Beehives! I don’t think there’s a lot of jewellery inspired by them.
But Emily Higham based her work around them after her Dad started keeping bees.
Her enamelled work has a beautiful, shimmery and delicate quality, which would be wonderfully light to wear. And I love the effect her enamelling technique produces, which is so different from anything else I’ve seen.
Read here how studying at Edinburgh helped her on her creative journey and how the enamelling process is important to the end design…
First things first – is it tea or coffee when you get up in the morning?!
Always tea! I can’t function without a good cup of tea in the morning!
How would you describe your jewellery?
I would describe my work as organic, colourful and tactile.
What materials do you use?
I use a mixture of metal and enamel to create my jewellery pieces. These are a combination of metals such as silver and copper, then I combine them with powdered vitreous enamels and industrial liquid enamel.
Where do you create your jewellery?
I have my own studio in Preston, Lancashire! It’s not very glamorous and in winter, the kiln is constantly on to warm up the place. But I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have my own space and that I can work at all hours when I need to.
Your work has such gorgeous patterns and texture, where do you get your inspiration from?
Beehives and the beautiful colours and patterns of honeycomb inspire my work. I’m inspired by the rectangular, structural shapes of beehive boxes and the layers they’re built upon, contrasted with the organic patterns and gradient colours of honeycomb. Then I use enamel to translate these elements onto metal.
I use a combination of vitreous enamel (layered underneath industrial liquid enamel) in which I combine colours together and hand draw into the enamel. Then I use a technique called ‘Sgraffito’ to draw into the enamel and scratch away with a tool of some kind. Usually a craft knife!
The piece is then fired, which sets the hand drawn patterns and sometimes add lustre or silver leaf for a beautiful shimmery effect.
I love this process! Because the enamel is hand drawn and because of the nature of the enamel when fired in the kiln, each piece comes out unique and entirely different from the last.
It’s the unpredictability that makes the process so special. It makes each piece one of a kind and adds to the organic aesthetic I like to create in my work.
What is it about beehives that you love so much?
My dad keeps bees! He went to a beekeeping class years ago and learnt all about them and how to keep them.
He now has hives, so that’s where I get my inspiration from. Looking into the hives, exploring them and learning all about how bees make honey.
I’ve always been so fascinated by these wonderful creatures and how important they are to our environment. And in a way, I want my work to pay homage to them.
How do you choose which colours to use in your work?
I love experimenting with enamel, especially with colour. Over the past three years (since I graduated), I’ve been exploring different colours and combining colours that work well together. I’ve always been drawn to yellows and oranges, which is perhaps why I’m so drawn to honeycomb!
Did you come from a creative family?
Yes, I would say I come from a creative family. My mum makes beautiful crafts for home and my grandma is a wonderful painter! My cousin is also a musician, so there’s definitely a creative streak in the family!
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
I don’t think I have a favourite piece from my collection as there’s so much variety within it. I do love making earrings though! Earrings are definitely my favourite pieces to make and I love how versatile they can be.
There’s a variety of earrings within my collection – such as bold, statement earrings to smaller, more wearable studs.
I love these silver and enamel earrings with rectangular wire attached (above). They’re really enjoyable to make and I love the movement and tactility of the wire. I also love the blue combined with the oxidised silver.
Blackening the silver really compliments the blue of the enamel and these are quite a popular design! I’ve also made these in a blue and gold combination with rectangular 9ct gold wire. Again, I love this combination. I think blue and gold goes so well together and I’ve really enjoyed working with gold lustre – which is how I get the gold effect on the enamel.
I’m also loving making these framed drop earrings (below) at the moment! I love the combination of blue and bright tangerine orange, with little flecks of silver leaf.
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
I’m most proud of my first piece from my degree show. It was the first piece I made for my degree and I still love it to this day! (See below).
I don’t have many original pieces left from my degree collection, as a lot of them found new homes but I’m holding on to this one as it means so much to me. It was the piece that made everything click into place.
What’s your favourite part of being a Jewellery Designer?
I love making. The making is my favourite part of being a jewellery designer. I love the enamelling process and the outcomes that this brings to my work.
For me, it’s a long process – as each piece is fired multiple times but I love how unpredictable this process can be, it makes every piece truly unique.
I also love that I can bring colour and drawing into my work. I’ve always been heavily inspired by drawings and printmaking and this wonderful process allows me to translate these elements that I love so much, into wearable jewellery pieces.
What’s your proudest moment of being a Jewellery Designer?
In 2017 I won the Guild of Enamellers bursary award and I was so thrilled. It happened after I’d finished university, moved home and set up a studio. It really gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with my work. and it was lovely to be recognised by such a prestigious board.
I’d just finished university and I wasn’t that confident with my enamelling technique. However (with help from the Guild,) I learnt about different enamel techniques and they gave me a very generous prize of beautiful enamel sets and samples. This allowed me to experiment, explore and develop my work to what it is today.
Do you work directly with customers? Or sell your work to galleries?
I currently sell my work through galleries throughout the country and take part in various exhibitions. Also I do shows where I can meet customers and talk to them directly about my work. I love discussing my inspiration and processes. It’s always so lovely to meet customers, both old and new.
It’s always so interesting to hear what other people think of my work! They often say my work reminds them of razor shells or snake skin, which is fascinating!
What’s your design process?
I always have a sketchbook to hand as well as samples on my bench and pieces that haven’t found a use or haven’t been worked into a piece yet.
I refer to older pieces for new inspiration. Whether that’s developing the old designs into something new, or using new colour combinations and working them into the older designs.
How important is jewellery design to you?
It’s more about the enamel process for me, than designing. The process is what inspires me daily and even though it’s a long process, I find it quite therapeutic! Seeing the textures and patterns of the piece when I’ve drawn into them, is what I love.
How did you start creating jewellery?
I started creating Jewellery when I was at college, often making wearable art pieces. I read about a Jewellery and Silversmithing degree at Edinburgh College of Art when I was applying for University and instantly knew that was what I wanted to do.
Studying in Edinburgh was so inspiring. I love the city and I feel so lucky to have been able to spend four years of my life studying in such a beautiful city with so much culture. I think that really contributed to my creative journey.
Why did you fall in love with jewellery design?
I fell in love with enamel during my second year of University, where we had a workshop with enameller, Jessica Turrell.
Since then, and throughout the rest of my time studying, I always ended up drawn to enamel and incorporated it somehow throughout all my projects. I knew it was the media that I wanted to use for my work and in fourth year took the plunge!
I’ve always loved that you can draw into enamel, use graphite, stencils and so many other techniques to combine colours and create your own drawing on metal.
I feel so much more confident with my skills as an enameller now and have learnt over the past three years to be patient with it! It can be a very frustrating media to use and it’s taken a while for me to be at a place where I am finally confident with it.
What are your aspirations for your business?
I’d love to have my own online shop! I would also love to run and teach workshops when I feel fully confident. I think enamel is such a great medium to use and I get a lot of people interested in what I do and how I do it, so it would be nice to share that one day.
Where do you feel most inspired?
If I do a show (or an exhibition) where I’m surrounded by makers and beautiful things, I always come away feeling totally inspired and driven.
I recently took part in Elements festival of silver and gold in Edinburgh and the variety of work there was amazing! I find these events to be brilliant opportunities to meet the makers I’ve admired for so long, and see their wonderful work.
How do you juggle all the different aspects of the job?
I find it quite difficult to balance these aspects, especially around Christmas time! It’s a challenge with a part time job and a new little chocolate Labrador puppy, who takes up a lot of my time!
It’s not always easy to balance. I find I have to be pretty strict with how I spend my time and which tasks to prioritise.