Meet the Maker: Tanith Rouse
British jeweller Tanith Rouse creates jewellery in a full spectrum of rainbow brights. She counts Art Nouveau, Indian culture and St Ives among her diverse influences, and realises her love of print, pattern and colour through a method of anodising and dying aluminium she first encountered but dismissed during her jewellery degree. The result is a range of brilliantly bright but very wearable jewellery. We talked to Tanith about her technique, studio and inspiration…
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
My name is Tanith and I’m a jeweller living in Hereford with my husband and two children. I’ve always been more interested in the aesthetic value of jewellery rather than the intrinsic, which is why I love transforming inexpensive aluminium into bright, colourful, wearable jewellery.
When did you know you wanted to be a jeweller?
I did a Foundation Course at my local art college, hoping to specialise in Graphic Design, but the beauty of the Foundation Course is that you’re introduced to all aspects of design, and when I set foot in the jewellery workshop I realised that three-dimensional design was more my thing.
Where did you go from there?
I did a degree in silversmithing and jewellery at the Birmingham School of Jewellery. Funnily enough I only vaguely remember being shown how to anodise and dye aluminium because at the time it didn’t really make much of an impression on me. When I rediscovered the method a couple of years ago my passion was well and truly ignited!
How did you develop your style?
I always knew I wanted to create colourful jewellery in fluid organic shapes using nature as my inspiration. My style has developed quite a bit over the last two years. I started with basic dyeing and soon went on to printing, dip dyeing and more recently, exposing the lovely shiny aluminium underneath the dye to create a nice contrast. Overall, I would say my style is delicate, brightly coloured jewellery with a playful side to it.
Can you explain how anodising works?
If you imagine that aluminium is like skin with pores, the process of anodising opens up the pores using electric current and acid. While the pores are open, they can absorb colour in the form of special dyes and inks. Once the desired colour is achieved, the colour can be sealed in permanently by boiling or steaming the metal, which closes up the pores. When dyed, aluminium takes on a lovely sheen that catches the light beautifully.
Can you talk us through one of your pieces from start to finish?
My rainbow shells necklace started off as an idea in my sketchbook when I was playing around with spirals. I dyed some aluminium in graduating rainbow colours and sealed in the colour. To test if the shell design would repeat well, I made some template shells and linked them up to see how they would fall when worn. Once I was happy with this I set to work saw piercing the individual shells, filing and smoothing the edges and then doming them. Finally I drilled holes in the shells and linked them together using jump rings and attached them to a sterling silver chain.
Are there any artists, designers or period that particularly inspire you?
I love the curved lines and natural forms of the Art Nouveau period, particularly the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. I also like the work of the jeweller Nick Hubbard, because of the humour and personality he puts in to his jewellery.
What else influences your work?
I love the sea and go on holiday to St Ives in Cornwall at least twice a year. It’s the perfect place to recharge my creative batteries as there are so many lovely galleries to mooch about in and the scenery is stunning. When I’m not by the sea, I have scrapbooks full of images that appeal to me. I’m drawn to patterns, Indian culture, illustration, clouds and spirals.
Where do you work?
I work in a small space which is attached to the end of my garage. My family call it my sweat shop! I admit it is rather cramped but the good thing about jewellery making is that you don’t need much space. I’ve made it more personal by adding a few things and pictures that inspire me.
What are your favourite tools?
I still have the piercing saw I bought as a student many years ago – it’s well used but works like a dream. My other favourite is my MP3 player. It’s an essential tool for me – I have music on it for every mood and it helps me get into a rhythm when I’m saw piercing.
What’s the best thing about being a maker?
I love that the possibilities of making jewellery from aluminium are endless because there’s a whole spectrum of colours to choose from. I really enjoy creating each piece, so being a maker never feels like work.
Have you got any exciting plans or designs for the future?
I’m busy getting ready for a local arts market in a few days’ time and I’ve just found out that I’ve been accepted again for a lovely Christmas Fair at Hereford Cathedral, which is magical and really gets me in the mood for Christmas.