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Stephanie Holt Jewellery Artist Designer Maker

by Angie Boyer

Published: May 2017

Angie Boyer talks to Stephanie Holt, Winner of the craft&design Best Newcomer Award at BCTF 2017

Judging in the Newcomers Gallery at the British Craft Trade Fair is always really enjoyable, it's great to see the work of 70 designer makers showing at the event for the very first time and to learn more about what they do, how and why they do it. Their enthusiasm in the early days of their creative careers is a joy to see and, whilst some are understandably a little bit nervous, others have a confidence in their work and the way they present it that shines out.

So it was with jewellery designer maker Stephanie Holt when we chatted with her on her stand at this year's BCTF in Harrogate. She was clearly delighted to be announced as our winner at the Awards presentation evening.

Our craft&design award joins a number of prestigious awards that Stephanie has won recently, so I asked her to tell me more about her multi-award winning work.

One of your first pieces to win an award was your 'ONE' engagement and wedding ring set which won the Weston Beamer annual design competition last year...

I really love these two rings. Initially I wasn’t massively keen on designing wedding and engagement rings, it’s not something that I had naturally thought of doing. But I love a challenge and threw myself into it, wanting to do something different. 

 

My starting point was big, Brutalist architecture, imposing concrete structures with amazing lines and forms and intersecting shapes. These buildings really appeal to me and I really think they fit with the subject. I felt that if I were to get married or spend my life with someone it would be because the relationship was strong and powerful and supportive like these buildings. And more importantly, simple, no games, straightforward and honest, like the simplicity and minimalism of the architecture, the clean lines. So that’s where the inspiration started for the rings. 

I also wanted to make engagement and wedding rings that would represent two people, independent and strong, great on their own but come together perfectly to become part of another new whole, and so I came up with the interlinking pieces. 

'ONE' is very different from your more recent work, your 'UFOs'...

I guess the UFOs (Unique Finger Ornaments) do look quite different, but I actually think there are a lot of similar threads running through my work. There’s a kind of geometric feel, strong lines and a minimalist sort of style. 

One of my big inspirations is natural minerals. I love the forms and colours and the fact that they occur naturally in our world. That’s what inspired these rings. Again there are echoes of Brutalist architecture here. The shapes and forms of some minerals could be mini tower blocks, albeit very colourful ones! 

 

At the time of designing the UFOs I was reading a lot about the anthropocene age, plastic appearing in our geology and our throwaway culture. So I decided to use resins for this collection.

I wanted to say something about our man-made creations being just as valuable as natural wonders and so shouldn’t be so readily discarded.  The amount of colours available in resin seems almost infinite, it is so versatile and combined with the precious metals it looks beautiful. The names of the rings are all from mineral terminology and relate to their shape.  

I like the fact that people are surprised that they are ‘rings’ (or hand furniture as I like to call them, seeing as they are not round) and that they are surprised at how comfortable they are. They are little sculptures for the hand. 

You ventured into something new last year with  your prize winning art medal 'Weight of the World'...

The art medal was a whole new thing for me, it’s such a brilliant art form. So much can be expressed in this compact and quite intimate piece.  The viewer gets to hold it and contemplate it very closely. I was introduced to art medals at the School of Jewellery where we were given the task to design and make one for the British Art Medal Society’s student medal project. 

 

I hadn’t done any wax carving before so I did some experiments, practised a lot and finally the piece was carved out of one massive lump of green wax! It took so long to do, but it was really enjoyable. It was such a lovely process, almost meditative. 

When I found out I had won the Grand First Prize, I was over the moon. The prize is sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Founders and is awarded for excellence in the medallic medium. One of the things the judges said they really liked was how tactile my piece is and how, when you see it, you just want to pick it up. It’s quite heavy so the name ‘Weight of the World’ worked perfectly with the physical properties and the subject matter. 

You also received Awards from the Goldsmiths' Craft and Design Council...

Yes! When I received the letter telling me I had won something at the awards I was really excited. You don’t find out until the evening itself what you have won so there is a great build up of suspense. I had entered my UFO Conchoidal in pink in the silver jewellery section and a link bracelet in the production jewellery section and I was awarded Silver for both! 

 

And the National Association of Jewellers Special Award....

This was so unexpected! It is one of the special awards given at the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council awards evening, it’s not a section you actually enter, although all relevant jewellery entries are considered. The award is to identify, reward and promote creative and distinctive jewellery, which at the same time has the potential to be commercially viable. When they announced that I had won the Gold for my UFO Conchoidal in pink, I just couldn’t believe it! 

How important have these awards been in establishing your brand/business?

As well as confirming my career choice they have really boosted my confidence that my work is exciting and interesting to others. I think everyone has these moments of terrible self-doubt but getting into an exhibition, or a fair, or winning an award helps a lot. It was quite a big decision to change my career, but I definitely feel like I did the right thing after such a successful couple of years. I think the awards will help establish my brand and me as a designer.  They give me the confidence to approach retailers and galleries and I think they show the buyers the potential in my designs.

You mention a change of career...

I’ve always wanted to be an artist really since I was young, but I lacked confidence and so I did other things. But I wouldn't change those things at all! I worked on the World Rally Championships for a few years and travelled the world, then trained as a teacher and worked for nine years in mainstream and special needs secondary education. Then a big car crash made me stop and think about the future - and so here I am. 

And so here she is indeed! 

 

Stephanie's multi-award winning work will be at...

Until 25 June: Her UFO pieces are at Kath Libbert Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire

3-6 May: The Festival of Silver ‘Inspired’ exhibition at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, London

28 June - 1 July, exhibiting at New Designers ‘One Year On’, Business Design Centre, London. 

26 Sept - 1 Oct, Goldsmiths' Fair, Week One, Goldsmiths' Hall, London. 

The Artists in Residence exhibition is also on in May at the School of Jewellery, Birmingham. 

 

www.stephanieholt.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 
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