Well hello 2020- a New Year and a new decade with exciting prospects and plans. I am now officially back at work following the Christmas break and having had time to rest and reflect I am very pleased to say that this year, I intend to maintain the momentum of last year’s successes and really focus on building my business.
I wanted to start by sharing a bit more about me and why I am a silversmith and jeweller so here goes…
Where it all began I grew up in Cornwall spending most of my teenage years in the small village of Mylor Bridge and it was here that I made and sold my first pieces of jewellery. Made from perspex and thick layered acetate sheet and the very new oven hardening clay FIMO, I created a small range of handmade earrings and pendants that the local newsagent/chemist/gift shop agreed to sell for me. I still remember the pride I felt seeing the simple black display board with my colourful geometric creations in the window and the true delight when I was handed an envelope with my first ‘takings’. Obviously, it was only really pocket money but to the 15 year old me it enabled me to buy more materials and keep exploring and making my very 80s style designs both for myself and to sell. It was also a lot more fun than the other job I had cleaning up my Uncle’s butcher shop at the end of the day!! Looking back now, I can see how my early influences are occasionally present in some of my current work as they are also about shapes and layering textures. It’s rather a shame that I don’t have any photos or surviving pieces of them.
Moving on In 1988, I was enrolled on an BTEC Exhibition Design Course at Plymouth College of Art and Design. Our department was on the upper floor of an old Victorian School building (the type that had a separate entrance for girls and boys!) and we had to use the far entrance, taking me along the front of the building and past the railings that edged the pavement and dropped down to the basement. It was there that the silversmithing course took place and I thought it looked and sounded magical. Glimpses of the dancing flames from torches and rhythmic tapping of the tools caught my attention every time that I went past and, in all honesty, I do not know why I never asked about changing courses – especially as I didn’t stay for the second year of the BTEC. Instead I started a degree at Wimbledon School of Art to combine my passion for theatre with art. Specialising in scenic construction, painting and prop making my interest and desire to make jewellery still managed to find an outle,t with one of my final year projects being to make a replica costume and the regal jewellery of Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramesses II.
What next? After graduating and trying to make a living in theatre production, I soon realised that I needed a more reliable income and a job that would fit with raising a family. I completed a PGCE and went on to work in primary schools in Essex and then Devon. I usually ended up in the role of Art or Design Technology Coordinator and especially loved producing the school plays but I still had a desire to do something more physically creative. As part of a school initiative to promote the ethos of ‘lifelong learning’ I had enrolled on a Silver Jewellery evening class and it was now that I was finally feeling I had found my passion and what I was good at. At around this time my mum had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and with her passing away 2 years later at just 61 it made me re-evaluate where I was with my career and what I wanted to do with my future.
‘Let’s do this’ With encouragement and support from my family and friends, I made the decision to leave teaching, take up a part-time job in a gallery which enabled me to further develop and learn new skills and techniques with a view to starting a small business. Having found the energy and drive to say to myself “Let’s do this”, I did and Charlotte Biba Bouchard Jewellery became a viable reality for me about 5 years ago. I have exhibited at the Wonderworks Contemporary Craft Fair, at Cockington Court, the Exeter Craft Fair and the Devon Open Studios festival, as well as being a selected Guest Maker at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and the organiser behind the successful and increasingly respected Combeinteignhead Artisan Market.
Finally, ‘Why Biba?’ This is a question that I am often asked and the answer is both simple and touching. My mum was a huge fan of the fashion label Biba and, born just at the end of the 1960s with a mop of black hair, the iconic ‘bright face’ and big, round ‘dolly eyes’ she was delighted that she had not a Biba girl, but a Biba baby(!) and gave it to me as a middle name. Although I have to admit that as a child I longed for an ordinary name, I have grown to love it as I love the 1970s Biba look and eras that inspired it’s founder Barbara Hulanicki. My name matched up with my married surname makes rather a unique and memorable one that I know my mum would have been proud I am using.