Shaped from the Sea - Glasswing Jewellery in Penzance

PUBLISHED: 07:33 17 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:11 20 February 2013

Shaped from the Sea - Glasswing Jewellery in Penzance

Shaped from the Sea - Glasswing Jewellery in Penzance

Cornwall Life talks to Kate Pearse, owner of Glasswing Jewellery in Penzance, about her career as a jewellery designer who specialises in sea glass and silver

Cornwall Life talks to Kate Pearse, owner of Glasswing Jewellery in Penzance, about her career as a jewellery designer who specialises in sea glass and silver



I started Glasswing Jewellery, which I run from my workshop in Penzance, in 2005 after making the move back to live in Cornwall, but Ive been involved in metal work and jewellery making since leaving school. I make silver jewellery, incorporating sea glass and other salvaged materials, working mostly to commission.



As a young child I lived in St Ives, and when we moved to Dorset my family came back to visit Cornwall every summer. Like so many people, I loved beachcombing, and I kept a lot of the objects I collected along the shore. I particularly loved the nuggets of sea glass I found they reminded me so much of Cornwall and the sea. They seem like beautiful, glowing gemstones; I couldnt believe you could just pick them up for free!


The more I worked with sea glass, the more I began to see its potential as the focal point of some of my work


Ive been intrigued by jewellery since I was very young. Id often ask my mother to talk me though the contents of her jewellery box, which I knew by heart. Shed tell me about where shed bought each piece, or who had given it to her. I was just as familiar with my great aunts jewellery box, and even my neighbours! I realised from an early age how important jewellery is to people wearing certain objects defines a persons identity, represents affiliations and commemorates significant life events. Im fascinated by the sentimental, talismanic and romantic significance of jewellery and am drawn to the jewellery section of museums, and love reading about the significance of the pieces on show. The personalised, stamped pieces that I make reflect this fascination I love making jewellery for my clients with names, dates, wishes and mantras on.
After my degree, I embarked on a blacksmithing journeymanship. This is a traditional form of travelling apprenticeship, supported by the British Artist Blacksmiths Association (BABA). I lived and worked with different master blacksmiths throughout the country and I made thatching hooks, civic sculptures, and gates for stately homes. I then shared a small forge with a friend in the basement of the Phoenix Studios in Brighton and discovered that I was following in the footsteps of my ancestors my great-grandfather was a jeweller in Hatton Wall, and my other great-grandfather and his brother were the local blacksmiths in Cury on the Lizard peninsula.


Having finally moved back to Cornwall, and with small children, time and workspace was very limited, so I started working with beads, making butterfly necklaces on the kitchen table. I sold them at local craft fairs but wanted to get back to my real passion working in metal. I set up the Glasswing website in 2007 and moved to my workshop in Penzance.



The style of my work is definitely influenced by the fact that when I started Glasswing, my tool box was full of old blacksmithing tools heavy hammers, big files and steel punches. The techniques I use are an extension of the basic silversmith skills I learned at university, in between welding classes and pipe bending. I still use a very small array of simple hand tools. If I dont quite know how to do something, Ill give it a go, and Im often pleasantly surprised by the successes and sometimes inspired by the failures. I like my jewellery to retain the working marks and textures of the processes I use.



Recycled silver now makes up around 75% of my orders. Id seen how other jewellers use sea glass in their work and started making small beads out of it to put into earrings. The more I worked with sea glass, the more I began to see its potential as the focal point of some of my work. I love the fact that its essentially discarded rubbish, which has been through a magical process of smoothing by rolling around in the sea, sometimes for decades. Sea glass is a truly eco-friendly recycled material. It may not have started out that way but, by collecting it, youre cleaning up the beaches.



Coming back to live in Cornwall and seeing how so many people are running forward-thinking small businesses whether it be growing local produce, providing sustainable tourism, art education or crafts gave me the impetus I needed to finally start a business doing what Ive always loved.

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