Monday, January 6, 2014

Jewelry artist finds Harmony in her designs

Silver engraved wedding bands with music notes
Interview with Jewellery Designer Rickson Sharkey @RicksonJewelry by @schulmanArt, Miriam Schulman

I stumbled upon the jewellery of Rickson Sharkey while searching for music related gift ideas last month for my blog. Since I chose to focus on the word "harmony" ( read that post here) I thought it only fitting to pick Sharkey as the first artist interview of the year. Rickson Sharkey is a full time, independent jewellery artist, living and working out of her home studio in Brampton, Ontario. Not only is her jewelry exquisite but it is full of meaning with designs inspired by motherhood, music, Celtic arts and endangered animals.

SchulmanArt: How do you think your environment has influenced you as an artist?
Rickson Sharkey:  I grew up in Brampton On, Canada, and I now live about a block away from my childhood home! In between that time, I went to University in Toronto, and travelled to the UK to get my Masters in Jewellery design. These environments strongly effected my life as a full time jeweller, because I have a strong sense of family living in my home town, but also was encouraged to be 'wild' with my ideas in the UK, so far from home. So it's really the best of both worlds.

SchulmanArt: When did you decide to become a jewelry designer?
Rickson Sharkey:  I think I decided to be a professional in University when I sold the first piece of jewellery I ever cast to a woman at the One of Kind Show. I was shopping at the show, wearing my Cat necklace, and a woman said 'where did you get that? I have to have one'. I said I made it and I had no idea what to charge for one. So I gave her my handmade business card I'd made that morning, and she contacted me later! I started my Etsy shop in University too (2007, 6 years ago), a professor suggested it, and I've grown with Etsy ever since. My photos were terrible, and I only had a few pieces, but after a couple of months, I sold something, and my shop grew from there. Now I have over 100 items.

Rose ring
SchulmanArt: Plus you have over 700 sales! Where did you study design?
Rickson Sharkey:  I studied at Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) for my BA, and then traveled to the UK and got my Master of Arts in Jewellery and Silversmith arts from the Birmingham City University. I'd say I learned how to communicate my ideas through Jewellery at OCADU, and started my path to a commercial jewellery company. In the UK, I learned how to be a jewellery artist, and not think about the end product, or the wearer, but the ideas behind the work. I really let loose, and created work with human hair!

SchulmanArt: What is your favorite medium to work in and why? 
Rickson Sharkey:  Wax! Which might sound funny since I'm a jeweler, but I think I'm really a sculptor! All my life I wanted to draw what was in my head. I worked so hard, and only achieved it in University, but I've always been able to sculpt what was in my head. It's so much more simple. So I carve and melt wax, and then cast the little sculpture in sterling silver, or gold. I'm loving adding gemstones these days as well.

Jewelry is available in her etsy shop
SchulmanArt: What is your most popular item? 
RS: My best selling items are my Claddagh or Celtic lines. I've always loved the classic image of two hands holding a heart with a crown atop, but found they were all the same in jewellery! So I set out to create my own modern, sculptural version, and people just love them!

Award winning Jewelry Design. (read more on her blog)
I just finished a new line based on one of my Masters Pieces (Spikes) because I got an award for it! The original was made of wax, resin and hair, so it was too fragile to ship. So, I used the design I had for a 'spine' like tail and made a chain for a bracelet, earrings, and a neck piece! It's wildly successful, they are articulated! I also have quite a few wedding and engagement ring designs I'm working on, that I will design in CAD, which is new to me and so exciting. It's where the design is done completely on the computer, and then the wax model is also created by machine! Really opens up the door for designing precise and small details!

SchulmanArt: How do you get inspired?
RS: I stay focused because my customers need my work! I get orders every week, so I have to be focused to make sure their wedding rings and other treasures arrive on time. When I'm creating something new, or for myself, the idea itself motivates the work. I find I work slow until I find the right design, or idea, and then I can't stop working! I just want to draw, and carve all day and night. I get inspired by my life, whatever is going on, so I have a son, and I am pregnant! So I do a lot of work based on motherhood and pregnancy. I am also inspired by whatever is NOT out there already. I often have good ideas, but if I see a lot of that idea on Etsy, I lose interest. Since my designs are something I want to wear myself, I can't help but get motivated.

SchulmanArt: Who has been your greatest influence as a designer? 
RS: I I have paintings my Grandmother made in my house; however, she influenced me by her jewelry collection! Every time I saw her, she was dressed to the nines and dripping in jewellery. She'd tell me where she got each piece, and why she liked it. I think she's a big reason I am a jeweler. When she was in the the hospital, dying, she asked me to bring her some of her jewellery. When I did, she put it on and sighed with relief and said 'ah, now I feel human'.

SchulmanArt: So do you make pieces she would like?
RS: When I was doing my Masters degree, my professor told me not to worry about what my parents or Grandparents thought of what I made. I was surprised to find she was right, I was keeping my family and friends at the back of my mind, and it wasn't until I really let go of their opinions that I could make earth shattering work. 

SchulmanArt: Describe a typical day. 
RS: I wake up and have breakfast with my Son. Then I go to my office and check sales, emails etc. I package up any items I have in stock. I hear a soft knock on the door, and gift my son (2 year old toddler) a big hug, and give him the packages ready to ship to bring to his Dad, they'll take them to the post office for me. Then I work at my bench, creating custom orders. I have lunch. I give my son a big hug goodnight for his nap. I work most afternoons at my bench, or drawing new ideas. Then I finish work at 5 and spend the evening with my Son, we usually go to the park, or play place or have a play date with his friends. Then I hang out with my Hubby in the evening after our son is asleep. It's quite an ideal lifestyle.

A peek at Rickson's home studio, connect on Facebook!
SchulmanArt:  Wow. Sounds like you have really found balance! What is your studio space like? 
RS:  My space is so small! Like a glorified closet, but it does the trick. I have a big drafting table, with my computer on it. Then my jewellers' bench, right beside. I have a little photo box set up by the window with the best light. I bump my elbows a lot! I can see the street from my window and often knock on it and wave to my son and Hubby when they go out for the day.

mentioned: @RicksonJewelry