Over the last few months I've had to get better at introducing myself and describing my work. I've needed to write and update text for my website, for my Etsy shop and for applications to various shows. It's hard to do for a number of reasons, chief amongst them being the confidence to take yourself seriously (yet also not too seriously). I'm sure I'm going to get it wrong a few times before I start getting it right.
It's marketing basically. Each time I write something new I'm trying to add to the story of me, to my 'brand' if you like. I'm still trying to decide what that brand is. I know some things it isn't (luxury, 'fun', trendy) but it's much harder to pin down what it is. Sometimes I've written something and a word has clicked, for example recently I've started using the word 'playful' to describe my work and, for now, it feels right.
Below is the most recent text that I've written for the website of Cambridge Showcase, at which I'll be showing my work on Monday November 23rd:
Dittany graduated with a degree in Jewellery Design from Middlesex University in 1995. In the last few years she has taken up creative practice again after working in another career - language assessment. In that time her practice has developed from painting and drawing, through printmaking and now back to jewellery. The images used in her jewellery were developed through print making, in particular screen printing. The evidence of her evolution through these art forms is clear in her work.
Dittany uses a unique combination of card and sterling silver to create jewellery that is light, water resistant and durable. Once her images are printed onto card, she cuts out the constituent parts using a laser cutter, a technique that comes with its own challenges when dealing with paper and card. Multiple layers of card are then laminated together so that a strong bond is formed. For some pieces findings are added afterwards and for others they are embedded into the laminated card, thus making a feature of the functionality of the piece. Her inspiration comes from the materials and the processes she works with; a desire to experiment with both to see what forms are possible.
Her current collection includes stud earrings, drop earrings, brooches and pendants in a range of colours and sizes. Playful yet elegant, their design led approach is immediately obvious. She will be showing her work at Cambridge Showcase hot on the heels of taking part in the Hepworth Wakefield Christmas Market.
I varnish all of my jewellery with multiple coats of matt varnish and have spent a long time looking for the perfect varnish. I want my varnished pieces to still look like paper, but also to be as strong and as water-resistant as possible. I'm not expecting anyone to take a bath in a pair of my earrings but they do need to survive being worn next to damp skin, or being caught in a rain shower.
A gloss or satin covering is not appropriate for my current collection as it changes the look of the jewellery, giving it the finish of plastic. The perfect varnish should therefore be matt, clear and water-resistant.
I've done a lot of research on the internet to find out what other people use. For example here is an excellent article relating to papiermache objects. However, there are not that many (stubborn?) people out there trying to make properly water-resistant paper jewellery. Unfortunately some people make claims as to what different lacquers/sealers/varnishes can do without properly testing them. For example that a PVA type glue will waterproof paper - it will not!
So far I've tried more than 15 different kinds of varnish that have turned out to be unsuitable. Sprays are not good - they don't seem to cover all parts effectively, even after multiple coats. PVA type coverings, including those sold for decoupage, are unreliable, they usually stay tacky to the touch when dry and go sticky if they get wet. Other varnishes say they are clear but actually leave a yellow or chalky tone.
I test each varnish in the following way. I take a number of my card discs and varnish them with multiple coats with sufficient drying time in between. I've tried varying the number of coats and also tried a number of combinations of different varnishes on the same pieces. The varnished discs are then submerged in water. This is a harsher test than the reality of what my jewellery should survive in use, so should be sufficient.
Since I started making paper jewellery, I've kept researching new varnishes and combinations of varnishes to improve the quality of my pieces. My most recent experiments yesterday have extended the time a piece can survive submerged in water to over two hours. This result was achieved by layering two different kinds of varnish.