Welcome to the first post of our new feature ‘Maker of the Month’! Look out for updates about each of our Designer Jewellers Group members.
Michael Carpenter has been associated with the Designer Jewellers Group since 1981, Fellow member Kerry Richardson asks the questions.
KR: What got you interested in making Jewellery?
MC: My step father was a small collector of silver, and I became intrigued by the Hallmarks of the items he had. From this I thought I would like to become a silversmith. But during my foundation year at art college, I started making small bits of jewellery, very much enjoyed that and went on to a 3 year degree course in jewellery design in Birmingham.
KR: Did you start your own business after you left college?
MC: No, I worked in the jewellery trade in London for 7 years, and was lucky
enough to work for a number of firms, from a cheap fashion manufacturer,
through to a repair workshop, a model maker and a high end Diamond Jewellery
Designer. I then moved to Suffolk in 1984 and set up my own workshop.
KR: How did you go about making a living when you set up your workshop in Suffolk?
MC: Well I made a small collection of work that I exhibited at The Earls
Court trade show, on a stand with other members of the Designer Jewellers
Group, and this started me selling my work into outlets around the country.
I did this for a number of years, eventually taking a stand of my own which
i continued up until 2008. I had about 85 outlets for my jewellery at one
time. I still continued to do various exhibitions too. I also opened a
gallery next door to my workshop in October 2004, Spiral Gallery.
KR: Has it been worthwhile opening Spiral Gallery?
MC: Oh yes, when we opened nearly 10 years ago I was still very much locked into the wholesale side of things. But as my outlets decreased, I found that the gallery took on a more significant role, and of course it is retail. I found that I was getting interesting commissions coming in and repairs and restyling work, and my experience of working in the jewellery trade side stood me in good stead, and so I am confident to tackle most things that come in. It is also great to be able to sell the work of other jewellers like myself.
I found I enjoyed meeting clients and customers, and this I feel has had a beneficial effect on my own work. It has also given me time to develop some larger pieces of jewellery, which I get to show at exhibitions, such as with the Designer Group at the Barbican.
KR: What are you working on at the moment?
MC: Well I am working on a commission for a client who wants a pendant in the form of a pair of hands in silver holding a pearl on a matching pearl necklace.
I am also working on a neckpiece consisting of beads that I have had in stock for a while. I have decided to use up materials that I have accumulated over the years.