Meet the Maker: Clare Lloyd
Clare Lloyd is a self-confessed colour addict who creates jewellery in perfectly combined shades of the spectrum. Her jewellery is contemporary, uncluttered and exquisitely beautiful – pops of colour blended to just the right shade are set in deliberately simple sterling silver findings made by hand in her Frome studio. Clare spoke to fellow designer Jane Crick about her jewellery-making processes, her inspirations and how her meticulous jewellery is the product of a surprisingly messy work bench.
I like the idea of simple jewellery that’s very wearable and will instantly add a bit of colour
Hi Clare! When did your interest in making things start and has it always been jewellery or did you begin by making something else?
I’ve always loved jewellery. Even when I was little, I loved playing with my mum’s and grandmother’s jewellery but it’s been a bit of a journey to get to actually make my own jewellery. My first love was drawing and painting, which is where my love of colour stems from. Then while I was at uni studying fine art and literature, I started doing very detailed hand embroidery and making my own clothes. I always knew I would set up my own business one day but it took lots of experimenting and a full-time job as an accountant for me to find out what that would be. I started to learn jewellery making about 12 years ago now and as soon as I’d made my first ring, I knew I wanted to make jewellery for a living.
I started to learn jewellery making about 12 years ago now and as soon as I’d made my first ring, I knew I wanted to make jewellery for a living.
I love the modern, contemporary feel to your jewellery. Where do you get the inspiration for your styles, shapes and colours?
I think I’ve always had a bit of a thing for circles – there’s something very satisfying about the shape and simplicity of a circle. Also, wearability and practicality is really important to me when I’m coming up with ideas and designs for jewellery. It needs to be easy to wear and really comfortable and also make you feel good, so I try to keep the shapes and styles as simple, uncluttered, light and comfortable as possible. You want things that don’t snag on clothing, clank around or hitch in things too much.
I think I’ve always had a bit of a thing for circles – there’s something very satisfying about the shape and simplicity of a circle.
I like the idea of simple jewellery that’s very wearable and will instantly add a bit of colour, as well as items you can collect – little rings that look lovely on their own or that can be added to and worn in stacks. As for colour inspiration, I find that everywhere, from flowers, the ever-changing sky and seasons to vegetables, fabric, paint charts. Sometimes it’ll take me an hour to get to the studio as I’m taking photos of all sorts of things on my way there. I can find colour inspiration in the most unlikely of places!
I find colour inspiration everywhere, from flowers, the ever-changing sky and seasons to vegetables, fabric, paint charts.
Most of your Folksy items are silver and polymer clay based. Do you use any other metals or materials?
I mostly use sterling silver, polymer clay and resin clay. I make all of my findings and settings from sterling silver and then add colour using the clays. I wanted to add colour to my designs and by making my own beads I can control the colours I make. I also wanted to have a very flat, matt finish, so I started experimenting with polymer clays to make simple beads. I use large blocks of red, blue, yellow, black and white and a sort of light skin tone colour and I mix all of my colours from these. Polymer clay can give quite intense colours and I like to tone them down using the flesh-coloured clay or greys, so I get slightly more muted shades. Polymer clay isn’t quite robust enough to use as the settings for my rings, Colour Dot studs or little pendants though, so I use a resin clay for these designs. Again, I mix all my colours from a limited palette of red, blue, yellow with black and white, but the resin clay gives me a much softer colour and once it has set and been filed to a smooth finish, it almost resembles coloured stone. I also occasionally use surgical steel ear posts to give an alternative, cost-effective option to silver.
Filing the resin is the most arduous task, as it plays havoc with your finger nails and makes your arms ache!
Which part of your making process do you enjoy the most and why?
I really love all of the stages of making. There are quite a few stages and processes involved and it can take several days to make something, as I often need to wait for at least 24 hours for the resin to cure. Filing the resin is the most arduous task, as it plays havoc with your finger nails and makes your arms ache! It’s sometimes a bit of a risk filing the resin too, as I never really know how the finished piece will turn out until I’ve filed it. Sometimes there are little bits of pigment that haven’t mixed properly – sometimes these are happy accidents and other times they become rejects. I love mixing the clays and spend way too long trying to get the perfect shade that I’m after and I also love putting the colours together and trying out different combinations, so perhaps that’s my most favourite bit.
