Meet the Maker: The Little Red Hen Handmade Jewellery
Alix Leeds from The Little Red Hen Jewellery is a jeweller based in Kent who takes inspiration from folk art, natural forms and the countryside around her. Here, in our Meet the Maker series, she talks to fellow Folksy seller Lizzy Kyriacou from Wolf and Bee about her creative process, her dream day and the importance of being as eco-friendly as possible in her practice.
Enjoy 15% off with code FOLKSY15 until 20th December 2021. Shop Little Red Hen handmade Jewellery on Folksy folksy.com/shops/TheLittleRedHen
Every piece I make is individual and a keepsake that hopefully will be treasured for years to come.Alix Leeds, The Little Red Hen Jewellery
Hi Alix. Could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
Hi, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to introduce myself and share my work with you here on Folksy!
I’m Alix, the designer and maker behind The Little Red Hen Jewellery, which I set up over 10 years ago. I create silver and copper jewellery from my home workshop in Kent, using traditional metalsmithing techniques and metal clay work. I take inspiration from the beautiful countryside around me (Kent is known as the Garden of England!) and natural forms such as shells and leaves.
Folk art motifs such as birds, hearts and flowers, feature heavily in my designs, their simple shapes reproduce well when working in metal. I also have a range of personalised jewellery, incorporating stamped letters and birthstones, which I love creating. Each piece is individual and a keepsake that hopefully will be treasured for years to come.
Your work is beautiful and made with great skill. How did your journey to become a jeweller begin?
I’ve always loved jewellery and as a child would love to collect all sorts of sparkly pieces from boot fairs and second-hand shops for my jewellery box. I loved learning the stories behind pieces my mum or nan would wear. Drawing and painting are my first loves and I love the process of making things by hand, so jewellery making is the perfect fusion of artistic design and technical hands on!
I’d enjoyed making beaded jewellery on and off for years when I decided I’d like to learn silver work, so I could expand my designs. I bought a bench peg and some simple tools: a saw, some files and a texturing hammer, along with a silver jewellery making book and started creating from our spare room. There was only so far I could go learning from books and wanted to learn more complicated techniques, such as soldering. Luckily, our local adult education centre ran various silver and metalworking jewellery classes, and I was able to attend those and learn the techniques I needed.
I’m constantly learning though and love reading jewellery books and watching tutorial videos to learn new techniques. I’d love to try enamelling next and add some colour to my work.
I’ve been using recycled sterling silver for over five years now. Any Ecosilver I have left over, I melt and reuse in my designs, so it’s like recycling twice.Alix Leeds, The Little Red Hen Jewellery
It’s fantastic to see you use eco-friendly silver and copper to make your jewellery. Is it important to you to be environmentally responsible in your practice?
Yes, it is really important to me to be environmentally responsible in my practice and in my everyday life too. I’ve been using recycled sterling silver, (also known as Ecosilver) for over five years now. It’s 100% recycled scrap sterling silver and I buy it from a supplier who uses a totally traceable, fully audited process.
I also have a range of Precious Metal Clay jewellery which is made from fine silver (99.9% pure silver), which is recycled from medical, dental and technological industries. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find recycled silver chains yet, but as soon as they’re available, I’ll be stocking those too. Any Ecosilver that I have left over, I melt and reuse in my designs like my pebble pendants, so it’s like recycling twice!
I try and source pearls, gemstones and packaging from small UK-based companies, who hold the same ethos. All my packaging and stationery is made from recycled materials and is fully recyclable, except the foam inserts in my gift boxes – I’m on a hunt for an alternative! I know these are only small measures, but I hope every little responsible choice adds up and helps.
I see you are inspired by nature and folk art. Do you take time out from your routine to gather inspirations and what would your dream inspiration-gathering day be?
