Interview with a Silversmith

December 4, 2012

I’ve got something a bit different for you today. My talented friend Emma, who has posted on this very blog before, recently set up her own jewellery studio called Emma Leonard Handcrafted Jewellery. Emma teaches several different courses ranging from beginner to advanced, including term long classes, hen parties and weekends to make your own wedding jewellery. She also designs and makes her own beautiful jewellery and has just launched her new collection, called ‘Fifties Leaf’. I think you’ll agree that her work is absolutely stunning and would make the perfect Christmas present. I especially like this gorgeous drop pendant.

Drop Pendant1

Fifties Leaf Drop Pendant

I thought it would be fun to do an interview with Emma, as well as giving me an opportunity to be nosy 🙂


What is your background? Where did you learn silversmithing and what attracted you to it?
I did a BTEC Art foundation course after leaving school and specialised in 3D design. I was really lucky that I had a good tutor who advised me to look at the BA Jewellery and Silversmithing course at London Guildhall University (formerly John Cass). She was right, I loved it.

Emma filing at her work bench

Emma filing at her work bench

How did you move into teaching? What do you like about that side of your work?

I started teaching as maternity cover at my local F.E college, and really enjoyed it (although having no experience to start with it was a very steep learning curve!). Once I realised I was going to continue teaching full time I did my PGCE which really helped me develop how I teach. It’s really rewarding helping other people to learn new skills, seeing people grasp a technique and be happy with the things they have made.

Emma teaching

Teaching a hen party

Has having a child changed anything about how you approach your work / influenced your designs at all?
It’s made me work faster! I think now my time in the studio is limited I procrastinate less. I’m still learning to be more realistic with what I can achieve in the time I have – it’s taken me a while to adjust to this level of multi-tasking!

You recently set up your own studio. How was your experience of setting it up from scratch? Anything you wish you’d know in advance?
I was lucky that I already had experience running a studio from my previous teaching job, so things like buying equipment and the day to day side of things wasn’t too much of an issue. Actually finding suitable premises was much harder than I thought, and the physical setting up of the studio took longer than I planned for (even with some fantastic helpers). I’m still getting to grips with the promotional side of things – I wish I’d had time to do a course which looked at promoting small businesses first rather than learning as I go along.

Emma's studio

Emma's studio

As someone who has developed a craft addiction later in life, I am interested in ways people can turn their hobbies into careers. Do you have any advice for people who have developed an interest in jewellery design and would like to take it further?
Definitely get to know what else is out there – go to shows or galleries and see what other makers are selling and work out what you like as a maker. Having knowledge of trends and pricing makes your work stronger. Also, as you develop your making skills try and work out your own style as a maker. I think if you make something that you like and enjoy making you’ll find that other people will like it too, rather than trying to make something that you think will appeal to everyone.

Abstract pendant large

Fifties Leaf Abstract Pendant

What courses do you run and do you have a favourite?
I run terms of weekly jewellery making classes, and also one-day and weekend workshops that focus on a specific technique (for example enamelling or etching). Hmm, the weekly classes are nice to teach as the students really have a chance to develop their skills and it’s good to get to know people over a term….but the weekend workshops are fun as they give people a chance to try something new, and I love it when a complete beginner makes something they can go home and be proud to wear. I can’t pick a favourite!


Lots of tools

What other arts/crafts do you like to do?
There never seems to be enough time, but I have a box of fabric and sewing bits and bobs that I always mean to do something with. I have a lovely anniversary sampler kit from Jacqui P Crafts which I started over a year ago and still haven’t managed to finish.

What artists do you admire and why? Would you say they’ve influenced your work at all?
I love the work of Angie Lewin – the way she interprets natural forms is really inspiring. I really like Charley Harper illustrations too. Jewellery wise there are hundreds of people whose work I admire. I always have a soft spot for Grainne Morton for her beautiful collages of found objects, and Katy Hackney for her amazing combinations of pattern and shape.

Fifties Leaf Solid Leaf Studs

What was the inspiration for your latest collection? Can you talk us through your process?
I have a simple leaf design that I like to use and has become my sort of signature design, so my latest work still has that as its starting point. I really love fifties design, and have been looking at fifties fabric prints as colour inspiration. I’ve not used colour that much in my work before so it’s been interesting to see how that works with the forms and patterns I like to use. I tend to start off on paper, collecting together odd doodles, and then develop an idea in 3D. There is always a period of time spent shuffling bits of metal around like a jigsaw puzzle until I start to get designs I like.

Quad bangle leaf charms

Leaf Quad Bangle with Charms

Finally, you have an amazing biscuit tin in your studio, what is your favourite biscuit?
At the moment – Oreo style cookies, yum. I’m a fickle biscuit fan though, if you asked me again in a couple of weeks it would probably be something different!




Emma’s studio is located near to Bournemouth in the UK. If you’re in the area then she is having an open studio for Christmas this Saturday and Sunday where you’ll be able to pick up some seasonal specials such as the gorgeous earrings below. You can find more details on Emma’s website here .

Snowflake Studs

If you’d like to see more of Emma’s jewellery you can find it here. Her work will be part of the Bournemouth University Art Loan Exhibition 2013 ‘The Art of Making: Handcrafted and Traditional Skills’ and also in a show at the university’s Atrium Gallery from Thurs 25 April – Sat 29 June 2013 entitled ‘The Art of Making: Handcrafted 3D works’.

Details of all her classes can be found here and to stay updated with any promotions and new course details you can follow Emma on Facebook here.


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