I’ve been completely obsessed with a golden olive/yellow shade for a while now and it doesn’t seem to be subsiding at all.
You obviously love colour and spend hours blending them to get exactly the right shade. What is your current favourite hue or combo?
I’ve been completely obsessed with a golden olive/yellow shade for a while now and it doesn’t seem to be subsiding at all. It’s sneaking into lots of my colour combinations – sometimes just a little random golden olive bead will pop up in a otherwise mauve/grey necklace! It has a sort of magical quality, where it brings other colours to life. I love it when I find a shade that does that. It can be a most unlikely colour but when you put it together with others, it just seems to work and brings out something else in an otherwise rather ordinary bunch of colours.
I can see that attention to detail is important to you. Your work is very clean and accurate. Are you an exceptionally tidy person in day-to-day life too?
I wish I was an exceptionally tidy person in real life! Inside, I know there’s a tidy person waiting to get out but I’m afraid I’m a bit of clutter bug! I’m meticulous with my work – my work bench is usually pretty clean, especially when I’m mixing the clays, but you would be forgiven for thinking that my studio had been burgled! I do seem to know where everything is though.
I was interested to read that you double bake your colour stud earrings so the posts never come off, which is genius! Do you find jewellery making is a constant learning process?
It is for me, as there is so much I don’t know and would love to learn. There’s always a better or different way to do things. It’s very important to me that my jewellery is well made and durable and I’m always experimenting with new designs to add to my collection.
This method came about because I was asked by a customer to make a giant pair of polymer clay studs without a silver bezel setting and, as most of my studs are quite small, I was a little worried about using just glue to attach the ear posts to a much larger earring. So I tried double baking and it worked really well. I add a very thin layer of clay to the completed stud and seal with liquid polymer clay before re-firing and the filing. It works a treat!
The smallest size studs I make are about 3mm in diameter… I need to use a large magnifying glass to see what I’m doing!
What is the smallest colour dot item you have made?
The smallest size studs I make are about 3mm in diameter and I use 3mm sterling silver tube to make my Tiny Dot Pendants. I think that’s my limit as they are very fiddly to make and I need to use a large magnifying glass to see what I’m doing!
Being part of the making community and meeting the lovely people who buy my jewellery is one of the best things about running my own little creative business.
Do you wear your own jewellery or do you have a favourite jeweller who’s work you collect and wear?
I always wear the first piece of a new design to test drive it and see if it’s going to be wearable or not. I’ve still got the very first pair of colour dot studs I made and a big beaded necklace that I made over a decade ago now and they’re both still going strong.
I love jewellery though and often wear the work of others jewellers. My favourites are Rachel Kerrison’s organic, hammered silver jewellery (Rachel taught me to make jewellery) and I also love the work of two Frome-based designers who make gorgeous colourful jewellery: Tania Covo who works with sea glass and Knopf Designs who make lovely chunky rings and pendants from broken pottery. I also love the work of Scottish jeweller Sarah Brown, who makes beautiful cast jewellery inspired by nature – it’s gorgeous.
People are very passionate about colours and always have particular colours they love, so having a piece of jewellery made in your favourites is quite special.
Do you undertake commission work? What was the most unusual item you have been asked to make?
I do undertake commission work and I’m often asked to make specific colours for people, perhaps to go with an outfit or for a special occasion. I also make bespoke wedding headdresses too, so I get to work on quite a lot of commissions and the occasional wedding ring too. I’ve been asked for some unusual colour combinations before that haven’t always worked, so I’ve had to gently suggest alternative colours. But, more often than not, I’m given quite a lot of flexibility to suggest colours, especially if I meet the customer and get to know them a little bit. People are very passionate about colours and always have particular colours they love, so having a piece of jewellery made in your favourites is quite special.
I’ve learnt so much from doing markets about who my customers are, what they like and don’t like so much and what colours are most popular (blues always blues)…
I notice from your Facebook page you attend many local makers markets. Do you enjoy selling direct to the public?