Yes, when I’m able to. I think it’s really important to take time out to reflect and have creative thinking time. Often my best ideas come to me when I’m daydreaming! I love spending time in nature and visiting beautiful gardens. Where I live in Kent, there are so many lovely gardens to visit nearby such as Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Scotney Castle and Great Dixter. I really love taking photographs (photography has been my hobby since I was a teenager), so my dream inspiration-gathering day would be a day with beautiful, golden, autumn light; a visit to a garden or walk in the woods; plenty of time to take lots of photos, capturing memories of the day and a lovely cream tea to finish. My daughter has her own little camera now and loves to join in with me on a photo outing!
I want my jewellery to be practical as well as beautiful. It should be made to be worn and not just for a special occasion. It’s sad to think of it languishing in the bottom of a drawer, waiting for the perfect moment!Alix Leeds, The Little Red Hen Jewellery
Can you talk us through your creative process? How does a piece of Little Red Hen Jewellery take shape, from start to finish?
I’ll often start with a rough sketch or a paper model. The challenge with jewellery design is to make sure the piece can work practically and can be worn comfortably, as well as looking beautiful. As silver is an expensive metal, I will sometimes make a prototype in copper, which is much less expensive. This helps me to discover any problems, without wasting costlier materials. I really love using copper, as I like the warm tones and it can be given interesting finishes, so I usually end up including it in my jewellery collections anyway.
I like to spend time finishing and polishing a piece. Attention to detail is really important to me.
It’s important to me to design pieces that are comfortable and lightweight enough to wear everyday. I want my jewellery to be practical as well as beautiful! I think jewellery should be made to be worn and not just for a special occasion. It’s sad to think of it languishing in the bottom of a drawer, waiting for the perfect moment!
A random question to find out a little more about you! What are your three favourite movies or books?
I love films, so it’s difficult to pick just three. The films that I love to watch again and again are: Casablanca, Dr Zhivago and Cabaret. I love reading too and have too many favourites! I really love these authors though: Angela Carter, Charlotte Bronte, Tom Cox, Phillip Pullman, Eva Ibottson and Jeanette Winterson.
Are you a planner or do your designs and business evolve organically and go with your natural flow?
I definitely like to plan, not rigidly though. I find a loose plan keeps me motivated and on track with what I want to achieve. I like to have a paper diary in which to write down important dates and a rough plan of what I need to do each day. Physically putting pen to paper seems to help my memory function better! Life has a tendency of getting in the way though, so a go-with-the-flow attitude is important to stop getting too stressed.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m a mum, so my days are built around my nine-year-old daughter’s routine, with school drop-offs and pick-ups. Since the beginning of 2020, my husband has been working from home in our workshop/office and he is often on calls, so any noisy metal-bashing has to be done in the early evenings and at weekends. We’ve got used to swapping shifts now.
In the mornings I prepare and pack any orders that have come in, I check my social media accounts and reply to any messages and emails. I take all my own photographs and before lunch, I might take some product photos while the light is still good and plan any marketing that I want to do that week. Before I pick up my daughter from school in the afternoon, I’ll usually do some soldering, filing or (quiet!) workshop jobs. Any admin, photo editing or computer jobs I squeeze into the early evening. I’ve learnt it’s best to be flexible and, with practice, a lot can be fitted in around family life.
Craft is a creative way of life and I wouldn’t want to live any other way.Alix Leeds, The Little Red Hen Jewellery
Finally, what does craft mean to you?
Craft means to me something that is made by hand with skill, care and love and an appreciation of the materials from which it is made. It means the opportunity to express yourself and be fully absorbed in the creative process. It means to make something slowly and considerately with an attention to detail. Craft is a creative way of life and I wouldn’t want to live any other way.
15% discount with code FOLKSY15 until 20th December 2021
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this week is Lizzy Kyriacou from Wolf and Bee. Lizzy makes needle-felted decorations and textile art.
Find Wolf and Bee on Folksy – https://folksy.com/shops/WolfandBee
Read our interview with Lizzy from Wolf and Bee – Meet Lizzy Kyriacou from Wolf and Bee