a compact, very soft, cosy fabric. It’s mostly the friction whilst washing that causes the wool to shrink and partly the temperature. I cut the felted pieces into shapes and patchwork them together as inlay patchwork, stitching them directly to each other with no seam allowances or backing fabric, so that the finished surface is flat rather than raised as it would be with appliqué.
“I’m inspired by encaustic tiles, especially the ones that lead up to doorways of Victorian and Edwardian houses; there is one leading up to the entrance of my home. I love the geometric designs and take these traditional patterns and update them with contemporary colour combinations.
“I buy my lambswool from a family of spinners based in Yorkshire, who have been in business for 200 years, and I’m currently researching sourcing appropriate wool direct from small scale sheep keepers too.
“I make blankets and cushions as they really suit the felted fabric. The blankets are also used as curtains for windows and doors, wall hangings and room dividers; both useful and decorative. I think of the blankets are heirloom pieces.”
A bracelet by Bethan Jarvis
A blanket br Prilly Lewis INSET: Prilly with her work
Ian McKay at work in his studio
The Pecking Order – a sculpture by Ian McKay