I really enjoy markets and fairs as I get let out of the studio for a day and get to meet my customers, which is invaluable. I’ve learnt so much from doing markets and fairs about who my customers are, what they like and don’t like so much, what colours are most popular (blues always blues) and how to present and display my work. It’s been a steep and continuous learning curve but I would never know these things if I just stayed in my studio making and selling online. Getting out there and meeting my customers and other makers really helps. There are some lovely events out there and some wonderful makers. Being part of that community and meeting the lovely people who buy my jewellery is one of the best things about running my own little creative business.
I’m meticulous with my work – my work bench is usually pretty clean, especially when I’m mixing the clays, but you would be forgiven for thinking that my studio had been burgled!
Tell us a bit about your little studio in Frome and your silver stripy cat!
My studio is based in the centre of Frome in a restored textiles mill called The Silk Mill, which is home to more than 20 artists and makers and has a gallery space downstairs. It’s a lovely place to work and it’s great to have my own space and be surrounded by lots of other creative people too. My studio is very small and it’s usually quite a pickle as I run my two businesses from there – the summer months become very much about my bridal customers as I have appointments for wedding accessories in my studio, so I have to keep it looking pretty. This does mean that I have to keep the muckier work out of my studio during the summer and go to a studio in Bath for the silversmithing side of things and I fire my beads at home. One of my aims is to be able to move to a larger studio in the Silk Mill so I can have room to run both businesses in the same space.
Mimas is totally in charge of the house and he’s very clever – he can play fetch as well as a dog can and he likes the occasional chunk of cheese
My stripy cat is called Mimas (named after one of Saturn’s moons that Brian Cox described as a small misshapen lump, which Mimas was when he was a kitten). He’s a British Shorthair spotted silver tabby and he is quite a handful! He’s totally in charge of the house and he’s very clever – he can play fetch as well as a dog can, he likes the occasional chunk of cheese and he’s got a whole range of meows with which to control his humans!
I see from your website you take part in Frome Open Studios. Do you do that annually? How do you feel about letting the public into your workspace?
The Frome Open Studios takes place every July as part of the Frome Festival and there are usually around 60 artists/makers taking part, so it’s lovely to be part of a wider community of creative people working in Frome. When I first started making jewellery I regularly took part in an open studio event in Bath, which was a great introduction to selling my work and getting the confidence to be able to talk about my jewellery too. Open studios always involves a frantic tidying session to try to make my tiny studio look a bit more presentable and make a bit of space so people can fit in there!
Opening up my studio space to the public is quite a personal thing as you’re letting members of the public into the place where you make all of your work and see the processes behind the scenes, but I think people are always fascinated by the reasons why makers make and the inspiration behind what you make. As I have both my colourful, contemporary jewellery and my more intricate and detailed wedding accessories, there’s always a lot of intrigue as to how and why I make two such very different ranges of work. It is always fun though.
I think people are always fascinated by the reasons why makers make and the inspiration behind what you make.
What’s your recommendation for a favourite day out in Somerset?
I think it would have to be a trip to The Frome Independent, which happens on the first Sunday of the month from March to December. It’s an amazing event that has grown from a little artisan market on the cobbled streets of Catherine Hill to a huge monthly event where the entire town becomes a market and festival. There’s live music, incredible food, an antiques and flea market, a designer-maker market (where I sometimes have a little stall), a suitcase market, farmers market and pop-up events for families and kids. It really is quite a special event and definitely worth a visit.
I love mixing the clays and spend way too long trying to get the perfect shade that I’m after.
What does the future hold in store for you and your work?
I’ve got so many ideas for new designs and techniques that I’d love to try out, so I definitely want to keep building my range of colourful jewellery. I’d also like to be brave enough to apply to some of the bigger events and fairs in the next year or so. As I run two creative businesses alongside each other, it would be nice to move to a larger studio too. I’d also like to be able to offer workshops one day, as it would be great to be able to share some of the things I’ve learnt.
For a limited time, Clare is offering 15% off all her handmade jewellery. Just add discount code Colour15 when you check out.
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this week is Jane Crick. Jane is a designer and illustrator who honed her skills over two decades working as a professional graphic designer. She now has her own range of cards, prints and gift wrap that explore her love of nature – particularly the shapes created by petals, foliage and shadows in her garden and allotment.