A gem in the Somerset countryside

Erica busy at work in her workshop

Erica busy at work in her workshop - Credit: sub

We caught up with Erica Sharpe, the award-winning designer of fine jewellery.

Stella painted box- another creation from Erica

Stella painted box- another creation from Erica - Credit: sub

Words by Adilla Allebone-Parish

Born and bred in rural Somerset, Erica grew up in a colourful, creative world where her zoologist father and botanist mother allowed her to make mess, explore and create in her own way.

This uninhibited creativity as a child led to a young woman with a love of art, which evolved into a passion for jewellery design. In September 2014 Erica was awarded Fine Designer of the Year in JewelStreet’s prestigious awards, as voted for by thousands of discerning jewellery lovers.

We met up with Erica at her Wedmore gallery to ask her about her art, her life in Somerset and how her surroundings affect the career that she feels passionately about.

You have been designing and creating jewellery for more than 30 years now, what made you become a jewellery designer?

I did a foundation course in art, which introduced me to a range of new disciplines. I didn’t even realise that jewellery making was on the syllabus but it ticked every box .

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I loved taking raw materials and making them into something three-dimensional. The ability to follow the whole process through to the creation of something so loaded with meaning totally captured my imagination.

Do you remember the first piece of jewellery you made?

My mum kept my first piece of jewellery; a necklace made of a raisin on a piece of thread that I made when I was five!

Who are your customers?

My customers are often people looking for a piece to reflect their story. I use traditional jewellery making methods and my customers tend to appreciate that I make pieces by hand, not using state-of-the-art equipment.

Often my customers are collectors of art and craft, or they have a connection with a place or meaning that is echoed in my work, like my Cornish tin range or my Wells Swan collection.

People who buy my jewellery have a strong reason to want the piece; they’re not just looking for something sparkly but something with true meaning.

Buying local is becoming increasingly important to many people. Have you noticed this trend in jewellery buying?

I have customers who have been coming to me for years, but lots more local people have begun to notice I’m here and realise that I can help them.

People seem to be more open to buying locally and they realise they don’t need to go into the cities to find fine jewellery.

Buying from a local artist gives a sense of discovery, which is very healthy; it encourages people to explore their area and get interested in local things.

You are licensed to trade in fair trade and fair-mined jewellery; how important is this to you?

Fair trade is absolutely vital. All of my pieces are made from fair trade or recycled materials. I have always made sure I know where my products come from; what happened before the materials reached my hands.

We all have a responsibility to the environment, other human beings and animals and we can all advance this with our everyday choices; what we choose to buy and what we use to make things from.

You create precious jewellery for others, but what is the most precious thing in your jewellery box?

My most precious piece is a ring I made for myself to commemorate my son’s birth.

On the night my son Toby was born I looked out of the window and saw a perfect crescent moon and Venus.

My husband bought the materials and we had a diamond cut especially for the ring inspired by that night.

Sadly, my husband passed away a year later. That ring is absolutely the most precious thing in my jewellery box and symbolises everything that a piece of jewellery should be.