Hi Grainne, thank you for doing the interview with us today. I know that you are part of Metal Clay Ltd.’s Metal Clay Maker program and you are one of their most successful ambassadors. Can we start off with you telling us a little bit more about yourself and your background, and what brought you originally to Art Clay?
I’m a mother of three based in Poole, Dorset, UK. I have always had a strong interest in arts and crafts and have had many creative hobbies in the past including pottery, mosaics, stained glass, and jewelry making. I originally trained as a psychiatric nurse but after the birth of my third child in 2011 I felt the need to improve my work/life balance. I sought a new challenge that would allow me to use my creative skills. I enrolled on a two day workshop in Brighton where I learnt how to miniaturize and imprint handprints, footprints and fingerprints into silver clay.
I learnt all the basics and came home feeling totally inspired. I soon found myself hooked. Initially I made keepsake pieces for family and friends until I gained confidence and capability. I spent many months practicing creating many different pieces until I was happy, I wanted to make sure I was producing quality pieces before I offered them for sale. Later in 2011 I started my own keepsake business and ‘Times to Treasure’ was born.
Over the last 5 years my business has grown and I have been able to develop and learn new skills and challenge my creativity, I enjoy nothing more than creating bespoke and one off pieces alongside my regular keepsake jewelry. I have recently completed my Art Clay level 1and 2 diploma and hope to complete level 3 later this year.
You have mentioned that work/life balance is very important for you. How to do manage keeping a wok/life balance as an artist with three children? Sounds like a handful!
When I started my business it was difficult, I worked from my kitchen table initially and had to be careful about leaving stuff out where little hands could reach it. Before long my tools and equipment were taking over, something had to be done. As business increased I out grew my kitchen and took a giant leap forward, investing in a purpose built studio in my garden. This was a milestone and so exciting, the best thing I could have done. It means I now have dedicated space away from the family and household distractions. It's my creative oasis and I love it!
I'm lucky that I can work my business around my family's needs. I can take my children to school and be there when they come home. It's not always easy and I do have to juggle things. I often work at night finishing off orders when they are all tucked up in bed. But I have flexibility which is fantastic.
What is the main focus of your work, and where do you derive your inspiration from?
The main focus of my work is keepsake jewelry, handprints, footprints and fingerprints set into silver. It is sentimental and all the mums really love to have a keepsake from their little ones. I also sometimes get asked to create memorial pieces and more recently have done some work with a local children’s hospice. Creating keepsakes for family members of those at the end of life or with life limiting illness is a very touching and special thing to be able to do.
I get my inspiration from many different things. Recently my daughter drew me the most beautiful Mother’s day card depicting a mermaid. This inspired me to recreate her drawing in silver clay. It was such a fun project and I was really pleased with the end result.
Your business is a great example of the d.i.y. model, very much starting from the ground up and developing along the way to suit your market. What advice do you have for others that wish to make a major life/career change like this?
My main advice would be never give up. If you want something badly enough you can make it happen, stay focused, work hard and the rest will happen. When I first started my business my little boy was only a few months old and he took up most of my time but I remember thinking if I only do one thing each day to work towards making my business happen then I was a step closer to making it a success.
Networking is also very important both online via social media and within the local community. Raising my business profile and creating awareness about the products I offer has also helped greatly.
You will be teaching in Bournemouth later in the year. Is it a difficult transition for you, to go from being student to teacher? What is the biggest challenge that you face when teaching others?
I’m looking forward to teaching a silver clay course at The Arts University Bournemouth in the autumn term, having the chance to pass on my passion and knowledge for this wonderful medium is very exciting.
I have taught on a 1:1 basis in the past at my garden studio but not larger groups in a formal setting. It will be a challenge at first I'm sure but one that I will relish. I love meeting new people and this will be a fantastic opportunity that I am very excited about.
What are your future plans as an artist?
I would love to have the time to work on more one off pieces and develop new designs. I’m keen on the idea of mixing fine silver with other mediums. I love natural materials, especially wood, it would be great to collaborate with other artists and produce mixed media pieces together. I have all sorts of ideas in my head, I just need a few more hours in the day.