For many people, jewellery is only jewellery if it features precious stones. If that’s you, then the work of Manchester-based designer-maker Jane Dzisiewski might come as a surprise. Determined to create something unique, Jane decided to make her own ‘stones’ out of resin, the sticky plastic-like by-product of trees that, she admits, is ‘very smelly to work with’.
It may not sound glamorous but the effect is wonderfully natural. Smooth, translucent ovals set in rings and pendants or cut to make bold, angular bangles – some mottled with bronze or iron dust, others trellised with metallic dyes.
Her favourite bangle – a pale, cog-like ovoid inspired by a spur-of-the-moment visit to Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry – is the first she ever made at college seven years ago. It was here that she came up with the process by which she makes the resin and since then she has been constantly honing and refining it, adding touches of colour, precious metals and pattern.
What she calls her ‘sheer bloody-mindedness’ has clearly paid off. Having scooped awards for her work at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair and the Homes & Antiques ‘Antiques of the Future’ award at The Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey earlier this year, more and more people are seeking out her jewellery. She is currently working on 10 commissions and has six upcoming craft fairs to prepare for.
A world of inspiration
The ideas for her extraordinary pieces could be sparked by almost anything, from architecture to old maps. When we meet, she has five sketchbooks on the go ranging in topic from the history of Edinburgh to the last days of the Incas, and she says she is ‘forever’ dragging her son off to the Manchester Museum to look at its collection of fossils, which she has loved ever since she was a young girl growing up on the Isle of Man. She has even been known to stop traffic in order to take photographs of wet concrete at her local bus station and has once or twice found herself wandering into neighbours’ gardens to study a particular leaf or branch. ‘It has given people a bit of a shock!’ she says.
Although always interested in jewellery, she originally wanted to be a graphic designer. ‘I was fascinated with lettering,’ she says. ‘I had a Letraset font book from school and I used to keep it under my bed and look at the letters every night.’ When it came to college, however, the expectation was that, as a girl, she would do textiles.
So followed a three-year course in textile design, which turned into 15 years running a promotional clothing business. It was only when her son was three and she realised how much she missed her creative side that she decided to go back to college to study jewellery design.
‘I always liked costume jewellery from the 1800s onwards because it was real statement stuff, but there was nothing like that in the shops,’ she says. A technician at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she studied, gave her a stack of books on contemporary jewellery – the first of many epiphanies. ‘It was a whole new world,’ she enthuses.
The next surprise was her first class in plastics. Having turned up on the course resolved to only work with precious metals, she found herself having another Eureka moment: ‘The plastics were so much more interesting than anything I’d seen before.’
Home from home
After college and a short stint making and selling in the Manchester Craft and Design Centre with peers from her course, she moved her studio to the basement of the Edwardian villa she shares with her husband and son in the leafy suburb of Didsbury. It has made the 3am revelations much easier. One night, puzzled by how to replicate in bangle form the mottled gold quality of a Klimt painting she had seen, she woke up with the idea to grind up resin with precious metals in a coffee grinder. Never one to wait, she jumped out of bed and set the grinder going. ‘I love having my own studio because I can just run downstairs and get on with it!’ she laughs.
There have been downsides, too. Since August 2012, the basement has flooded three times with water from the sewer. ‘It was a nightmare, we had sandbags everywhere,’ she remembers. ‘We were constantly taking water out in buckets, staying up at night and emptying the buckets in shifts. There was one point when I thought it would be easier to set fire to the house.’
Luckily, she managed to rescue all her work (now stacked in white boxes in the hall), and is seeing the experience as a positive: ‘I thought, “You know what? I’ll redesign the room. I’m going to rethink the whole space so it’s just going to be better.”’
With a freshly painted studio and the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair this month, things are back on the up. ‘For me, not everything has to go really well straightaway; it’s all part of the process. I don’t think, “What am I going to sell lots of?” – that’s ridiculous. I just want to make really lovely work.’ And rest assured, she is very good at doing just that.
Jane’s work costs from £45 for a bangle.
This feature was first published in Homes & Antiques November 2013.