I loved Alice Barnes’ jewellery, from the first time I spotted it online.
Those architectural shapes scream contemporary with a hint of art deco – the perfect blend of modern and period. And it seems a lot of people agree with me, as not only is she celebrating her sixth year in business, she’s also picked up numerous awards along the way.
She’s now taking her designs from strength to strength and I’m delighted she said yes to being featured on The Jewellery Spot!
How would you describe your jewellery?
Linear designs inspired by the cuts and folds found in paper art. As well as architectural angles and repetitive forms.
What materials do you use?
Mainly silver and some gold, with a few semi-precious stones too. Any solid gold I use is always Fairtrade and the stones are all ethically sourced. This means fair wages and working conditions for the miners, with as little damage to the environment as possible.
My sheet-made designs use recycled silver. I’m beginning to get my cast designs made in Fairtrade silver now too. It’s a costly switch to make, but I think it’s well worth it!
Where do you create your jewellery?
At the moment I mainly work from my bench at home in Brighton. It makes it really easy to be able to work whenever I want, which is both a blessing and a curse.
But eventually I’d love to have a separate studio away from all the distractions of my flat and my favourite distraction of all – Bodhi the cat.
What’s your favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
I feel like I shouldn’t have favourites, but obviously it’s impossible not to! Out of the necklaces it has to be the Pleated Wave for its asymmetry. And I can’t leave the house without wearing earrings, so I’d have to also include my Pleated Drop earrings.
What’s your favourite part of being a Jewellery Designer?
Definitely designing a piece and the beginning of the creative process, but most of all wax carving. I’ve always loved creating sculpturally, so taking my time over this bit and seeing a 2D design come to fruition is the best! I’ll happily spend days at a time doing nothing but carving whilst listening to music, podcasts and audio books.
What’s your proudest moment of being a Jewellery Designer?
I guess I’ve had a lot of great moments over the last few years. I’ve been nominated for, and won a few awards. I’ve also picked up some amazing stockists along the way.
But the fact that I’m still able to do what I love six years into starting my own business has to be the biggest achievement of all. This might sound cheesy but it’s hard running a business of any sort alone, so I really am proud of it!
What’s your design process?
I usually start with a theme or give myself some sort of brief to begin with. This gives me a structure to work around or towards, otherwise I find the possibilities are too endless! Then I’ll draw lots of loose sketches before refining some of them and working on paper models. This gives me an idea of what they might look like in 3D (and see if the pieces will work well together).
Quite often I’ll need to make further mathematical drawings next, to make sure the angles are correct before I go on to wax carve the master patterns. I’d rather get it right on paper first, than spending lots of time on a wax, only to discover I’m not happy with it!
How did you start creating jewellery?
I always knew I wanted to have a career in 3D design, but it took me a little while to settle on jewellery. Once I did though, I knew I had to study at the Birmingham School of Jewellery.
After that I had several jobs working for independent jewellery retailers and businesses. I may have taken the long way round, but these experiences gave me so many skills and a good idea about what it’s like to run such an enterprise. Eventually it felt like the right time and I was brave enough to take the plunge and do it myself.
Where do you feel most inspired?
My favourite thing to do is to get lost in a big museum or gallery for the day, like the V&A or the British Museum. The jewellery sections are always fascinating, but I can get ideas by any number of artefacts from around the world, and any given time period.
The smallest detail in a painting, sculpture or pieces of furniture could be the starting point for a new design idea.
How do you juggle all the different aspects of the job?
It’s a hard thing to do and nothing can quite prepare you for all of the different heads you’ll have to wear if you’re going it alone! For me the best way to do it is to allocate time for each aspect. Otherwise I can easily drift from one thing to another, without getting anything finished!
I’ll set aside time in the week for whichever tasks need doing, be it creating, making stock, emails, updating my website, invoicing, social media; the list can be endless so it’s best to prioritise!
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?
There are tons of independent shops and galleries that would love to show people around and explain the different techniques and processes involved.
Seeking one of these out would be a great start. Or even better, find a local craft and design fair. Here you can meet the makers in person and talk to them about their work. Hearing the stories behind the designs can give them so much more depth. You also get a much more personal connection between the wearer and their new favourite piece of jewellery.