#spotlightonshe, sharing stories about local women and showcasing inspiring women who run local independent businesses on our high streets or from their own homes.
Lynn, a local jewellery artist and mum, started her business from a love of creativity and upcycling. With her business, Unearthed by Lynn, she takes shards of pottery and sea glass that she has found or been given, and turns them into beautiful, unique pieces of jewellery. She sells her jewellery in local boutiques and galleries and also runs jewellery making workshops. Here, she tells us her inspiring journey to starting her own business and gives us an insight into her fascinating world of unearthing.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m from Vancouver originally but have lived in Stone for about ten years now. I met my husband, who is from Eccleshall, on a cycling trip in France. My Dad was actually born in Britain, he was a war baby, and my grandmother was a war bride who moved to Canada from Manchester. It’s amazing because I have actually been able to trace my family back to Stone, as my dad’s cousin lived in the Stone area. When I moved to Stone from Canada, it was hard, I missed Vancouver, but pottery was my way of connecting with the area. We lived in a Victorian terraced house and it was the first time I had ever had a garden, so I really enjoyed gardening and finding small pieces of pottery whilst doing so. I would keep all the pieces in a bowl and would try and find out a bit about what type of pottery it was and where it had come from.
What inspired you to start making jewellery with pottery shards?
I have always loved making jewellery and when I graduated in Vancouver and started working in an office, I missed being creative so I made jewellery as a hobby. I started to sell bits and pieces at craft fairs and that’s all it was. When I moved over here, I was clearing out my house one day and I found a broken sugar bowl that my grandmother gave me, I brought it here with me from Canada. I looked at the sugar bowl and the pottery pieces that I found in the garden, and thought about my jewellery training. I started to think that I could make something with these, because they are too pretty to be thrown away as rubbish. So I started looking for more pottery shards in the local area. One day, when I was on Stone Common collecting shards with my son, we actually had a lady come up to us and say “oh that’s great, you’re picking up rubbish”, I didn’t know how to tell her that I was going to make something out of it! “Unearthed” was the perfect title for me, because at the time I was literally unearthing the pottery but I was also unearthing my own dream, which was finding a unique way of designing jewellery.
And I wanted to tell a story with my jewellery, where did it come from? how did it get there? A lot of the time I am commissioned to make jewellery as a gift with pottery or sea glass that people have found. I had a gentleman who asked me to make a necklace for his wife out of shards of jewellery that his daughters had found in the garden, it was a lovely surprise for her. It is so rewarding for me to be able to create jewellery that means so much to someone.
When my son was born, I went back to work part time but soon realised that I didn’t want him to be in full time childcare, so I decided to leave my job, spend the next year at home with my son before he started school and then put all my efforts into launching my business. It was the right time for me.
Where do you find the pottery shards and sea glass?
Whenever I go walking, I’m constantly looking at the ground! I find lots of good places by accident, Stone Common, my back garden, the canal tow path for example. I love beach combing in Beaumaris, Wales, it’s littered with pottery, and by the castle in Ludlow. Westport lake is built up with pottery shards because it was once a quarry and they filled it up with pottery shards because that’s all they had at the time. Seaham, just outside Durham, is a fabulous place to find sea glass. The pieces I find there are beautiful and perfectly polished because they are so old. Lots of gardeners, beachcombers and mudlarkers have also given me pieces they have found. I created a collection for Spode from pieces of historic pottery that were damaged in a accident, I wanted to create something out of the destruction.
I try and create a catalogue of all the pieces that I find and try and gather as much information about them as possible which is sometimes quite challenging!
What part of your job do you find most challenging?
Sometimes it’s deciding what to do with a piece, because I usually work with stones that are asymmetrical, I have to make a custom Bezel which can be challenging. It’s great because it has pushed my own making skills to the limit. I have completed a couple of further Silversmith courses and Jane Fairbairn, a silversmith at the Beaumaris Jewellery Studio, has become my mentor. She has offered me support and has taught me various techniques and skills to help me work with particular pieces.
Where possible I like to use recycled sterling silver which has a smaller footprint, but if I’m using fine silver I can’t do that unfortunately. I can sometimes get recycled fine silver, but not reliably. I use fine silver when making pieces with sea glass because it doesn’t tarnish and show through the glass. Upcycling is very important to me, I want everything to be environmentally friendly where possible and I always use non-toxic chemicals.
What tips do you have for other mums who want to launch their own business?
It’s important to always remember why you started the business in the first place. Start small, and forgive yourself if some weeks end up being chaotic. Be a bit gentle with yourself. Be disciplined with your business, keep work time and family time separate. The most important thing to bear in mind is that there is no way to properly balance work and family, that’s the mum guilt. The fact that working at home is flexible is the best and worst thing about it!
What’s coming up for Unearthed by Lynn
I’m now officially a registered hallmarked artist, I have just registered with the Edinburgh Assay office. A lot of my small pieces I dont have to hallmark because they are below the 7.78g limit, but I wanted to be able to sign pieces and add to their story. I can now send the larger pieces off to be hallmarked.
I’m also hoping to expand the workshops that I do into different pieces, I’m currently designing an earring and bangle workshop. I also have a few other ideas for workshops that I want to develop, but I don’t want to reveal those just yet so watch this space! I designed my stacking ring workshops to make them more beginner friendly, that allows people to have better interaction and create three rings in the space of three and a half hours. All my workshops are held at The Artisan Boutique in Stone.
I’ve also been finding some slag in Shropshire near to the foot of the Iron bridge. I've been working with a stone cutter to cut some stones from it which I plan to create a collection with. I like challenging people to look at things differently, bits and pieces that they may consider rubbish or waste. Stop, look around, notice things differently. People never walk the same after they have spent time walking with me looking for pottery!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love finding the shards and being outside, a lot of the time I’m able to go out looking for pieces with my son which is great. I love getting feedback from my clients when I have made a piece for them out of something they have found. They talk to me about what it means to them and I know then that I have been successful in creating something with meaning and connection.
You can buy Lynn’s jewellery from Guildhall Gallery in Stafford, The Artisan Boutique in Stone, Gallery @ 12 in Stafford, Spode and at additional locations in Shropshire and Wales.
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