Meet the Maker: Jane Drury from Earth and Air Jewellery
Jane Drury from Earth and Air Jewellery first played with polymer clay as a child, and then rediscovered it with her own children. She now creates a collection of cute clay creatures who sit on bookmarks and necklaces, and inside engagement ring boxes waiting to play their part in the perfect marriage proposal. We caught up with Jane to discover more about her polymer clay art and the nature that influences her work…
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Hi, I’m Jane from Earth and Air Jewellery. I’m a chaser of butterflies, a picker of daisies and a maker of tiny pretty things. But first and foremost I’m a mum to two lovely, lively (and tiny and pretty) girls, and my whole world revolves around them. My creative medium of choice is polymer clay and I’m entirely self-taught. I make a collection of cute and curious little creatures and delicate wildflowers.
When I was a child, my mum was always gardening, baking or sewing, and I’m sure that’s hugely influenced how I live my life now.
Did you have a very creative upbringing?
Yes, I had a wonderfully creative upbringing. I grew up in a big old house that my parents renovated, and that was itself a hand-crafted work of art. When I was a child, my mum was always gardening, baking or sewing, and I’m sure that’s hugely influenced how I live my life now. She made clothes for me and my sister and furniture and clothes for our dolls too. She even made us our own Wendy house, which was covered in felt flowers. She taught us both to sew at a young age, and we still love sewing today.
I was a child when I first played with polymer clay. My sister and I must have made a hundred tiny pigs. My mum still has some of our early creations and the nativity we made comes out every Christmas. Both my daughters love to create. My eldest (aged 10) is an absolute whizz with a sewing machine, and my youngest (aged 6) can put me to shame with her polymer clay skills.
It really means the world to know that I’ve created something that brings smiles into the lives of others
How and when did you start selling your work?
I started using polymer clay again when my daughters were very young and I came across a packet in a craft shop. It took me straight back to my childhood and I was instantly hooked. I quickly realised that I was creating far more treasures than I had the room to display, so I thought it was time to open an online shop. I made my first sale in 2013. Things have progressed a lot since then. I’ve learned many lessons (usually from making mistakes), changed direction, had a complete business overhaul, and taken one or two big leaps. It’s an exciting journey and I’m loving every step.
Who or what influences you?
I totally take my inspiration from the wonders of the wild outside. It’s no secret that I’m a bit obsessed with wildlife. I grew up surrounded by fields on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, and I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to live. I had meadows for a playground, with trees to climb and streams to paddle in. Nature captured my heart and I don’t think it will ever let it go. I see the beauty in the tiny things: a mouse on a blackberry bush or the veins in the petals of a flower. Mother Nature is the most inspiring artist indeed. And who influences me? Well, my mum of course!
Where do you start a piece – can you talk us through your creative process?
My designs usually start in my head as I’m lying in bed waiting for sleep. I’ll think through the entire making process, anticipating what challenges may arise and how I’ll deal with them. It often really doesn’t help me to sleep, and there are times that I just want to jump out of bed and go to the studio to get started. Once I get my hands on the clay I start blending colours by rolling clay through a pasta machine. I don’t use any paints in my creations, all the colouring and effects are made using just coloured clay and the occasional dusting with mica shimmer powders. For some of the more detailed flower petals, blending alone can take an hour or so to get the right effect.
All my animals start as simple blobs of clay. I don’t use any moulds or fancy tools to shape them, mainly just my fingertips, cocktail sticks and a useful little thing I repurposed from a manicure kit (I still don’t know what it’s actually meant for, but I know that I’d be lost without it). I roll, squeeze and pull the clay into shape, then carefully lay any markings and patterns on. It may sound silly, but a lot of the work goes into making the creatures look as simple as I can.
How to make a polymer clay cornflower
You’ve just moved into a new studio. We’d love to know more. Could we have a virtual tour?
Ah, our beautiful studio. Imagine the ideal layout for a workspace, then put it into the most gorgeous building, fill it with the most wonderful people, and you may just be somewhere close. A group of six of us share the upstairs hall of a big old building in my home town – it’s actually right at the end of my road, about 50 yards from my house. The building itself is over 400 years old, with exposed beams, hand-carved stone window frames and a beautifully kept flower garden. Our room is open plan and we each have our own workspaces, with a comfy communal area for chilling out in.
Imagine the ideal layout for a workspace, then put it into the most gorgeous building, fill it with the most wonderful people, and you may just be somewhere close to my new studio
It’s wonderful to be able to spread out and unpack after working from boxes on a drop-leaf table in my bedroom for so long. I can actually leave a project half-finished on my table, then just come back the next day and pick up where I left off. Honestly though, the best thing about it is the wonderful women I share with. We turn to each other for creative and business advice, to vent our woes, and to mark our achievements. And there is just so much laughter, and a little bit of dancing when the music takes us. Oh, and of course I can’t forget to mention the occasional Prosecco Friday.
I make these cute little ‘Marry Me’ engagement ring boxes with a tiny animal sat inside holding an even tinier bunch of flowers.
What’s the best thing about being creative for a living?
The best thing about being creative for a living is working with customers to create them something really special and unique. I make these cute little ‘Marry Me’ engagement ring boxes with a tiny animal sat inside holding an even tinier bunch of flowers. Some very romantic souls like to have them customised with a favourite animal or flower. The love and passion I feel through their dedication to making the moment perfect is truly heart-warming. I get to share in some really significant moments and it makes me feel very privileged. I had one customer actually send me video of his proposal. His partner’s reaction to the ring box has been one of the highlights of my creative career. You can see it yourself here and read more about it on my blog here.
How would you spend your perfect day?
My perfect day would be spent out in the wild with my partner and our girls. We love wildlife spotting, den building, paddling in the beck, and walking through the fields and moors until our legs ache. I like nothing more than simply going where my own two feet can take me, and I’m still discovering wonders on my home patch. Recently, while we were out exploring, my daughter and I discovered a badger sett. Now all I can think about doing is sitting in a field as the sun sets and watching to see if anybody’s coming out to play.
What’s your favourite animal to make?
It has to be the badgers. I care deeply about the plight of our British badgers, so they have become a really special part of my work. I donate from each badger sale to the Lancashire Badger Group to help protect my local badgers, and to the Badger Trust to support their fight against the unjustified persecution of our native population. Since starting my business I have been able to donate hundreds of pounds to help protect these beautiful and mysterious creatures out in the wild.
What does craft mean to you?
To me crafting is a compulsion. I get ideas in my head and a need to bring them into actuality that I just don’t seem to be able to resist. I can’t imagine a life where I don’t create things. It would be like not eating. My only problem is that I get too many ideas, and just don’t have the time to make them all. They stack up, and because I’m so excited that I can’t wait to start something I end up with lots of unfinished projects. I promise that one day I WILL complete that hand sewn teddy bear… and the appliquéd shoulder bags, and the needle-felted woodland scarf.
What’s your proudest moment so far?
I really can’t pinpoint one specific moment. I’m proud each and every time a customer responds with feedback. It really means the world to know that I’ve created something that brings smiles into the lives of others, especially with the really special custom pieces. I had a couple who were so pleased with their engagement ring box and the service they received that they actually sent me a beautiful big bunch of flowers. I was overwhelmed to say the least (and I’ve just made their wedding cake topper too). I print out my feedback and pin it to the inspiration board on my desk. It keeps me focussed, making sure that everything I make is deserving of such love.