A glimpse behind the scenes into the work of DJG member Harriet St Leger. Written by Jan Truman with images by Christine Kaltoft and Paul Hartley.
On the shelves above her desk stand jars of enamel powder and a rainbow of test cards swing beside the kiln. COLOUR is a vital ingredient in Harriet’s work and her surroundings are full of it; even the grey kiln glows red anticipating her next selection of powdered enamel dust.
She has an intuitive eye for pattern making, nurtured over the years through a love of sketching. Note books are filled with observational drawings, doodles and photographs which through a process of stylization and refinement flourish into a myriad of designs. New techniques, materials and private commissions also keep her artistic spirit afloat.
Harriet’s flamboyant style is fuelled by a passion for PATTERN and colour, so whether it’s drawing, creating, dancing, teaching or interacting with other people, the intricate shape of things around her become the inspirations for her work.
Asked why dancing is so important she answered “it’s a fun way to keep fit. Jewellery making can be an intense, laborious and isolating activity so exercise is vital to keep the energy flowing. Dance is a great way to do this, plus it makes you feel good”.
Harriet sifting powdered enamel onto a hand cut stencil over a copper leaf.
Harriet carefully lifts the stencil off the copper leaf.
The leaf with enamel is lifted.
The leaf ready for firing.
Harriet places the piece into the hot kiln.
The first coat of enamel is complete, and the colours emerge as the metal cools.
The excess enamel powder will get recycled.
Years of practice have honed this creative fusion… she makes it look easy! But there are many stages to produce her fine enamelled work, plus skilful craftsmanship to co-ordinate the finished piece. Things such as hand cutting paper stencils, knowing the exact moment to open the kiln, and when or indeed “if” to apply another layer of colour!
Harriet St Leger
Harriet trained at the Central College of Art, London (now Central St Martins) gaining a first class degree in Jewellery. Shortly afterwards she was awarded a New Craftsman Grant from the Crafts Council, enabling the purchase of a small kiln and materials to develop her enamels. Today Harriet’s jewellery is complemented by larger works, so in addition to traditional goldsmithing with precious metals, diamonds, gem stones and enamels, she also creates a range of bold and expressive wall panels.