Meet Rachael Stothard from Pie and Earring
Racheal Stothard from Pie and Earring is a jeweller originally from Sheffield and now based up the road in Leeds who makes sustainable earrings from recycled polymer clay. She turns scraps of preloved polymer clay, sourced on Facebook Marketplace, into fabulous statement earrings, sometimes incorporating bits of broken charity-shop jewellery into her designs. Here Rachael talks to fellow Folksy maker Geoff Coates from Woodsville Woodcraft about the evolution of her creative business from lockdown project to a bone-fide source of sustainable style…
Treat yourself to 15% off Pie and Earring with discount code FEATURE15 – valid until Sunday 3 July
Every action I take relating to Pie and Earring has a sustainability consideration. My default is to try to get materials second hand because, if it’s already made, I may as well give it a second lease of life rather than it going to landfill.Racheal Stothard, Pie and Earring
Hi Rachael! Firstly, the obvious question… how and when did you get started making jewellery?
I started making jewellery in lockdown, but completely by accident. Before the pandemic I had been attending a pottery class at my local community centre. When I found myself furloughed I bought some polymer clay and a banding wheel with the intention of throwing polymer clay pots. It was only when faced with the squishy substance in front of me that I realised it was a type of plastic and absolutely not the same as clay. I love the vibrant colours polymer gives though and it turns out I’m better at polymer than ceramic clay!
I don’t know very much about polymer clay. Can you explain what it is and talk a little about the process of working with it?
Polymer clay is a type of plastic (which is why I get mine pre-loved from Facebook marketplace) and, once conditioned, it’s very malleable and can be baked in a domestic oven to become hard and flexible. There are many brands of polymer clay, with different properties to suit individual needs. I get my hands on what I can.
I use a pasta machine to roll out my clay and then cut out shapes using cutters that I co-designed with a company who 3D print them in biodegradable resin.
Why do you choose to work with preloved polymer clay. Is it to be more sustainable? Is that also why you use biodegradeable resin for your cutters rather than plastic?
Yes, every action I take relating to Pie and Earring has a sustainability consideration. I’m not an expert on sustainability, I’m learning as I go. My default is to try to get materials second hand because, if it’s already made, I may as well give it a second lease of life rather than it going to landfill.
The cutters I use (from chip.chop.shop) are made from soya beans and resin. They will stick around for a while (a lot less than PLA plastic cutters) but decompose into water and biomass. I also buy old or broken jewellery from charity shops with nice beads that I break down and incorporate in my designs.
How do you develop your designs? Do they start out as drawings, for example?
I rarely plan out a design. The majority of my designs are abstract swirls, simply because I’m always repurposing leftover clay from the previous collection and I love the way the colours blend randomly each time. Also, because my clay is all second hand, it’s often incredibly old and crumbly, so it takes a while to condition. By then, I’ve usually lost patience and don’t want to to spend even more time creating an intricate design. Having said that, I’m planning to do more cane work this year, which is when you make a design that runs through clay like a stick of rock.
You started Pie & Earring during lockdown and it’s currently still a hobby. Can you see yourself making jewellery full time in the future?
I have given it a lot of thought and, of course, I would love my hobby to be successful enough to make a living from. However, I think it would then stop being fun for me, as I’d put too much pressure on myself. Plus I absolutely love my full-time job. I look after product quality for a vegan dessert company called Over the Spoon. Pie and Earring gave me a reason to get up in the morning during lockdown and I now hurry home to play after work a few days a week. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Polymer clay is an outlet where I let my imagination and feelings pour out, and that’s reflected in my fun designs.Racheal Stothard, Pie and Earring
Your jewellery has a quirky and colourful style. What inspires the exotic themes and colours in your work?
I’m an extroverted person but I don’t tend to show it in the way I dress. Because of my work in the food industry I can’t actually wear jewellery, and I have to think a lot about serious matters. I guess polymer clay is an outlet where I let my imagination and feelings pour out, and that’s reflected in my fun designs.
Your home town of Leeds is a vibrant, multicultural city. Have you always lived there and do you think the city has had a significant influence on your work?
I’m originally from Sheffield, so I’m a Yorkshire lass through and through. I follow a diverse range of other makers on social media who inspire me. Two makers I particularly love are Roma from Unique Sonder who uses bold colours to create patterns inspired by African fabric, and Holly from Blur and Bake who makes beautiful bright, funky slabs in Bradford.
Following on from the last question really, as someone who grew up in North Yorkshire I know how proud Yorkshire folk are of their county. What do you feel makes Yorkshire a great place for makers?
I am so proud to be from Yorkshire. The majority of my sales on Folksy are actually from the postcode I grew up in: S10. Also the polymer clay earring community (it’s a thing!) is fabulous and supportive. It’s amazing to have built up such a good relationship and long-lasting friendships with customers and fellow makers. Yorkshire, to me, is inclusive and there is space for everyone.
Are there any new techniques or materials you want to incorporate into your work in the future?
I really enjoy playing around and experimenting. I’ve dabbled with temporary tattoos on top of polymer clay, as well as sealing tissue paper, and loved the results. I was halfway through a silverwork course when the pandemic hit and I’d love to add hand-crafted metal charms or wire wrapping into my work. In the meantime I’m always on the scrounge for second-hand items to upcyle into my work!
15% off Pie and Earring with code ‘FEATURE15’ until Sunday 3 July 2022
Meet the Interviewer
The maker asking the questions this week is Geoff Coates from Woodsville Woodcraft.
Read more about Geoff in his Meet the Maker interview here – Woodsville Woodcraft – Meet the Maker