Liz Samways meets West Yorkshire-based assemblage artist and jeweller Jacqui Temple-Smees to find out about her fantastic and fantastical work.
Please tell us about yourself and how you got started?
I am a part-time assemblage artist and jeweller working with found-objects and vintage ephemera. I have always made things, but decided to try out turning my passion into a business after taking redundancy in 2010.
What is the story and ethos behind your work?
Recycle, reuse, recreate. I am drawn to objects with a past,those discarded things which once had a purpose and a place in someone's story, but are now lost and waiting for a new purpose. I like the idea that these rejectamenta will become a part of a new story with a new owner. I am also a passionate recycler, so I don't like to waste anything!
What do you love most about what you do and what do you find the most frustrating?
I love being able to play with interesting and unusual objects. Putting them together to form a cohesive whole is like solving a fun but challenging puzzle; you can never tell how the piece will evolve and change and you have to be adaptable.
The most frustrating aspect is time! I have to fit working in my studio around my regular job, kids and home stuff, which doesn't leave as much creating time as I'd like. I also suffer from depression, and having a creative outlet is very important as I find this very cathartic and theraputic.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative space? Can we take a sneaky peek please?
Up until this summer, I was working out of our small bedroom but growing kids demanded a rethink. I now share a workspace with my mum in her spare room. We get on well and have a similar outlook on art, so it's a good match. I built my jeweller's bench myself using a chest of drawers and a kitchen chopping board; she's known as the Bride of Frankenbench and she serves me well.
I like to surround myself with the objects I have collected from markets, car boot sales, charity shops and sometimes the street. Having them on display allows moments of serendipity to occur. I also have drawers of small objects, findings, watch parts, etc. I tend to just pour these out onto my workbench and rifle through them to find the right part. Quite often, they stay there for days. I seem to work best wrestling order from chaos.
Who or what inspires you most in your work?
I love stories, especially fairy and folk tales, and these have been very inspirational to me. Sometimes the inspiration for a piece of work will come from the objects themselves.
I also find natural forms and machinery to be a great source for creative ideas, and my kids are always full of suggestions for interesting assemblages!
Who are some of your favourite artists/designers/makers?
Probably the two most influential artists in terms of my aesthetic style are Alphonse Mucha and Ernst Haeckel. I have always loved Mucha's graphic work and his representation of women as strong, sexy and vivacious. Haeckel's book 'Art Forms in Nature' is a wonderful, inspirational and simply amazing illustrative work, and one I go to often for inspiration.
My first encounter with Assemblage Art was a book called 'Secrets of Rusty Things' by assemblage artist Michael Demeng. I became a fan immediately and have just finished an online course run by Michael on construction techniques. His work is pretty wild and beautiful, with a macabre sense of humour. I am currently wearing a wonderful pair of earrings by the designer Karen Belarouci. Her jewellery combines my love of vintage ephemera and antique jewellery with style and skill.
Do you have creative slumps and what do you do to get out of them?
My creativity comes in waves or tides. When the tide is out I spend a lot of time lot of reading, watching movies, listening to music and visiting museums and galleries.
Do you find people try to categorise or 'pigeonhole' your work? If so, how do you feel about this?
People often comment that my work is very difficult to categorise. I share an aesthetic with the Steampunk movement and surrealist collage, but wouldn't limit myself to those descriptors. Assemblage and Altered Art is still a relatively unknown area in this country, although there have been artists in the news lately such as Kris Kuksi and Gerard Quenum who both use found objects in their art but in radically different ways.
How do you get word out about your work and where can we buy it?
I use Facebook as the main method of telling people what I'm up to, although I have to admit I'm not the most regular poster. I also have a website and a blog but, again, it's not something I update as often as I should! I don't sell my work online at the moment, just at fairs and arts trails.
As your items are all one-offs, how do you manage to price realistically and organise/manage your sales?
Pricing is probably the thing that I find most difficult as you can't just charge an hourly rate. I take into account the cost of materials used and time taken, and then decide how much people might be willing to pay. You can be too cheap, which people can perceive as lack of quality, or too expensive, so nobody can afford your work! Finding something inbetween and pricing to your target audience is a better approach. I have a spreadsheet system to keep track of stock, and always take a notebook to fairs to record sales.
What do you have planned for the next year in terms of your business and practice?
I am hoping to complete some larger pieces based on folk and fairy tales, and get my website set up to sell my work. I'm also intending to expand my knowledge and try new methods of working to improve my skills.
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