I haven’t interviewed anyone on my blog for quite a while so what better way to celebrate my first interview of 2014 than by welcoming a friend to my blog – the very lovely and incredibly talented Breige King. Breige and I worked together at NHS Direct until she took the plunge last year and left to concentrate on her ever-growing jewellery business. To give up the day job to work full time on your creative passion is something that many of us strive for and Breige is the perfect example of making a real success of going freelance.
So, without further ado I’m dragging Breige away from her workbench and making her put down her tools to find out what makes her tick and just how she’s managed to get to where she is today.
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today. First off, for anyone not familiar with your work how would you describe what you do?
I’m an independent jewellery designer working with gold, silver and precious stones using traditional silversmithing techniques. Whilst I enjoy working with newly sourced metal and stones, my true passion is working with a piece of jewellery that has meaning, perhaps a piece left by a loved one, taking it and breathing life back into it. With any piece I make, the privilege is all mine – for someone to come to me and ask me to make them an engagement band, a wedding ring, remodel a piece of jewellery – it’s such an honour. It’s as if I step outside of my life straight into theirs…
Being a writer I can certainly relate to that, immersing myself in my characters’ lives. Have you always been creative?
Mmm? I’ve always been a ‘maker’ without a doubt. As children, my sister and I used to save our pocket money and visit the local haberdashery in Chipping Sodbury. We’d buy packets of sequins, feathers and beads and turn them into magnificent earrings! Our poor mother ‘Ooohed’, ‘Aaahed’ and modeled every creation and so fed my habit of making! I never lost that ‘creative’ bug and dabbled in many crafts over the years.
I used to write mini-plays and perform them with a friend to our mums and long-suffering brothers, and I never lost that creative bug either. How did you then turn that initial childhood passion turn into jewellery making?
Being forced to give up my horse after a nasty fall left me with two partially fused discs and meant I had huge crater in my life – not that my four children didn’t take up time of course! This is where evening classes at The Orchard Studios in Kingswood, Bristol filled that gap – silversmithing sessions – the rest, as they say, is history!
You quit your job just a few months ago to concentrate on your jewellery business – has going freelance met your expectations? What have been the highs and lows?
After five months freelance it still doesn’t really feel like a job! I left part time employment in August 2013 – somehow, at the same time my business demand went through the sky. Was it fate that I left when I did? Who knows! I had an exhibition booked for September/October so the time seemed right. The Peacock Art Trail in Corsham took my exposure away from friends and family and internet selling and into the domain of those actively seeking art – I’ve really not stopped since. There is always something missing from a photograph compared to the real thing. I guess it’s to do with seeing in all dimensions.
My highlight has to be a complete stranger telling me that my calibre of creative work was what was missing from a long established county fair that I can’t name!
Freelancing does come with minor drawbacks of course, it can often be quite a solitary existence. That and the extreme effort involved in making myself look human in the morning in the knowledge that no one except the postie will even see me!
But at least you’re making the effort even if it is just for the postie! As for freelancing being a solitary existence, where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere and anywhere. I’m a really random person when it comes to the bare facts. I love to name my pieces, to give them an identity, to tell a story. Sweet Dreams, this was one of the frequent designs that woke me frantically from sleep, clutching for a pen and paper. La Pelosa, an aquamarine ring named after the clearest, crystal blue sea I’ve ever seen. Little Satsuma, a small but very sweet orange sapphire stacking ring. Something Blue, a modern twist on an engagement ring – set with a striking natural blue diamond – I could go on and on and on…
What are your favourite pieces that you’ve designed and the story behind them?
Every piece is special without a single doubt. Some pieces tug my heart strings more than others. I always cry at sad (and happy) movies and often shed a little tear over a piece of my work. Strangely, given my (fading) red hair it’s rarely to do with temper or anger (though my children and dogs do inherently know when is a good time to ‘not bother’ me and when to ask for those new trainers!)
I was recently contacted to remodel a set of wedding and engagement rings I named ‘Memories’. By some chance, I had worked with the customer some 20 years previously, she hadn’t realised this when she’d approached me regarding the commission. Her commission was tinged with sadness but also great joy – celebrating life and knowing that her son will always be in her heart… A great privilege to be part of this – and for a friendship reunited.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of giving up their day job and turning their passion (whether writing, illustration, pottery etc.) into their full time job?
Trust your gut instinct and try to do something that sets you apart – don’t be scared to let your personality shine through.
You won’t need to be told to work hard if you love what you do. You might however, need to be told when to switch off, when to step away and when to chill out – I hear you family! 😉
Don’t be distracted by social media other than when working it to your advantage!
Do make sure that you have a like minded friend to confer with. I’ve a good jeweller friend that I share a good few tools with, also a fair amount of ideas and problem solving, successes, failure and off loading etc! In a solitary working environment, I’d say it’s a must.
Do grasp life and live it! We humble human beings don’t have long to make our mark!
Wise words indeed Breige! What are your plans for 2014?
In 2014 I vow to become computer literate and hopefully get my website up in the near future – watch this space! (I will add a link on my blog to Breige’s website when it’s ready.)
I’ve a few exhibitions booked already – you’ll find me at The Pound Arts Centre in Corsham, Wiltshire during Cloth Road Arts Week 3rd – 11th May 2014 and somewhere in Frome (yet to be confirmed) during Frome Open Studios over the weekends 5-6th and 12-13th July 2014, so a busy few months ahead!
I’m also working on a collection for a wonderful gallery in The Cotswolds – but don’t want to tempt fate here!
Last but not least where can people find you?
Over on Facebook, Etsy or on my new blog. I will also have my website up and running soon.
* * *
Thank you so much Breige for taking the time to share your journey from childhood ‘maker of things’, to successful independent jewellery designer. I’m sending you back to your workbench to get cracking again on making that stunning jewellery. I love the fact that I have such talented friends both in real life and online.
Breige takes commissions and there are also beautiful pieces that can be bought from her via Etsy. Also, if you like her Facebook page then you can get to drool at her creations on a regular basis. Just saying. 😉