Meet the Maker: 830 Degrees
Justine Nettleton is an all-round creative talent. She works from her home, studio and garden shed in Nottingham, with “creative confetti everywhere”. By her own admission, she is “always busy with something new” and so sitting alongside the artwork and jewellery she makes as Art You Wear [read our interview here] is her new line of enamel jewellery, named after the temperature her kiln is set to: 830 Degrees. Justine’s beautiful enamel jewellery uses copper and has a painterly quality in which colour plays a key role. She talks to fellow maker and Folksy seller Bibi Senthi from Good News From Bad about her work, her influences and enamelling technique and why she believes mistakes are an important part of the creative process…
Round enamel and copper pendant necklace – available here
Hi Justine. I love the photo of your little shed on your shop page and I’m intrigued about what happens inside. Can you describe the ‘chaos’ inside? Do you have different areas for different parts of the process of making?
I have so many spaces where I work. I have a studio in the town with 18 other artists and this is where I use paint and pastels and generally make a colourful mess. I have spaces all round my house where I put pieces together and work on different projects. I have lots of unfinished projects! I also have my little shed. The shed acts as a workspace and for storage. It’s full of my ceramic tiles, frames, screen-printing frames and various pieces of jewellery-making equipment. Along one wall I have my desk with my small kiln and various jewellery-making tools. It’s very cluttered and dusty as the enamelling process produces a lot of black scale and dust. Once a year, when it’s warm, I have a clear out and create some semblance of order.
My little shed acts as a workspace and for storage. It’s full of my ceramic tiles, frames, screen-printing frames and various pieces of jewellery-making equipment. It’s very cluttered and dusty as the enamelling process produces a lot of black scale and dust.
Do you need a lot of equipment when making enamel jewellery? And does it get very hot in that shed in the summer?
I need a few pieces of equipment like hammers, mark-making tools, a blow torch, pickle dish, sheets of copper. My small kiln was my best investment. I use it to get a lovely even finish on my enamel. You can use a blow torch to melt the enamel but I prefer the kiln. It plugs into a normal socket and can get to 1000 degrees centigrade, but it’s always set at 830 degrees (hence my business name). It uses a lot of electricity, so I had solar panels fitted on my house to offset the guilt. It does get warm in my shed but I just prop open the door for fresh air and then I can hear the birds in my garden, which is lovely.
My small kiln was my best investment. I use it to get a lovely even finish on my enamel. You can use a blow torch to melt the enamel but I prefer the kiln.
Do you keep anything in your shed that’s not specifically for making but for inspiration? Where does your inspiration come from?
The inspiration for all my artwork, including my jewellery, comes from colour, nature, landscape, weather and mark making/lines. But when I’m using enamel I would say the enamel itself is the inspiration.
Enamel has its own way of behaving and you must respect that. You can apply it with a paintbrush too, which fits well with my love of painting. It has its limitations in some ways but also opens avenues to limitless possibilities in others. I love to get lost in the ‘what if I did this’, ‘what would happen if I did that?’. I feel like an inventor or an alchemist. Time flies by and I get totally lost in the process.
My kiln plugs into a normal socket and can get to 1000 degrees centigrade, but it’s always set at 830 degrees – hence my business name.
Can you tell us a bit more about working with silver, copper and enamel, maybe by describing the steps needed in making a particular piece? How long does a piece take to make?
First, I cut the copper into the shape I want to use. I buy some pre-cut pieces if I want an accurate, clean edge. I often use hammers to texture the surface of the copper to create some detail. I then give it a clean with sand paper to remove any oil that will stop the enamel from coating the surface. If it’s a pendant I solder a loop on the back or add a post or hole for earrings. I add a coating of enamel and pop it into the kiln for a few moments to allow the enamel, which is ground glass, to melt on to the surface of the copper. I might experiment with a few colours and see how they mix together or I might add another layer and draw through it to the layer below before firing. This gives a hand-drawn finish. It gives me the opportunity to really personalise the piece, adding my own designs and drawings. The copper then needs cleaning and polishing, and any chain or earring hook creates the finished piece. It’s impossible to copy each piece identically as the enamel melts in its own way so each one has its own subtle differences and unique qualities.
The length of time from start to finish varies widely. Sometimes I can take 20 minutes on something, other times it can sit on my desk for weeks, as I feel it needs something more adding to complete it.
The inspiration for all my artwork comes from colour, nature, landscape, weather and mark making. But when I’m using enamel I would say the enamel itself is the inspiration. Enamel has its own way of behaving and you must respect that.
Is there a difference in how silver and copper can be enamelled? Can you say a bit more about the differences?
I generally use copper because of its price and colour. It’s much cheaper than silver and, with the pressure off in terms of cost, I can really play and experiment with ideas without worrying about mounting expense. I can buy a large piece and cut into it to create pieces of all sizes and shapes that I would feel too inhibited to do with silver. Plus, copper has a lovely warm colour than interacts well with the enamel, particularly with the blues, which are my favourites. Silver can make the blues go a bit yellowy green, which I’m not too fond of. But silver is nice to wear and earrings that will be staying in your ears a long time are nicer in silver.
Circles Enamel Earrings – click here to see more enamel jewellery by 830 Degrees
Do you have a favourite part of the process of making? You say you ‘play’. Is this something that happens all the way through making or at particular points along the way?
Play and creativity are entwined for me. I always approach my jewellery making and artwork with a sense of play. I go into my shed with anticipation thinking ‘Ooo, what will I make today?’ I will pick up the materials and try a bit of this and a bit of that until something takes shape. I do sometimes make plans. A few days before going in, I will reflect on what I have made before and explore my thoughts on how I can develop a previous technique to make something new. An idea might pop into my head at any time and I’m quite disciplined in sketching it down in my notebook, so I don’t forget. Mistakes are also great for creativity. I might get distracted and leave a piece in the kiln too long or something gets broken and I see a whole new idea take shape. I also think it’s important to take breaks from it too as that’s when new ideas creep up on you and get you excited about making all over again.
Round copper stud enamel earrings in blue and white – available here
Mistakes are great for creativity. I might get distracted and leave a piece in the kiln too long or something gets broken and I see a whole new idea take shape.
Do you have a favourite kind of piece to make or to wear yourself and are these the same or different?
For myself I make small silver and enamel studs with circles or lines drawn into them. Something I can wear day and night and forget about. I rarely remember to change my earrings so they need to be easy to wear. I also like a big chunky ring with a silver band and large enamelled copper shape attached. I love a statement ring.
Rectangular Enamel Earrings by 830 Degrees – see more of her enamel jewellery here
If you could have unlimited money for equipment and materials and time to create something, what would it be?
I would employ someone to do all the boring stuff that I hate doing but is essential to the process, like polishing. I hate doing that bit as it’s so laborious and doesn’t feel creative or fun to me. Plus they could tidy my studio. I like a tidy space to work but rarely have it.
Statement Enamel Ring by 830 Degrees – see more enamel jewellery here
I like to wear a big chunky ring with a silver band and large enamelled copper shape attached. I love a statement ring.
What new makes or developments are in the pipeline for this and your other beautiful Folksy shop, Art You Wear?
I’m not sure where my Folksy shops are going or what I’ll be making next. I never even thought I would be doing this a few years ago when I started making jewellery. It’s an exciting adventure.
Enamel Necklace by 830 Degrees – see more enamel jewellery by Justine Nettleton here
Meet the Interviewer
The maker asking the questions this time is Bibi Senthi from Good News From Bad, who creates artwork and cards using yarn she weaves from old newspapers. You can read our interview with Bibi here >