An eye for texture: the jeweller shaping precious metals into tiny artworks

Sally Herbert of HerbertandWilks Jewellery is a designer and maker of contemporary mixed metal jewellery. While first being captivated by the sculptural properties of cast glass and the lost wax process, she fell in love with jewellery making early on. She considers the medium similar – only on a smaller scale. Her pieces are modern and sculptural, with an emphasis on surface and texture.


 

 
What do you make?
I make contemporary jewellery that is organic and sculptural in form and feel.

How did you get into your craft?
Growing up in NZ and being part of a creative family meant I was encouraged in whatever artistic pursuit took my fancy. I had attended numerous diverse classes over the years without finding a decisive direction. Then, during a session at Hungry Creek, I came to the sudden realisation that I could bring together all my many skills and creativity in one medium, jewellery.

I started Herbertandwilks to help pay for the materials I was using and to provide the impetus to study jewellery design. I named my business by combining my married surname with part of my maiden name, so even though it sounds like we are many, the name is reflecting the parts of me. I first worked from my garage and we then built a workshop in the garden. I have grown my business online and you can also find my work in selected galleries and exhibitions across New Zealand.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I decided approximately five years ago that I would take the plunge and enrol on a part time basis at Hungry Creek. I had some skills but by working alongside the tutors I was able to stretch myself trying new processes and learning how to put some more formal disciplines into my work processes. Hungry Creek has helped me to develop and clarify my creative ideas and has given me confidence to find my own unique style and voice.


 

 

 
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I work primarily in silver and bronze with highlights of gold, brass and copper. My favourite material has to be silver. I love the subtle colours you can capture by changing its surface or finish.

My designs focus on the finished surface of the work. I love to use patterns and textures to change the appearance of the surface of my work. The patterns and textures are captured from several sources including antique lace and fabrics, volcanic rock from our Mt Eden garden, the interaction of different materials and hand applied and worked surfaces.

At present my favourite way to texture is to take sheet metal and drape it over a piece of basalt rock using multiple hammers. Probably not so great for the hammers but the rock remains unmarked and the resulting texture in the metal allows me to create pieces that are similar, although totally unique, due to the surface.

What inspires you?
My work is inspired by simple forms and textures. I find inspiration at unexpected times and in random ways such as on a walk, reading a book, talking to people or walking through a museum or art gallery. I draw from the past from classical art and jewellery and weave into it the beauty and freedom found in nature.

The idea for my wrapped range came from a piece of lace and a conversation around how people use clothing and jewellery to “transform” themselves – to outwardly change how people perceive them based on the outer layer. Wrapped is all about changing the appearance of the metal firstly by wrapping the surface using texture and secondly to embellish by using patinas or gold leaf.


 

 

 
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
The philosophy behind my work is one of continuous learning; the evolution of technique and process driven by new experiences and inspirations. It took me awhile to realise that learning is a lifelong activity and not just something you do when you are young. I also had to learn the hard way that rather than working in isolation, talking to new people and having quality conversations allows your work to expand as you open yourself up to see new processes and different perspectives.

Describe your creative process
I learnt very early on that my drawing skills did not match what I was seeing in my mind, so my designs rarely start life as drawings. Instead, since I have always preferred to work with my hands, I adopt a process of modelling with various mediums – paper, wax, and metal.

I have developed my processes which over time has allowed my work to move in new directions and capture a sense of fluidity and movement.

My favourite material has to be wax, from melting, engraving and carving the soft modelling wax used to build sculptures, to the soft pink wax sheets which allow me to build up a piece by layering.

I have moved over time to looking towards texture with the confidence to embrace the random and less precise nature of more organic pieces. I love working texture into the pieces, either from leaves, bark, flowers or stone from around our garden in Mt Eden.


 

 
Describe your workspace
My workspace is a beautiful workshop nestled amongst the fruit trees and beautiful plantings in our garden. I decorated the exterior with textured copper butterflies that I patinated using heat. Originally, I worked from our garage and dining room table, but I think the family got tired of fighting for space as I spread out!

To gain back the garage we built a workshop which, complete with a crystal chandelier, a repurposed cabinet maker’s workbench, and a painted jeweller’s bench, is my perfect place to work in. I love being out amongst the trees and the flowers and it provides me with a tranquil space to work.

Five words that describe your mind
Noisy, random, thoughtful, creative, evolving.

What are you currently listening to?
It’s very dependent on how I feel on the day and what work I am doing. It can range from just appreciating the quiet and listening to the bird song around my workshop to a wide range of artists on YouTube Music.


 

 
A favourite quote
I have two that I have embedded in my calendar. It is so easy to sit a wait for the perfect time to create that perfect work. What takes courage is stepping out of your comfort zone and taking that step. Who and what you are today is built on the actions you took in the time previous. The only way to grow as a person is to accept that you may not have all the answers, you may not get it right but by taking action you allow yourself to grow as a person.

“The world doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for complete answers before it takes action.”

