Awarded in 2022, the Creative Scotland Youth Arts Fund Bursary has helped Fife Contemporary to support Cerys Williams, a young, Fife-based jeweller. We caught up with her recently to find out what skills she has gained during the programme, who has inspired her and what she’s planning for the future…
How has your jewellery developed in the last 6 months?
When I started making jewellery, I could only really make chunky pieces but with more practice I’ve been able to refine my style and my pieces have become smaller and better for everyday wear while still having unique designs. Learning to solder has also developed my jewellery a lot. Before, all of the joins were wrapped together but now I can create smoother and more professional looking joins and edges. The bursary has also allowed me to use better quality materials, so I now make pieces in real silver.
What were the main memories of the ‘look and see’ visits? What is the favourite thing you saw and why?
My first visit was Dazzle at Dovecot Studios: it was the first time I had seen how designers could showcase and sell their work through an exhibition. On the same day we also visited the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and one of the markets at the Fringe.
In the museum we looked at different pieces of jewellery and tools that have been found which helped me think about how jewellery was made before we had modern machinery. I tried to imagine how the jewellery would have looked when it was new.
I really enjoyed going to the market as it had a comfortable and informal atmosphere. All of the jewellers were really friendly and we spoke to them about how they run their stalls and the price of renting a stall. This encouraged me to think about selling at a market in the future.
I also went to the Elements Festival in Edinburgh. It was really nice to see all of the jewellers showcasing their designs and they were so engaging! I liked seeing jewellers wearing their own designs because you could see how good it looked on them and gives the jewellery its personality.
What workshops have you attended, and what skills did they cover?
My first workshop was the soldering class with Alana at East Nook Studios in St Andrews. I learned how to solder and texture silver. I made three textured rings and a pendant, which also helped me learn how to make rings to the correct size.
At Elements I did a Perspex and Silver workshop where I made a pendant. At this workshop I learned riveting techniques and this was the first time I used a pin drill.
I also did a one-on-one stone setting session with Jacqueline Bell at Coburg House in Leith. At this session I learned the process of setting stones with a tube or bezel setting. I set a stone onto a ring I had made at home. I was taught how to polish my pieces and give them a professional and shiny finish. This was the first time I used a pendant drill and I now have my own at home that I have been practising with.
How have you started to think about developing your own work? Who have you talked you to, so you can get feedback? How has that helped you improve?
I have been trying to make new designs as part of a collection. Having collections with different sizes of jewellery will help me to offer a wider range of prices. I also keep trying to make smaller, subtle pieces that are easy to wear everyday. I would also like to use the polishing techniques I learned with Jackie to make my pieces shinier and more professional looking.
Carol Sinclair, my business mentor, encouraged me to think about making collections and creating smaller pieces to include in them. Carol has given lots of good advice about making designs that will help me build my business.
Friends and family have given me a lot of feedback on my jewellery. They have inspired me to do pieces in different shapes and sizes and to make pendants with the same design as some of my earrings.
How has the business mentor been helpful? What are the biggest challenges you’re trying to overcome?
My business mentor helped me with what text and content I should include in my website. Carol also assisted me by suggesting different ways I could present my work in photos and what images I would need for the website.
I worked with Carol to figure out my style. I found different handmade items that I like and then tried to describe why I liked them. We managed to find three keywords to describe my style; gentle, fun, practical.
Carol also helped me learn how to price handmade items properly. This has given me the confidence to charge more for my jewellery. However, finding the right price has been very difficult for me. I am still working on finalising my prices based on who my customers are and what I have to compete with.
Which jewellers have you connected to, and what do you like most about their work?
I first connected with Stefanie Cheong when I started the bursary program. We did some ‘look and see’ visits and she helped me to find courses and recommended equipment for me. One of my favourite pieces Stef makes are her interchangeable rings because I think it’s a really fun idea but its also practical so you can change the ring to go with what you’re wearing.
I met Jacqueline Bell at the stone setting class she delivered. She taught me lots of useful things and we continued to email after the course so she could help me find the equipment I needed. I really like Jackie’s Concertina collection because it’s a simple but fun design and I think it looks like folded paper.
I recently met Andrea Dritschel and she helped me with some problems I was having and also helped me find equipment I need. I really like how she uses natural forms and keeps her designs simple and abstract.
We look forward to seeing exciting new pieces from Cerys in the near future!