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Meet local maker Claire Troughton
Claire Troughton produces stunning jewellery collections celebrating the sculptural plants and tiny creatures of the great British countryside. She is fascinated by capturing a tiny snap-shot of life; A butterfly gently landing on a flower, the first curl of a leaf as it begins to fade and the fat and furry bumble bees buzzing around in the summer. Using traditional goldsmithing techniques, starting with flat sheet or wire, she translates the delicacy and fleeting beauty of nature into more permanent objects of desire. Through the use of predominantly silver, with touches of gold, a distinctive style has been created. She completed her BA(hons) degree at Edinburgh College of Art in 1995 and then joined a 1 year business course in The Jewellery Quarter before establishing her workshop in 1996. She will be celebrating 25 years in business in 2021.
What first fuelled your passion to make / create your designs / product?
As a child I was always making things. I remember making a range of fruit and veg out of Plasticine, so that I could have a greengrocer's shop. I carefully sculpted 10mm long bananas, onions no bigger than a paracetamol tablet and the tiniest grapes. On another rainy afternoon I spent hours making an old cardboard box into a doll's house. The image sticks with me because it was a long thin box about 35cm long x 10cm wide and not at all suitable for the project, but I had a vision of what it could be. There was a bedroom and living room with furniture that I made from cardboard and a study with desk, tiny 10mm pencil made out of orange card with black card for the graphite and a wastepaper basket that I spent ages deciding on just how much crumpled paper it should contain. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that it was always the small details that fascinated me. My love of art and making lead me to art college where my tutor recognised my attraction to the details. He suggested a degree in jewellery design, which I had been unaware was an option. I settled on Edinburgh College of Art and as soon as I entered the workshop it just felt like home.
Tell us about the origins of your business.
After my degree I gained a place on the Taylor/ Burgess Business development scheme run by Peter Taylor in The Jewellery Quarter. I was given a shared workshop for a year and advice on business development, which was invaluable. The scheme gave me opportunities to attend trade fairs and sell my products to craft galleries and shops and really develop my products.
What’s your motto?
If I don't know how to make it I can learn. I try never to turn down a commission because I'm not sure how I will make it. I think everyday is a learning day, so I'm more than happy to seek out advice on tricky techniques and hopefully pick up a new skill along the way.
How would you describe your designs / products?
I create organic inspired jewellery with a playful yet elegant feel. The combination of silver and gold gives a delicious warmth to the pieces.
What was the first success / landmark moment for your designs / product range?
I was selected as a finalist in The Foreign & Commonwealth Office competition to design gifts to be given to delegates attending the G8 summit. Cherie Blair was one of the judges and she selected my design for cufflinks. Unfortunately I didn't win, but I was invited to attend a reception at 10 Downing Street with Tony & Cherie Blair, the designer James Dyson and the other finalists, a real day to remember!
Tell us about your materials - where do you source your materials from?
I use precious metals predominantly and these come from bullion dealers in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, but I also source gemstones from all over the world.
Tell us about your making process?
Most of my work starts with the raw materials that are then worked into organic looking forms and hand engraved with tiny details. Occasionally I also use wax carving to sculpt the perfect form. Sometimes elements are cast from these original masters and then finished with more detailing and gold-plate that I apply in my own studio.
Have you ever had any interesting commissions?
I am often commissioned to make one-off pieces. There's nothing I like more than working on an individual project to create the client's dream commission, whether this be an engagement ring, wedding ring or special item of jewellery.
Do you have a favourite of the Birmingham museums?
If so, why? I love the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter unsurprisingly. The workshop there is just so fascinating and the story behind it equally so. I was actually Artist in Residence at the museum at the start of my career. I loved spending time there and also passing on my skills to hobbyists and enthusiastic school groups.
And finally, a tourist arrives in Birmingham for the first time ever, where do you take them?
Well it would have to be a tour of the Jewellery Quarter, pointing out all the interesting buildings that they might otherwise miss as well as showing them the real workshops behind the shops.