Focus on an EVAN artist: Emma Scott

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Interview with Emma Scott – Jeweller – December 2022 - By Polly Marix Evans

You have no idea how excited I’ve been about interviewing Emma. I had this idea that I’d go swooshing off to her fairy-tale Rapunzelesque tower of a studio and try on all her jewellery. In reality we do the interview over the phone as we’re both really busy in the run up to Christmas, and Emma is recovering from Covid. She also informs me there isn’t actually a fairy-tale studio, just a garage acting as a studio.

‘It’s not fancy, but it does the job. And once I’m lost in my work I really don’t notice where I am. I’m like a mad professor with doodles and scribbles on bits of paper all around me, and gemstones and pieces of wire, and maybe a cat wandering over my work getting gemstones stuck between his toes. My work-bench is often so full of stuff that I end up working on my knee!’

Yep, Emma sounds like my kind of quirky worker.

Emma’s been making jewellery on and off for the past twelve years or so, but it’s since 2019 that she’s really gone for it, and is now a full-time self-employed jeweller. She agrees this is a really lovely position to be in, and part of the creative’s dream, to support oneself through one’s own artwork.

Emma is self-taught, though she’s had smatterings of help along the way. She originally wanted to be a blacksmith and, when she left school, did a day at a forge up in Alston, though she decided it really wasn’t for her. The smithy she was working with was 6 foot something and made, amongst other things, amazing ceremonial swords. ‘It’s a really physical job,’ says Emma, ‘I’m only 5 foot 1, and some of his pieces were bigger than me!’

So, she redirected her love for metal into smaller works. She tells me she used to hang out with Neil Edgar, a jeweller based in Caldbeck, and he encouraged her to experiment with mending and making jewellery and, before she knew it, she was completely hooked and hasn’t looked back since.

Health issues did force Emma to take a break from her creative work for a good few years, but the death of a childhood friend made her realise she needed to seize the moment and do what she loves right here, right now. And it’s paid off.

Emma Scott Jewllery

Emma’s work is whimsical and enchanting. Unlike many jewellers she doesn’t produce multiples of similar items. Her pieces are unique, each one telling a story – or possibly a fairy-tale. She’s always loved fantasy and grew up reading Terry Pratchett, looking out for dragons or unicorns. She’s a ‘nature freak’ too (her words, not mine!) and loves nothing more than investigating clumps of mushrooms or turning over logs to see what scurries from underneath. She tells me about the time she stalked a crab on the beach at Allonby for over half an hour, just to see what it might do! I ask her if she’s kissed any frogs, but she’s elusive about this, admitting only to having a wonderful and supportive partner who’s happy to fix lights in jewellery cabinets.

I ask Emma if she has strict working hours, as she works from home. ‘I’m definitely a morning person and can get so much more done before lunch than after, but I’m not totally strict about my work routine. I’ll happily take a cuppa back to bed in the morning to answer emails or do admin, or stay up stupidly late at night doing gemstone shopping.’

Emma Scott Jewellery

Emma Scott Jewllery

Emma Scott Jewellery

Emma works mainly in silver, with gold to order as keeping a stock of gold pieces can become really expensive. Her works really are one-of-kind pieces. She’ll pick up a stone and wait for it to speak to her, tell her what it wants to be. She tells me that most of the pieces that sell well, and quickly, are the ones that the stone has told her straight away what it wants to be. And then there are some she doesn’t like, so she’ll tell them ‘I don’t like you!’ Then they sulk on her work bench for a week, or a month, or even a year! Eventually Emma and the stone come to an understanding and the stone will suddenly tell her what it needs to be, then they can be friends and a new piece of work can begin.

The ’rough’, uncut stones are the ones that really like to chat, they have ‘soul’.

Emma tends not to cut her own stones, unless someone appears with a piece of something they’ve found and want her to make into jewellery. Cutting stone is very time consuming and she’d rather be designing and assembling.

Her work involves lots of ‘twiddles’ – this is what helps give it the fairy-tale feel. She can sit there for hours working out how to get the right flow of a piece, make sure it hangs right. And, for Emma, that’s where the joy is. It’s a very organic process, and she doesn’t often design on paper, just lets it happen.

Emma Scott Jewellery

Emma Scott Jewellery

Emma Scott Jewellery

I ask her to talk me through the making process, a step-by-step guide: design and cut comes first, followed by assembling; then each piece is soldered with sterling silver solder; polishing comes next ‘It gets all black and sticky and looks a right old mess,’ then enamelling, if required for that piece; the stones are set last of all – some pieces have up to 40 separate stones; then a final polish and it’s done. Phew! It might take 3 or 4 days to make a pendant, though quite often Emma will have other small jobs going on at the same time.

It’s a real hands-on job, cut by hand, soldered by hand, though she does own a micro Dremel for polishing in all the little nooks and crannies.

Emma takes commissions, but likes to have a certain amount of freedom to make each piece work well. It’s not just a matter of it looking good, it has to be comfortable, wearable, durable and fit well. A two-dimensional design that a customer likes just might not translate well to three dimensions. She sometimes sends customers away to look at her website and come back with a few images that really appeal to them, then she’s got her starting point. Though, obviously, throughout any commission the communication and sharing of images and ideas is ongoing to make sure everyone is happy with the outcome.

‘Sometimes I just like to make something bonkers and mad! Go berserk!’

Emma tells me about her piece ‘Journey to the Moon’, a collar type necklace with a Steam-Punk style to it. It features panels, each depicting a different part of a story, from hot air balloon to rocket ship, with suns and moons and stars and planets. She made it on a complete whim, ‘I love everything celestial!’ It’s definitely not an every-day piece of jewellery, and it was a risk, but sold almost immediately, and the customer even commissioned extra panels for it.

‘It was a risk, and I poured so much love and energy and imagination into it, and it sold! And it’s such a buzz to sell. Mainly I spot my earrings on people, as necklaces are often hidden under coats or scarves, especially in Cumbria! But it’s so nice to see my work being worn, there’s no point people buying it and not wearing it, there’s already so much art mouldering away in attics when it should be out being seen and appreciated and loved!’

So, what next for Emma? She’s actually pretty content right now, though she wouldn’t say no to eventually owning her own little studio with a showroom or gallery, so ‘people can come and see me work and chat and watch and learn.’ Well, I’d definitely be up for that. Rapunzelesque tower with attached gallery space going anywhere? Send offers on a postcard!

Emma Scott Jewellery

So, what next for Emma? She’s actually pretty content right now, though she wouldn’t say no to eventually owning her own little studio with a showroom or gallery, so ‘people can come and see me work and chat and watch and learn.’ Well, I’d definitely be up for that. Rapunzelesque tower with attached gallery space going anywhere? Send offers on a postcard!

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