For a long time I have wanted to have a monthly post on my blog that is dedicated to other businesses and guest bloggers. Something a bit different from listening to me waffle on every week! I have finally gotten around to sorting it out and here is the first (hopefully of many)! Without further ado, this is 5,4,3,2,1 Things about Boy and Bear. Enjoy!
Hello! My name is Judith and I am a keepsake jeweller based in sunny Shropshire near the Welsh Borders. I’m a mummy to two little wildlings who are 1 & 3 years old and married to Dan who keeps me sane in the madness!
I started my business; Boy and Bear in the summer of 2015 when I was unable to return to work following my eldest son’s birth. I was slightly obsessed with his little feet and tiny fingers which sparked off an interest in immortalising those precious first moments. I took casts of his hands and feet, I used air dry clay to make memory stones and I used his prints to make paintings and pictures but then I discovered metal clay and that’s what really kick-started me wanting to run my own business. I taught myself all I needed to know and practised until I could practise no more, I made pieces for family and friends then launched officially in the June.
I absolutely love what I do, from opening the envelope containing those little prints to sending off your heirloom piece of sterling silver jewellery, every process and every moment makes me happy.
I hope to impart some of my knowledge in this guest blog and that you find it interesting.
So, lets begin…
My 5 inspirations
1. This one is pretty easy for me. The first would be my eldest son, his toes inspired my journey and he’s still my little inspiration now, the things he does and the things he says, the way he’s growing into a wonderful little human, spur me on, on a daily basis. He is also one half of the Boy & Bear name too.
2. I’m not going to go through these 5 in importance order because number 2 is our dog! Her name is Lola but she resembles a teddy bear so since she became a member of our family her nickname has been Bear. She is the other half of my business name. She’s also pretty much the only member of the household that listens to me! Her nose and paws have taken me in a different direction in the last 12 months for which I am eternally grateful, you can check her nose cast out at www.boyandbear.design if you fancy.
3. My husband also inspires me, his determination to provide for his family and his refusal to quit even when things are tough drives me on. His transformation into a father has been wonderful to watch, he dotes on our son’s and I couldn’t wish for anyone better to share my life with.
4. Enough of the gushy though! My youngest son and his laid back, calm nature also inspires me, I’m learning from him everyday. He’s teaching me to let go a little and not get so stressed over the little things. I’m sure that will change when he hits the infamous “terrible twos” but for now I’m taking his measured approach and running with it!
5. And finally its Shropshire! The countryside, the landmarks, the nature. I love it. I love walking in the local woods and foraging for things I can make in to jewellery or working out how I can incorporate the Ironbridge or Ludlow Castle into my pieces. I’m working on a whole range based on the rolling Shropshire Hills as we speak and I can’t wait to get it finished. Although I’m not from around these parts originally, this is well and truly my home.
4 tools I love to use
1. The first would have to be my hands. I love the way the clay feels as I’m shaping it or manipulating it. I use my fingers to smooth surfaces, to impress details and to shape pieces at each stage of the process. I would much rather use my hands than tools. I also prefer hand polishing pieces to a mirror shine over using my rotary tool, I feel like I get a better finish when I can control and measure the force I am using when sanding and polishing.
2. Saying that, I also love my dremel! I wouldn’t be without it for some of the larger pieces I make, it cuts out a lot of time and energy, especially if I’m working to a deadline. I like the versatility of it and also prefer it for when I am using traditional silversmithing techniques after pieces have been fired or if I’m working with sheet metal.
3. It might sound strange but I have a favourite paintbrush which I use daily. I couldn’t be without it. I use it to smooth out clay, to add embellishments, to remove imperfections, to rehydrate clay if it’s starting to dry out as I’m working. Honestly, it’s one of the most useful things I own and if you’re going to try out working with metal clay you’ll need one of your own!
4. The other tool I love to use is my photopolymer stamp maker. You may have wondered how us keepsake artists get your loved ones hand or footprints into your finished piece. A teeny tiny photopolymer stamp is how. I edit the prints I receive and shrink them down to the right size for the piece you’ve chosen – 4mm is the smallest I’ve worked with, right the way up to 5cm depending on what I’m making. I then use photopolymer plates and UV light to create the little stamps which are impressed into the clay before it is dried and fired to become sterling silver. I couldn’t do my job without it.
3 things that make my work unique
1. Well, me! There are a fair few keepsake artists around who create similar items to me. We each create the standard shapes like hearts and stars, we use the same raw materials and we mostly all work from home. What makes Boy and Bear keepsakes unique is me, my story, my family, my home. Along with my tenacity, determination, passion and love for what I do. There is only one of me after all!
2. Secondly it’s you, or rather your loved ones. The prints you send me are unique. I will never see two of the same fingerprints in my lifetime. I will never see the same shaped foot or hand. The prints, drawings or handwriting you send me are the defining factor in how your keepsake will turn out.
3. And thirdly your imagination. If you’d like a hand print pendant in the shape of a bear, you’ve got it. If you’d like a fingerprint on the chest of a robin it’s yours. If what you see is not what you want then I will work with you to create it. Some of my all time favourite pieces have been ones that I will never make again.
2 mistakes I have made
Well now… Only two?! There’s been a few.
1. The main one that sticks out is before I started kiln firing my pieces and working with sterling silver. You can fire fine silver with a blow torch, the kind you’d find in a kitchen for making crème brulee (ultimate favourite dessert right there!!) and I was firing a footprint heart. You have to make sure the piece is cherry red when firing and hold it at that temperature until it has “sintered” and become silver. Well, I held the torch a little (read a lot!) too close and melted my beautifully crafted pendant. Needless to say I’ve never made that mistake again!!
2. Another one I can recall is when I was polishing a ring and I snapped the bezel holding the stone clean off. That was really annoying because I had to destroy the setting to remove the stone in order to reset it. So frustrating given I’d done all the hard work and was simply giving it one final polish
1 project I am proud of
That would have to be this pair of Kingfishers. My customer wanted something with her late Father’s fingerprint and initial on so both she and her Mother had a tangible piece of him to keep with them. He sadly passed away whilst being cared for in the Kingfisher Care Home and had a love gardening and birds so she chose a Kingfisher sat on a twig for the shape of their pendants. His fingerprint formed the birds wing and his initial, in his handwriting, was on the reverse. It meant everything to me to ensure they were as perfect as they could be and I couldn’t be prouder of how they turned out or of the feedback I received from my customer. It was a true honour.
So, that’s my 54321 blog for the lovely Kelly, I hope you found it informative and if you’d like to know more, feel free to hop on over and see me. J xx
Thank you so much to Judith for a really lovely and very interesting blog this week. I truly enjoyed reading her answers to my questions and loved learning about how she brings her work together. Make sure to pop over to her page and check it out.
I really hope you enjoyed it too. I wonder who next months 5,4,3,2,1, Things will be all about!