Meet the Maker: Joanna Wakefield
Jewellery designer Joanna Wakefield creates beautiful pieces in silver, inspired by textiles, haberdashery and her enviable collection of vintage French finds. Her jewellery has earned a place in the heart of many a stitcher, knitter and maker thanks to her delicate interpretation of bobbins, thimbles, textiles and lace into fine silver, her affinity for found objects and an extremely good eye for vintage treasure (inherited from her mother who runs a French antiques business in York). Joanna spoke to fellow Folksy seller Irene from Fancy Knittles about why she loves to create jewellery that invokes memories and a sense of nostalgia and the heavenly studio in which she makes it…
Photography by Joanna Wakefield and Kayti Peschke
My work combines my two passions, jewellery and textiles, with the third essential element of my own memories, observations and personality.
Tell us a bit about yourself, including what you do and how you got there.
Hellooo! My name is Joanna Wakefield and I’m a jeweller designer working from my lovely studio in York. I grew up in a family of seamstresses and creative women so it was no surprise that I naturally went in a creative direction myself. My original training culminated in a degree in design, specialising in textiles. I then worked for over 10 years as a Fair Trade designer and even though I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of my work, especially the travel, I always felt the need for development and to do something with my hands so I retrained at York School of Jewellery as a designer jeweller.
Silver button and thread earrings from Joanna Wakefield’s Textiles & Haberdashery Jewellery Collection
Jewellery making quickly began to take over my mind (and my spare room) and at that point I took the leap to leave my job. I now focus my energies, heart and soul into my little business. I feel very fortunate for my path, as every stage of my journey has some form of representation through Joanna Wakefield Jewellery.
It’s amazing just how many of us love buttons and have stories to tell about our family button tins. I love this nostalgia.
Can you describe your design style?
My work combines my two passions, jewellery and textiles, with the third essential element of my own memories, observations and personality. My designs and work are very much led by my musings and my family history, memories and the things that I love and feel passionate about. I’m quite a reflective person and love the symbolism of objects, so I think my work represents my personality. When I was exhibiting at a show recently I saw lots of glorious smiles on visitors’ faces and realised that what I make is actually ‘happy jewellery’!
What makes your collections unique?
I think the fact that I create my jewellery with the things that I love and that make me happy means I naturally create something unique. For me, it is not just about the jewellery, it’s a story. It comes from memories of playing with my grandma’s buttons, studying design and textiles, travelling, old work I’ve done, right through to my eternal love of the colour yellow.
Silver button necklace with vintage lace texture by Joanna Wakefield
Over the last 20 years I’ve visited France regularly with my Mum who has a French antique business and that’s allowed me to build up a collection of vintage finds. All these things, including my Yogi side, play a significant role in my work and culminate in the overall umbrella of my jewellery.
Vintage Tap Necklace from Joanna Wakefield’s Vintage & Found Jewellery Collection
What kind of person wears your jewellery? Who do you think is your typical customer?
I have a really strong and loyal following of seamstresses, stitchers, knitters and crafters who wear my haberdashery-inspired jewellery. It’s amazing just how many of us love buttons and have stories to tell about our family button tins. I love this nostalgia. I think people who wear my jewellery are sensitive, like something a bit different, and like to wear a piece of jewellery that means something to them. I definitely don’t think age seems to matter with my jewellery.
There is always one man who says, ‘You jewellers, you never do anything for men.’ So now I do a cufflink in every range.
Do you ever create anything for men? Would you like to design a range of jewellery specifically for men?
I learnt something a few years back when I started doing proper events: there is always one man who says, “You jewellers, you never do anything for men.” So now I do a cufflink in every range. They sell quite regularly and, in fact, I recently sold a pair of cufflinks made with the most awesome retro mustard colour buttons. I don’t think you can even find that type of colour anymore. That’s the joy of old buttons!
Who are your favourite designers and what in their work inspires your most?
Oooh well, I’ve never been a ‘designer gal’ in the sense of following high-end designers. Instead I tend to really admire independent designer-makers and the skilled craftspeople I meet when I attend fairs. I’ll then follow them and support them on social media. I admire makers in different mediums to my own too. I’m a sucker for ceramics and illustration – and at the recent Knitting and Stitching Show the textile gallery was Ah-mazing. So maybe I’m inspired and excited the most by form, texture, colour and pattern.
Haberdashery Cluster Necklace by Joanna Wakefield
Do you have a favourite piece amongst your creations? What makes it so special to you?
I think it has to be my haberdashery cluster piece. It brings together all the elements of my haberdashery ranges, from the nostalgic vintage button and the historic bobbin to the robust thimble.
Key de La Vie Necklace by Joanna Wakefield
Am I allowed two, because it also has to be my key pendant, ‘Key de la Vie‘ ~ Key to Life, created from an antique key chosen from my collections to symbolise a change in direction and opening new doors. I originally created this piece when I took the leap and left my old job. This key holds so much meaning.
My studio is my happy place! I used to work in my spare room but I was lucky enough to acquire the garage below me, which I had converted into a workshop.
Where do you make your jewellery and what or who helps you with your work?
I used to work in my spare room but I was lucky enough to acquire the garage below me, which I had converted into a workshop. It’s my happy place! It’s just perfect, has lots of light and a yellow door! It’s amazing and I’m very grateful because my house is teeny tiny. I could stay in my studio all the time, but I have to chuck myself out sometimes.
I actually have an array of helpers, including my cat Earl Grey who throws himself at the door when he needs some attention, and then will just sit on my work quite proudly. Then there’s my mum, who is a dab hand at anything from printing out Folksy receipts and address labels, to lending me her eye and opinion and painting props for shows. I also have a wood magician who regularly helps me out with props and displays. I’m very lucky that I have people to help and support my journey and who get as excited as I do.
I have an array of helpers, including my cat Earl Grey who throws himself at the door when he needs some attention, and then will just sit on my work quite proudly.
What’s your favourite season of year?
Oh my gosh, well anyone who knows me knows that I’m a Summer baby, a sun worshipper and generally could just live in a world of Summers! But as I get older I’m learning to appreciate Spring and Autumn and the seasons in general more. I think this is why I do a seasonal newsletter too as I like the transition prompt. I just don’t like being cold and I always seek light!
What do you do when you’re not working?
Yoga (all the yoga I can get!), reflect, drink tea, watch Netflix and read indie mags! I also catch up with friends and hang out with my mum – I wouldn’t be doing any of this without her support and endless help!
I have a wood magician who regularly helps me out with props and displays. I’m very lucky that I have people to help and support my journey and who get as excited as I do.
Do you ever run out of ideas? What helps you to rediscover your inspiration if that happens?
I think I have ideas to keep me going for a long time yet! That’s the joy of creating jewellery based on the things that I love, and being surrounded by these things. I often don’t think of it as jewellery, just as a nice object to wear. Next up is a new range of jewellery that uses another vintage object from my collections, so watch this space in 2018!
Meet the Interviewer
The maker asking Joanna Wakefield the questions this week is Irene Tretyakova from Fancyknittles who creates pocket-sized decorations in crochet.