At the beginning of June, I finished my first collection of illustrated lockets which went on sale in the pop-up shop ‘Paper Scissors Stone’. Luckily for me, they were very popular and I am now perfecting my process and working on some new designs!
Here is a lovely blog post written about my lockets on the Made in Bristol website:
Product Stories: Martha Ford’s Lockets
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Hello Martha! How did the idea to start making jewellery first come about?
I had been selling prints for a while but wanted to branch out and put my illustrations onto other surfaces; the idea of people being able to wear my artwork really appealed to me. Lockets are lovely mysterious artefacts and I thought they tied in nicely with my occasionally off-key and surreal artwork so those instantly became my little canvases.
Tell us about your inspiration behind your new jewellery range?
It’s not really a cohesive collection at this point although that is something I would definitely like to create in the future. It’s more a small assortment of quirky designs inspired by the natural world. The whale, the fox and the jellyfish are all creatures that feature quite heavily in my sketchbooks but until now, I hadn’t really included them in my work. The blue tent locket is a little abstract but is actually directly inspired by one of my earlier illustrations, ‘Rest in the Dark Woods’. And my ‘space shuttle’ locket doesn’t really fit into the set at all but as I have such an interest in all things Space-related and a big Sci-fi reader to boot, I couldn’t resist creating something along those lines.
Do you see any links between the discipline of illustration, and of jewellery?
Well they are obviously both very creative disciplines. There is definitely a big crossover between the two when we are talking items such as illustrated lockets and badges/pins as these are direct little copies of your artwork. I think one of the main reasons illustrators branch out into disciplines like T-shirt or Jewellery design is because it allows them to reach a wider audience. Not everyone buys artwork and prints for their walls, some people prefer to wear their favourite images on their person.
Have you taken inspiration from any existing jewellers?
I have always loved old lockets so this jewellery format was an obvious choice for me. Being a mostly paper-based artist, when I first started exploring jewellery-making, I had no idea how I was going to transfer my images to metal, in this case brass. I didn’t even really know if it was possible so I had to do a lot of research.
I came across this wonderful artist, Lee May Foster-Wilson whilst reading Lionheart magazine (find our interview with editor Helen Martins here) and I actually despaired just a tiny bit as her little lockets are lovely and exactly what I was aspiring to; striking compositions, quirky dreamy designs and a professional finish. Her jewellery was definitely a big inspiration and her illustration work is stunning too.
Other illustrators-turned-jewellery-makers closer to home like Sally Haysom of MyBearHands were both an inspiration and a big help. Sally pointed me in the direction of shrink plastic (hopefully to be used in the future) and decal paper, which I am using to create the lockets at the moment. I also own a couple of her pieces and wear them religiously!
What’s the process of designing a new piece of jewellery from start to finish?
I wouldn’t call myself a jewellery designer as such as my specialism is image-making not jewellery-making and so my personal process for designing jewellery is very similar to my illustration process. It always begins with a mess of words and little drawings, quickly jotted down into a sketchbook. From this, I draw tiny rough sketches and work out which ones might work well in the small round format of the lockets.
When I started, I had a lot of drawings of cities and landscapes and some fairly detailed concepts but after a while I realised the simpler the design the better. I whittled all these ideas down until I had just 5 remaining and then turned these into my 5 illustrations to transfer onto the lockets. The finish on the lockets was something I experimented a lot with too. I really like the polished finish on other lockets but I felt for mine, I wanted a more textured, hand painted feel. I achieved this by playing around with different varnishes. Beads and charms were also carefully chosen to complement each design.
Where do you see your work progressing in the future?
More variety. I have been hunting down different brass lockets, different shapes and sizes, to transfer my images onto. As I said earlier, in future, I would definitely like to create a more cohesive collection. Creating a collection of quirky brooches really appeals to me too so I think that might be coming soon. I have a few designs ready, I am just experimenting with materials and production techniques. Aside from the jewellery, I am looking into further developing my illustrations for prints, cards and other paper goods. Although I will work to hone my craft skills further, for me it’s always about the image-making and these are all ways I can get my illustrations out to other people, to hopefully be enjoyed.