Ring Carving with Maggie Cross

In December I returned to Bara Menyn and met up with the wonderful Maggie Cross just before she started one of her glorious Make it in Wales ‘Carve A Ring’ classes. I managed to steal her away to ask her a couple of questions about her journey, process and work, before shadowing her whilst the workshop took place.

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So Maggie, when did you start making Jewellery?  Well, Pete Bodenham/ Pete Bod the God, the pottery tutor, used to give me a lift into Carmarthen Foundation from St. Dogs every day and he persuaded me to take the 3D pathway. I think it was mainly because there were tons of girls doing fashion and textiles, so I thought that’s what I wanted to do. But he said “Come on Maggie you’re cooler than that .. there’s no girls on 3D, come and do 3D”, so I did and it all started there really.

After foundation did you then go on to train as a jeweller?  Yes, I spent three years doing a BA Honours in Birmingham which was really nice! It wasn’t like the normal uni experience, because it was like a little jewellery land in a town where everything was jewellery related. It was a red brick building without any boys, apart from maybe a couple. I lived away from all other kinds of students and it was very much a little jewellery life in its own little land.

Can you remember the first piece of jewellery you ever made?  The very first pieces that I made, that were jewellery… I think they were out of clay on foundation, but they were absolutely vile so I don’t know whether they count because they’re long gone. The first piece that I remember making and liking though was probably during second year in university when I did my coastal ‘Welshy’ collection.

Does a lot of your inspiration come from nature?  …Yeah, more like from my surroundings probably. My first project at uni was based around the Pembrokeshire coast and barnacles, and then my second project there was about the more urban landscape in Birmingham.

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What three words would you use to best describe your work? Ooooh, that’s a tricky one… I’d say maybe minimal… quite rough? and… imperfect.

Minimal, rough and imperfect.

What made you start doing these workshops? I started to work for a local company called Make it in Wales last year, after I had my baby. I started working with them, when Suzi, my friend’s mum, clocked on that she needed a little assistant, so, one day, she took me on a little trip with Harriet and Emily and I was like ‘this is weird… ooh she’s buying me lunch,’ and she started to interview me a little bit, which was a bit unexpected, and the next thing I knew I started working for her. Make it in Wales run craft workshops and courses all across West Wales, and she wasn’t going to let me get away with not doing a jewellery workshop so… that’s how I’ve ended up here really.

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Is the process you are doing today quite quick?  Yes, it is actually. It’s really lush, I love the process so much! We learnt so many different techniques at university in the first year and then we were able to choose whichever method to carry forward and work in. A lot of people were interested in the traditional methods, so I’ve been trained in that way as well, but I just completely loved this method. So basically what happens is, you carve the piece of wax, do whatever you want to it, then, a silicone mould is made when I send them off to the casters. I work with a really lovely casting company in Birmingham, which is run by nice old men, and they make these silicone moulds which the wax is then sucked out of and the molten silver is poured in.

Where do you prefer to work? On your own or with others?  I’m quite shy so probably on my own, but I don’t tend to do anything when I’m on my own. I think sometimes I need to be forced into a workshop situation with other people where I can be reminded, ‘oh yes! I love jewellery!’ If it’s just me and my sisters, or me and my friends, making jewellery for a bit of fun, I love working like that because I just find that if I sit down on my own I feel like I have to get my business head on and it’s just too serious so I’ll never get round to it.

If you could only wear one item of jewellery for the rest of your life what would it be?  Earrings, I always wear my hoops. I can go down to spar without mascara on, but I feel I have to put hoops in, whereas I don’t wear rings at all, ever. I love making them, they just bother me when I wear them. But I like to have earrings, maybe it’s because I have short hair, I don’t know, but I just have to wear them.

What piece do you think you’re most proud of making?  I was really proud of the barnacle collection in second year, and like I said I haven’t had much time since graduating and having a baby. I am really proud of the workshops though, but I don’t know if I can be proud of all the rings we make here. When I get them back from the casters, I photograph them and I’m like ‘oh my god, these are so gorgeous!’ and everyone comments on my Instagram like ‘oh they’re so lush’, but then I remember I haven’t actually made them? So…

… But you are teaching them the process though, so it’s sort of like a collaboration, Yeah.. a collaboration. I am really liking these workshop results. Oh! I’ve also made, only the one piece and I gave it to my friend as a birthday present, and it’s really annoying you can’t see it because she left it in London, but it’s the only stone I’ve ever set and I don’t know why I haven’t done any more, but I’m definitely going to, because I’m really proud of that piece.

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Find upcoming workshops with Maggie on the Make It In Wales website..