Welcoming jewellery maker Tamsin Francesca to the Contemporary Textile Fair Online 2021

I have always made things, always built things with my hands.  Jewellery making has been described as engineering on a tiny scale, which makes sense to me. I have always been fascinated with how objects fit together and work. Originally, I trained as a costume designer, which didn’t always mean using fabric but did allow me to play with materials and experiment the textile techniques. 

I have a varied and winding path in the arts, starting in sculpture and model making, through costume for theatre and film, to metalsmithing, and finally blending my skills and love of all things miniature into my unique jewellery style.   And now in my core collections, I use textile and goldsmithing skills together, the results being strong but very delicate looking pieces. I use 0.2 mm wire in silver and gold, which on its own is obviously fragile, but when worked, either crocheted or used in Torchon bobbin lace, becomes strong, almost springy.

I became interested in lace-making techniques whilst training as a goldsmith at the John Cass School and Hatton Garden in London. I discovered lacemakers in my family who inspired me to learn the technique which was entirely self-taught, mostly from books from the library! (The 3-D lacework is a technique of my own invention so I can create big pieces that are lightweight and easy to wear). 

The Victoria and Albert Museum holds lacework by my ancestor, Sir Stuart Town, in its permanent collection, so when I have exhibited there myself, it felt like a real family connection had been restored. His wife, Lady Christine, was responsible for a lace altarpiece in Wells Cathedral, so I have big shoes to fill! 

One of my favourite things to do are one-off commission pieces. Really personal designs that have a deep meaning for the person I'm making it for. I make wedding and engagement rings for people who want something different, personal, unique. Everything I do is completely handmade. I don't use CAD, I don’t use machines I can’t manipulate with my hands, so each ring is imbued with that certain something you only get from a hand made piece; when you create something you have to give a bit of yourself to it and I think if something is made without love it shows and that's not possible if you want to create a quality piece, you have to put some of your heart into it. 

My other main passion in life is conservation. I actively work to create wildflower meadows where I live in Hertfordshire. We all need to take action and shout it from the rooftops! So many of us makers are inspired by nature, but that is an empty statement to me if you're not acting to create, maintain and protect our wild places. 10% of all Cobnut pieces go directly to wildlife conservation projects in the UK.