We asked Josephine Tournebize, a professional jewelry designer based at the Red House Glass Cone, some questions about her experience of working in the jewelry industry. Here’s what she said –
How long have you been a jeweler and what made you decide to use the medium you work with?
I have been a professional jeweler since 2013. I first worked for an established onsite repair and retail jewelry shop and then started teaching jewelry making to young mixed ability students. In 2015 I decided to fuse all the skills and services I learned through my experiences and open my own jewelry business. I have always loved jewelry, art and fashion as well as working with my hands. I decided to specialise in silver and gold as those metals are beautiful to work with and to wear.
How did you learn to be a jeweler? Did you take classes?
Do an apprenticeship?
I first learned to design and produce handcrafted jewelry pieces at the School of Jewelry in Birmingham. This was a 2 years Extended Diploma Level 3 in Art and Design Craft. We were taught traditional skills and were introduced to silver. I consider my experience as a jobbing jeweler to be a great part of my learning too as it helped me to stretch my practical skills and introduced me to gold. I also attended the Prince’s Trust Explore Enterprise Course and completed a Level 3 Award in Education and Training (also known as PTTLS).
What is your favourite part of the process?
It is difficult to say but I think it is actually all the processes involved in transforming an idea and some metal into a stunning piece of jewelry. I also love to see how my students always amaze and surprise themselves during the learning process.
Have you always aspired to be a jeweler or did you ever dream of following a different path?
When I was little, I wanted to be an archeologist, but as I was growing up, I realised that the hands on part of the job was very little indeed. At college I studied literature and philosophy as well as art as a hobby. Doing research on artistic jobs, I came across jewelry making and this is how it started.
From your experience in jewelry what advice could you offer people looking to get to where you are today?
I think there are two aspects to reaching any goal: first is your motivation and second is your ability to learn and re-assess yourself along the way. I think it is helpful in the early stage not to focus on finding your niche but try everything that appears to you; who knows, your individuality may be how you combine all of your experiences together. I believe that there is often more than one way to do things, so research, ask and learn from others. Finally, jewelry making is more physical than we think so get ready to cut, burn and hurt yourself!
From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging? And how are you dealing with it?
Along the way I knew I wanted to work in the jewelry trade but working for a company as a jobbing jeweler or as a teacher felt like something was missing. This is why I decided to make the jump by starting my business and bringing those two skills together. Now, my challenge is getting customers to use my services and to keep my business running on all areas such as accountancy, design, workshops, marketing, etc. Therefore I have to be very organise, research and stay motivated.
Each of my pieces are unique and I love them all for that reason, so it is difficult to pick one. On the other hand, there is one piece that I made while I was at University which I consider to be my first great piece. It is a sterling silver chocoeur inspired by nature and architecture. I designed and created 2 elements as master models in order to cast them. This technique allowed me to recreate the exact same two shapes multiple times. I then assembled them and made a bespoke handcrafted catch for it. I love wearing this piece as it is so comfortable around the neck and it always receives great comments. I plan on develope a range based on it in the future.
Is there anything you are currently working on that you would like to tell us about?
I am organising some summer jewelry courses this year. There will be a project to complete every day for a week. I need to finalise the different projects and should be able to promote it from May for July and August. Also I am working on an 18ct white and yellow gold commission to be finish by May. It is broche & pendant as it can also be hung on a chain too. I am very excited to complete it!
Share with us your proudest moment in your career so far?…
I think it was when I won a prize for the National British Art Medal Competition in 2013. I designed and created an intricate bronze medal (125gr), based on fencing. My medal was called “En Garde” and expressed two dimensions of the sport. On one side was the mask of fencing expression of the dual and one to one. On the other side was the brotherhood of the sport. After the reward ceremony, my sponsors ” The Workshipful Company of Cutlurs” in London, commissioned me to make a copy of the medal in order for it to feature in their collection. It always feels nice when a piece has been selected for an exhibition. My work has also been featured in several magazines, this also makes me proud.