Myself and Lauran are the Hand on Heart Designers, led by Production Manager Katie who likes to get stuck in every once in a while but can mostly be found getting frustrated over spreadsheets! For me being a designer started over a year ago, and poor Lauran was thrown in at the deep end starting her new job over the last Christmas period.
When you think designer you might think that we sit at a desk and design everything on a computer. Granted, we do spend a lot of time on the computer, this is how we edit prints to remove any smudges and get the image ready to be engraved or impressed into clay for our engraved range. And we always design the layout of the handcrafted pieces on the computer.
We use a special type of printer to engrave onto sterling silver and stainless steel. And we always design the layout of the handcrafted pieces on the computer. This involved putting one design on to print whilst you design the next, and many orders have a multiply pieces to make so engaraving always keeps us busy. It’s also a relatively clean job, unlike handcrafting silver.
When we hand make the jewellery we get down the the messy stuff! Say goodbye to nice nails and clean hands, say hello to blisters and silver dust stuck under your nails for days. When we say we handcrafted jewellery we mean it.
The first hands on job is making the silver. This entails rolling out silver clay and stamping it with tiny handprints then cutting into pretty shapes like hearts and butterflies. This is the last job a designer is trusted with and it takes a lot of training, silver is very expensive so we have to be experienced to be able to know what looks right and what doesn't.
Once the clay has dried we must sand it to get rid of rough edges and any marks in the clay. This is the very messy part, as we sand the silver we create silver dust, which gets everywhere! We have all been known to walk around all day with silver dust all over our faces.
Next the silver is kilned at around 500 degrees, then again at over 800 degrees. We use a special kiln which isn't very big but is located next to my desk, in winter it's a lovely place to sit, in summer, not so much. We use carbon in this part of the process and this is again a very messy thing. It's black and dusty, and when Product Development Manager Heathers been at the kilning station it's like we've had carbon rain in the Studio.
Finally we finish the piece when it's exited the kiln and cooled. We polish each piece by hand using six different cloths in a specific order. This is where the blisters come in, you have to press down quite hard and use a back and forth motion to get the jewellery as shiny as possible. We then darken the prints, and engrave any messages the customers have requested on the reverse of the silver and pass the orders to Katie.
This seems like a long process and we do make a batch of silver at a time, but we take a lot of time editing each print and designing each piece, and making sure we work to any requests from the customers. We also help out Customer Services by checking prints and photos they receive, and helping with any queries that need some designer advice.
We still manage to find time for a cup of tea and the occasional trip into town for a tasty lunch. Being a designer isn’t a breeze, but I wouldn’t swap my job for anything. Giving our customers something that's so special to them is an amazing thing to experience everyday, and I love hearing all the lovely feedback people have about our work.