“Stay afraid, But – do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow…”

Tell us about your pets
We have a tiny little Brussels Griffon called Dobbie who looks like an Ewok. She is going blind but is seriously the cutest thing on four legs. We also have Ella who was supposed to be a smallish dog, but she didn’t seem to get the message and instead is this enormous mix of breeds with a lot of German Short Hair Pointer in her. She has eaten our fibre three times, dug up most of our front garden. And turned our carefully controlled lives into a chaotic crazy time. She loves Dobbie, Dobbie’s bed, courier packages, post, and people to bits and especially people’s shoes.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Work hard, make time to keep on learning, take advantage of all the online help from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – they have great resources covering small business. Listen, and read blogs. Most importantly do not work in isolation – talk to people who work in your craft area, attend craft markets – there is an amazing community of people out there.


 

 
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
I love talking to the artisans and hearing the back stories that are behind a handcrafted item. Handcrafted products – their very nature means that there are fewer of them, so whatever you are wearing, eating or adding to your home is just as unique as you are. There is too much cheaply and mass-produced stuff in the world that is intended to be thrown away after a short time. Do yourself and the planet a favour by buying something inherently beautiful and long lived.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
This was some work by the potter Elena Renker. I have one of her small bowls in my studio, to keep precious things in while I work with them, as I love the exquisite texture and glazes she uses. Having this sit on my jeweller’s bench brings me pleasure every time I sit at my bench.

What’s in store for the rest of 2019?
This year has been all about taking further leaps out of my comfort zone and putting plans into action. As a result, this has been an exciting and rewarding year. I have grown the number of galleries who are now stocking my work, I have been using a range of new techniques in my work, I have just released two new ranges of work inspired by new leaves in spring and Kowhai tree leaf prints in silver that complement my existing work. I am just about to launch into another gallery, this time with a presence in both Wellington and Christchurch, with a new range focusing on chain, that I am really excited about.


 

 
Prize draw and special offer for Felt readers!

Sally has generously offered a gorgeous prize for one lucky Felt reader of their choice of either these lovely leaf earrings or some sweet wildflower earrings (see above). To be in to win leave us a comment below telling us and let us know which pair you like and why, and what else you like about Sally’s story and creations.

The draw closes at 5pm on Monday 11 November and is open to New Zealand residents only.

And the prize draw’s not all! Sally is also kindly giving her Felt customers 20% off any of the stunning jewellery in her Felt shop for the duration of her feature fortnight. Just purchase before 5pm Monday 11 November, and enter the code ILOVEFELT in the voucher code field at step 4 of checkout. Thank you so much Sally!

28 thoughts on “An eye for texture: the jeweller shaping precious metals into tiny artworks

  1. Sally’s creations are so beautiful – I love the textures of the jewelry, and the botanical influences. I’d love the wildflower earrings – they’re so unique and I’d love to give them to my mum or sister for Christmas.

  2. I love Sally’s work and have several of her rings. They are unique and a wonderful combo with silver and a touch of gold ❤️
    She is lovely to meet in person – very humble. Her husband is clearly a big fan of her talents.
    I love the flower earrings.

  3. What a lovely story ❤️ Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with us Sally. Im a little bit crafty but only on a small level and have found over the years, it has helped me through some tough times. Creating with my hands has helped heal my mind and heart. I would love the wildflower earrings, they are beautiful. Thank you x

  4. Wonderful work as always Sally. I really like your use of flora in your jewellery, not just flowers but leaves and seeds as well. I love the wildflower earrings. Keep up the great work!

  5. I loved seeing your workspace, the workshop, what a lovely feel it has! My fave earrings are the leaves in silver and gold. Actually, I like them all…! I have plenty of interesting things in my South Island garden that I will send to you for casting!

    1. Hi Trish, interesting question! The shape keeps evolving in my quest to find earring hooks that stay in your ear. I also like the look which came from modelling hooks until I found some that worked consistently and appealed when used with the design.

  6. Thank you for sharing. An interesting read and also this generous opportunity. Your dogs sounds like huge characters. I love the silver with a touch of gold leaf earrings. Happy to read you will soon be stocking somewhere local as I’m in Christchurch. Can’t wait.

    1. Hi Iris, thanks for your comments and agree Dobbie and Ella are definitely characters. Ella is not one to be around when it’s wet as you ended up muddier than she is ;-). Can’t wait to be joining the group of jewellery artists in the Christchurch gallery but in the meantime, my work is also at Little River Gallery – Which is an amazing Gallery on your way to Akaroa.

  7. I love leaves of any sort and your black leaf earrings are particularly beautiful! The rectangular hooks are a clever solution to the problem of earrings falling out.
    I can related to your comment about “drawing skills did not match what I was seeing in my mind”. I have this problem too. Working in clay works for me, drawing skills still got a long way to develop.

    1. Thanks, Jenny. Totally get the use of clay, my drawing skills definitely need some work but I suppose I also need some inclination – but prefer modelling so its a work in progress!! The leaves are lovely and they always end up different which suits my style.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *