Meet the Maker: Lucylou Designs
Jo Bignold originally started her Folksy shop Lucylou Designs as a way to support her jewellery-making hobby, which was proving quite expensive. She never imagined it would become anything more, but her traditional techniques and hare designs proved so popular that LucyLou Designs soon became a full-time business. We caught up with Jo to learn more about her handmade jewellery, her love of hares and how it feels to be part of the craft community…
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
I’m Jo Bignold and I work in silver, and occasionally gold, designing and making jewellery. I use mainly traditional goldsmithing techniques, which have not changed much over the last couple of hundred years, to fabricate my pieces by hand from sheet silver and silver wire. I use lots of different techniques to make my jewellery, all of which are fascinating in their own right, including wax carving and lost wax casting – a technique that dates back as far as 3700 BC. You may notice that I’m *slightly* in love with hares!
I love being creative – it’s a fabulous way to express my personality.
Why Lucylou Designs? What’s behind the name?
Well, the first thing I usually tell people is that my name’s not Lucy, although I do answer to it as I get so many messages and emails calling me that. Lucylou was my first dog – a loveable cuddly mongrel from the RSPCA who was my constant companion and great friend. When I set about changing my hobby into a business she had recently died, and naming the business after her seemed like the perfect way to keep her memory alive.
Making silver jewellery is an expensive hobby and my tutor encouraged me to start selling my work to finance it.
How did you go from making jewellery as a hobby to selling?
Making silver jewellery is an expensive hobby and my jewellery tutor encouraged me to start selling my work to finance it. So I applied for a hallmark from the Goldsmith’s Assay Office in London and opened my Folksy shop. It seems like a very long time ago now, and at the time I never imagined that my hobby would become a full-time business.
Where do you look for inspiration?
That’s a tricky one. My designs are often inspired by nature. I walk with Daisy my Dalmatian every day, so whatever I see will filter down into my designs: ivy leaves, wild roses, intertwined branches, hares… did I mention I love hares?
I met my first hare after I moved to Lancashire while walking along one of the local lanes early one morning. It fixed me with its intense amber gaze while weighing up my intentions…
What is it that fascinates you about hares?
When I lived in Surrey, we had deer, foxes and rabbits but no hares. I met my first hare after I moved to Lancashire while walking along one of the local lanes early one morning. It fixed me with its intense amber gaze while weighing up my intentions before it ran away. Wow! What an athletic and beautiful creature. There are many legends and folklore tales about hares – from wise women who could shape shift into hare form, to Boudicca releasing a hare from her skirts before going into battle against the Romans. So it’s not just me that has been captivated by them. Sadly their numbers are declining due to loss of habitat, intensive farming methods and illegal hunting. I’ll be donating a percentage of sales from my hare jewellery to the Hare Preservation Trust – an organisation working hard to ensure this gorgeous native species remains a feature of the UK for generations to come.
I use lots of different techniques to make my jewellery, including wax carving and lost wax casting which dates back as far as 3700 BC.
How do you start a piece of your jewellery?
Every piece is different. It may be as simple as following the curve of a stone and basing the design around that flowing line. In other pieces the whole design is sketched out completely before any fabrication starts, and often I’ll just start working directly with the silver using my intuition for what will work. This scenario is usually the case with my ivy designs as it gives them a lovely organic flow. Many of my hares have appeared as sketches or doodles in the corners of meeting notes or at the edge of drawings for other designs and it only seems fair that I make them in silver after that!
My favourite non-tool items in my studio are my skulls, which I’ve been collecting for the last few years.
Tell us about your studio…
My studio is in rural Lancashire where I live. It’s not a huge space but it is bright and airy and FULL of stuff! I have collected lots of lovely bits and pieces from other talented makers, so I have these around the walls, which I love. My favourite tool in the workshop varies, depending on what I’m making, but probably my most used tool is my rawhide hammer. If you look closely at it you can even see some tiny tooth marks courtesy of Isla, my previous naughty Dalmatian. My favourite non-tool items are my skulls, which I’ve been collecting for the last few years. One day while fell-walking in the Lake District I found a whole sheep skeleton. I packed it into my rucksack to give to an artist friend of mine who makes the most beautiful pyrography-decorated bones. I find there is an amazing fragile beauty in bones.
Many of my hares have appeared as sketches or doodles in the corners of meeting notes or at the edge of drawings for other designs and it only seems fair that I make them in silver after that!
What does craft mean to you?
Craft makes me think of a craftsman or craftswoman who has honed their skill to transform materials into a handmade masterpiece. I think it’s important to remember that many crafts take years to master before the results are good enough to sell, and I hope that is still valued by people in an ever-growing marketplace of mass-produced items. A bit of every craftsman’s heart and soul goes into each piece they make.
Turning other people’s wishes into a piece they will treasure for years to come is priceless.
What’s the best thing about being a designer and maker?
I love being creative – it’s a fabulous way to express my personality. I think being able to turn my ideas into reality as part of my job is a privilege, and turning other people’s wishes into a piece they will treasure for years to come is priceless.
I’ve found the craft community to be very supportive. The people within it are always willing to share ideas and helpful advice, which is an invaluable thing for anyone working largely alone.
How does it feel to be part of the craft community in the UK today?
I know so many amazing artisans and I never cease to be astounded by the work they produce. From ceramicists to painters, textile designers to jewellers, the range of styles and creativity involved are endless. I’ve found this community to be very supportive. The people within it are always willing to share ideas and helpful advice, which is an invaluable thing for anyone working largely alone. We have our chats around the virtual water cooler, a forum to seek advice, share frustrations and successes, and somewhere to simply have a laugh with others who understand exactly what you are experiencing. I couldn’t imagine feeling more at home anywhere else.
Jo is offering Folksy customers the chance to deduct 20% off their purchases this week. Use the code LOVEHARES when you buy a piece of Lucylou Designs Jewellery before 29th January 2017 and you’ll receive a 20% discount.