A pop of colour on a piece of jewellery can really make it special. So when I first saw Miranda Sharpe’s designs, they really drew my eye. She uses vitreous enamel, but in a really modern way.
I spotted her pieces at the Jewellery Quarter Open Studios, in Birmingham and fell in love with the bright blue and yellow tones radiating out from the pieces. Her passion for contemporary jewellery design shines through and she also shares that passion with students at the British Academy of Jewellery, where she teaches classes.
How would you describe your jewellery?
Colourful, bold, yet elegant.
I’m inspired by microscopic images, drawing on the colour and patterns within them, which provide a starting point for much of my jewellery. I also find inspiration all around me which my creative brain automatically visualises as jewellery. I see my jewellery making process as an exploration of colour, texture and pattern formed into wearable pieces. I’m fascinated by the possibilities of what can be achieved by layering enamels together.
What materials do you use?
I work predominantly with silver and vitreous enamels. Much of my early work featured resin, as I liked the possibilities it offered to build form. But I returned to enamel about 10 years ago to refresh my look. Since then I’ve become more and more absorbed and fascinated with vitreous enamel.
Aside from my love of colour, working with enamels feels very painterly and explorative with the possibilities of building layers and adding detail with gold foil or a cloisonné wire. I also use some gemstones within pieces and elements of gold.
Where do you create your jewellery?
For many years I worked from shared workshop spaces within the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, which was invaluable in becoming part of a community and access to suppliers and services. These days I work from a home studio at the bottom of my garden, which is more convenient whilst raising a family.
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
My favourite piece tends to change as I’m usually most excited about the latest new design! A current favourite is just that, a new bracelet design that came to fruition recently. It’s an articulated piece made from multiple units and I’m really happy with the way it’s worked out – the fluid movement of the piece is amazing.
Others include my Thrive sweep necklace because I love the way it sits and makes an elegant statement. And also a one-off necklace I made about 18 months ago, because I enjoyed making it so much and love the subtle details and colours within it.
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
A piece of silverware I made as a commission for ‘Making Moves II’, that followed a residency at Regent silversmiths. The project collaborated with Birmingham City Council through a Craftspace and Staffordshire County Council partnership.
I enjoy the idea of crossing into different disciplines and working on a larger scale. The residency enabled me to develop my silversmithing skills and in particular, hand raising, which featured in the piece. I’m really proud of this piece because it’s so different from my usual work and was a technical challenge.
What’s your design process?
I see my design process as evolutionary. The starting point for my jewellery has come from research and visual influence, which through sketching and experimenting with materials has morphed into a collection of jewellery. I see the collection as ever growing and evolving, rather than as separate or individual collections. Over time the aesthetic of the work changes as I experiment with new colours, shapes or techniques.
Sometimes ideas come to mind that develop through making and others emerge from lots of drawing and sketching out new possibilities. My drawing tends to be quite intuitive and a thinking process for me and probably wouldn’t communicate a great deal to anyone else.
How important is jewellery design to you?
I tend to think in jewellery, imagining how the things I see could be transformed into pieces to be worn. I’ve been making it for half my life, so I guess we’re pretty inextricably linked!
What do you love about jewellery?
I love making – especially things that other people want to wear and that I want to wear. There’s such a huge variety of jewellery styles, materials and concepts out there, and so many creative jewellers. I love wearing all kinds of jewellery, and am very rarely seen without earrings!
How did you start creating jewellery?
I had mackled together a few items when I was younger and touched on jewellery themes on art foundation. Wanting to keep my options open I followed on with a degree in 3D design exploring a range of materials, but it was here that my desire to make jewellery was cemented and I really fell in love with it.
I then went on to study a MA in Jewellery, which brought me to Birmingham. It was here that a range of opportunities got me going as a designer maker.
What inspires you?
I mostly feel inspired when I’m outside, walking through a park or beautiful gardens, or being by the sea.
All sort of different people inspire me, for many different reasons. From other creatives whose work I admire to friends who soldier on despite the difficulties life throws at them.
How do you juggle all the different aspects of the job?
Not very well! I enjoy the different aspects, I even like doing my accounts (is that weird?) but I’m definitely better at some aspects than others.
What advice would you give to people looking to buy jewellery from independent makers, but who don’t know where to look or how to go about it?
Seek out independent jewellery shops and galleries that will stock jewellery by independent makers, this can give you a feel of what’s available and a starting point to look up makers online. We’re generally friendly types and happy to answer any questions and help give advice on purchases.
There are many high quality craft fairs around now where you can meet makers and feel and try on pieces of jewellery and social media is a particularly good place to see a wide range of contemporary jewellery. Most makers will have websites that you can refer to and most likely buy directly or at least contact them and start a conversation.