This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.
Let’s get to know Jules from Jules Reed Jewellery. She makes personalised, refined and very wearable jewellery from precious and semi-precious metals using traditional metal smithing techniques. Jules opened up about her country home and what she gets up to in her jewellery studio.
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
I live in the semi-rural district of the Hawkesbury. A beautiful historical town about 1 hours’ drive north west of Sydney. I have lived here for 15 years and I could not imagine living anywhere else. It’s a very pretty place with a great community. If anyone remembers the TV show, “A country practice” this is where it was filmed.
Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live?
I live on 5 acres and am surrounded by National Park. It’s only 5 minutes to the shops but it feels like living in the bush. I’m surrounded by gumtrees, paddocks with ponies and alpacas. I have 3 chickens which eat our scraps and give us lovely fresh eggs. Leo my gold retriever gives my family and I lots of love and we spoil him in return.
What do you like most about where you live?
I love that we are only an hour’s drive to the city but get to enjoy living in our rural community with space and nature close by. In winter we get to enjoy our fire place and collecting sticks from the gumtrees on dusk is a favourite to get the fire started. The smell & warmth of the fire is just beautiful In summer it is really hot here and we have to keep our eyes open for slithering friends but that’s part of living near national park.
Tell me about the jewellery that you sell on Etsy? How did you come to making jewellery?
I absolutely love fine jewellery and decided that I wanted to learn the skill of metal smithing. I’m not your typical jewellery designer. My skills are mostly self-taught, with some basic tuition along the way. I love to read and further my skills. My jewellery designs are an extension of my personality and tastes for fashion. After making jewellery pieces for myself and loved ones I decided to give Etsy a go and have never looked back. Being creative is part of me and brings me lots of happiness.
Where do you make the items that you sell?
I make my jewellery in my studio. Up my long winding dusty driveway my studio sits, it’s a rustic space at the rear of my property where I can make lots of noise and mess and I don’t bother anyone else. I have lots of natural light and my children’s artwork on the walls. I have lots of space and seem to scatter my work from one end of my bench to the other.
What do you like most about making jewellery?
That it’s almost always for a special occasions. Birthday’s, Anniversary’s, Christmas, Christenings, Wedding, Fathers’ Day, Mother’s Day, graduation and sadly the loss of a loved one. Making a wedding ring or personalised cufflinks for a wedding day is probably my favourite pieces to create. I always try to imagine the piece being received and the persons face when they open their jewellery. I want people of be really happy that they decided to make a purchase with me. I feel privileged to be asked to make jewellery for people’s very special occasions and moments.
What is the most difficult part of making jewellery?
Things can go wrong with manufacture of custom jewellery but the saying is that, “if you don’t make mistakes you aren’t trying hard enough”, well that’s what I tell myself when a creation doesn’t go to plan.
Stamping pieces with letters upside down does happen, “oh no”… Some days you just have put your tools down and decide to take a break and come back to it later and start again.
Oh yeah I know that feeling! And you do indeed need to just take a break, then start over…
It says on your etsy profile that you specialise in personalised jewellery that is meaningful to the person as a reminder of a special occasion. Can you share a story about a person and occasion that you jewellery has been made/purchased for?
Personalised jewellery is so meaningful and can be made exactly as the customer would like. I often get told that my customers love their jewellery because I create jewellery that cannot be purchased at the shops. Jewellery that is made especially for them and not mass produced is very special indeed.
I made a pendant last year that really touched my heart. I had a lady contact me with a hand drawn sketch of what she would like me to make for her best friend. Her best friend’s son tragically passed away and she wanted to give her friend something special to help her with her loss and make her feel like her son would be always close by.
On the pendant I stamped “Chris”, (her son’s name). On the outer section of the pendant she also asked me to stamp, “Kia Kaha”. I did not know what this meant, and looked it up to find that “Kia Kaha” means stay strong in Maori. At this point I did shed a tear for her friend.
I really hope the pendant I was asked to make for this grieving Mum gave her the strength she needed and I’m sure she continues to need to carry on. I can only imagine the pain of losing a child. It really is a privilege and honour for me to be asked to make special jewellery like this.
That is a beautiful and heart breaking story, thank you for sharing Jules. It’s good to know the phrase “Kia Kaha” – I will keep it in mind when I feel the need to fortify myself.
What is your favourite tool to work with?
My favourite tools are the tools that my Dad has custom made for me or tools passed onto me from Dad. Dad recently gave me all his metal stamps, they are something I will treasure forever.
I love to talk to my Dad about what I’m working on or new pieces I want to design. Dad often says you need this tool, I’ll make it for you. He puts his lathe & machinery to work to make tools to make what I create easier. He has made me mandrels, pushers and has even modified tools to suit the work I do. I feel very lucky to have my Dad to chat with.
My brother often lets me use his guillotine to cut metal and even my husband helps on occasion with letting me use his plumbing tools when required. Having the love and support of these beautiful special men in my life makes my jewellery work that much for special for me.
Wow, so cool of your dad to make tools for you! Best. Dad. Ever. And do you have a favourite material?
My personal favourite metal to work with is sterling silver but I do love rose gold too. Shiny classic designs are my all-time favourite.
Yup, that definitely comes across when you look at your shop. Very refined and very shiny! For example, this personalised cuff (click to see the listing) is polished to perfection. The rose gold is just beautiful!
I’m a big fan of jewellery made by hand with skill and love that is “very wearable”. That is, it is something that is out of the ordinary, but I would feel comfortable wearing everyday and be confident that it would last. There is a lot of jewellery that looks great, but when you put it on it doesn’t feel comfortable to wear. For example, studs can often stick out and get in the way when you are talking on the phone. Your jewellery definitely fits this “very wearable” criteria for me.
Could you tell me a little bit about the process that you go through to design and make your items?
The Russian ring pendant is a favourite with so many people including me, so I thought I would share the creative process for this piece of jewellery.
One of my favourite things about the Russian ring pendant is the sound it makes when worn. It makes this soft jingle sound when it’s on a chain around your neck. The rings roll over the top of each other & the motions they make are just beautiful. Mother’s tell me that their babies love to play with the pendant, there is something really relaxing about the rings that glide over the top of each other. I get lots of lovely feedback and admirers when wearing my own Russian ring pendant.
The creative process for making this item (click here to see the etsy listing):
Determine the ring sizes that the customer would like. The Russian ring pendant can be made in many sizes from 17mm diameter up. Some clients like the rings delicate and small while others like them to be a bit more of a statement piece. I have made these pendant in 9ct yellow gold and sterling silver combinations.
Let the fun commence. With my trusty saw and a blade that is only slight thicker than hair I cut three strips of sterling silver wire exactly the same length.
Then with lots of force and my raw hide hammer I forge the metal and make the wire into 3 three rings.
Then I cut threw two rings, open them up and attach the rings to each other and then re-solder closed and then pickle.
If the rings are to be personalised then at this stage I would very carefully stamp each ring.
Polish with various grades of sandpaper and then finally several polishes on the buff so that all the scratches are removed and it is super shiny.
The final step is to clean off all the buffing soap off the rings and then I polish by hand with a soft cloth.
Once the rings are all clean I usually have to clean myself up too as I don’t want to get any of my greasy hands on anything during the packaging phase.
Grab a box that I would have already pre-made. Then I package the jewellery up in tissue paper, write a note to the customer and then off to the post office to ship.
There is so much satisfaction once I’ve finished an order. I only get to imagine my customer’s reaction when opening their jewellery. I am always aiming for happy smiling faces on the other end.
It was great to learn more about you and your jewellery and your making process. I loved seeing inside of your studio! Sounds like a great place to spend some time…