30th September, 2016
This month we’re meeting Annette Petch
Can you describe how and why your career as an artist began?
I have been drawing, making things and taking things apart since I was very young. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be an artist; I left school at 16 to do a two year foundation course at Northampton School of Art. In the first few weeks I discovered jewellery making, and knew that was what I wanted to specialise in. I enjoyed all the other disciplines we studied, especially sculpture, printmaking and textile design, but metal has always been my first love. I came to Sheffield to study for my degree in jewellery and silversmithing. After graduating, I set up my business designing and making jewellery, in a ‘little mesters’ workshop in the city centre. I ran my business for around five years then went into teaching, and had a family. In the new millennium I decided to go back to my first love and started making jewellery again.
What / who inspires you? Is there anyone specific that inspires you – either from the arts world, or on a personal level?
My inspiration comes from the natural environment, particularly gardens, woodland and the seashore. As well as a jeweller I am also a gardener, so I have a constantly changing source of inspiration, both from my garden at home and the flower meadows around my studio. I am fascinated by flowers, leaves, seed pods and shells, and usually have pockets full of interesting samples I have collected. When I am designing a new piece, I like to do observational drawings before I start, and I have lots of books on botany and gardening that I use for research, for example to check on the number of petals a particular flower has, or how the leaves grow from the stem. Other jewellers who inspire me are Junko Mori and Jacqueline Mina. They both produce intricate work with a very strong organic feel.
What’s your typical working environment?
I work from my eco studio, which is on the same site as the Tudor remains of Sheffield Manor Lodge, a café, and a working farm. It is on a hill just outside the city centre, and has a tranquil, peaceful feel, more like being in the countryside. I sometimes run courses from my studio, so it is quite big, with lots of workbenches; when I am working on my own I tend to spread out, using different benches for different processes, and usually listening to music as well. If I need a break I can wander over to the farmhouse to check for post, say hello to the animals, or buy some cake from the café! I do a lot of commission work, so its a lovely environment for clients to come for a chat, and see where their special piece will be made. There is a living wall full of plants just outside my studio, which never fails to delight visitors, and I am lucky enough to be able to see it from my bench.
How do you organise your time?
I very often work seven days a week, especially if I have a lot of deadlines looming, and in the run up to Christmas. I like to do my admin and paperwork in the mornings, then spend the afternoons and evenings making. I make a lot of bespoke wedding rings, as these have very fixed important deadlines these are the pieces that take priority! Other deadlines that can’t be moved are shows and exhibitions. These tend to involve producing a new collection, as well as more mundane tasks such as painting plinths, and organising items for display. I try to spend some time every day promoting my work via social media. I make to-do lists to remind my self to update my website, and my blog, but these are the things that tend to get pushed aside. Open Up Sheffield, an artists open studio event, also takes up some of my time. I am a member of the Open Up committee, and one of my tasks is processing applications from artists and advertisers, so from October to January that keeps me pretty busy.
Do you attend exhibitions and shows? If so, what was the last show you attended?
I exhibit my work in a range of galleries around the country, and I do a few shows including the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate. In the past I have done some RHS shows at Tatton Park, Cornwall Design Fair, Handmade at Kew, and Top Drawer at Olympia, the last two as part of a group with Peak District Artisans. I have exhibited at the Great Dome Art Fair with PDA for the last three years, and this has been a great opportunity to get to know other members, and make new friends. Most recently I designed a statement piece necklace for Art Out Loud at Chatsworth. This was a new show for me, 30 PDA members exhibiting in a marquee as part of the festival, it was a fantastic event. I also like to attend exhibitions and shows as a visitor, rather than an exhibitor, for the opportunity to see other artists work, and do a bit of networking! Exhibition openings are particularly enjoyable for this.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I love what I do, and have no intention of retiring, but I would like to have the occasional day off! I have started cutting down on the number of craft fairs I do, as I seem to be getting more and more commissions. I really love the interaction with the clients, and designing and making something special for them. Often I reuse gold from family pieces, which is a lovely way to remember relatives, and I hope to continue doing this. For the last few years I have been working with Argentium silver, which has lots of exciting properties, and I would like to continue to experiment with this, and keep pushing the boundaries of what I can do with it. I am about to embark on the Argentium Instructor Certification, and will be running an Argentium workshop in October.