Combining Skills Of Illustration & Metalsmithing With The Sylvan Smith
Combining spooky illustrations, magic and silversmithing - we had to find out more about Gabi's incredible designs! We chat all about Gabi's love for art, where her passion for metalsmithing began as well as hearing all about the highs and lows of running a handmade business. We hope Gabi's work inspires you and shows you the many possibilities metalsmithing can offer, to bring your ideas to life!
Hi Gabi, tell us how you first discovered jewellery making!
Hey there! I first discovered jewellery-making at a young age in Portugal. My childhood best friend and I would spend our time making beaded jewellery and selling it to family friends, or at school. I had an international upbringing from Portugal to Canada and Scotland. As I grew up, I discovered new mediums from beads and clay charms to resin and finally silversmithing.
I didn’t actually know that metalsmithing in general was a thing until I saw a blogger known as Jonna Jinton making silver jewellery, and knew I wanted to try it out. It took me a very long time to slowly gather tools and materials, but eventually I got to start and quickly fell in love with it.
Are you a self-taught jeweller, if so what resources did you use to learn?
I am self-taught and learned through many different avenues including a lot of trial and error. In the beginning, I actually got very discouraged and quit for a few months, but decided to pick it back up and persevere through the frustration.
I read a lot of blogs and articles and watched a lot of YouTube. One great resource that I stumbled into was a friendship with Basia from Stardust Mine Jewellery, who actually teaches silversmithing on her YouTube channel and is an excellent smith!
"It wasn’t until I started metalsmithing that I was finally able to see the direction I wanted to take my art..."
We love your illustrations, tell us more about how you combine your skills of art with metalsmithing.
Thank you so much! Growing up I had a family friend, Michael de Brito, who is an artist. As a child I was fascinated watching him “create something out of nothing”, so it sparked in me a fascination with painting, which I’ve pursued for most of my life. When I moved back to Scotland for college, I decided to get into digital art which has helped me a lot in smithing, as it’s quite easy to just pick up an iPad and draw some designs quickly.
I wanted to incorporate my illustration/painting skills into my jewellery so when I found out about metalsmithing it felt like the best of both worlds. At first though it was quite hard since sawing in silver is more difficult than simply drawing a line. I had to learn to adapt my art in order for it to translate well into silver. Doing so made me look at my art from a new perspective and inspired a lot of my current illustrations. I was able to explore in depth the themes I was interested in.
What is one piece of jewellery you are most proud of and why?
I did a piece a while back that was a snake wrapping around a hand and it’s one of my favourites because of what it symbolises to me, and also because of the amount of work that went into it. It symbolises my struggle with depression and how that affected my artwork, so it is a very personal piece.
How do you want your customers to feel when they wear your jewellery?
I want them to feel magical and fun and I want them to feel the way I do when working on them while watching nostalgic movies such as Harry Potter, Practical Magic, Hocus Pocus, etc. or books that evoke similar cosy vibes for me.
"It’s important for me to show the behind the scenes so that people can understand what goes into each creation..."
How would you describe your jewellery and how long did it take you to find your signature style?
I would describe my jewellery as witchy, spooky, whimsical etc. In the beginning, I struggled a lot with finding an art style that I felt best suited what I was looking for, and I would change styles quite often but never felt fully satisfied. It wasn’t until I started metalsmithing that I was finally able to see the direction I wanted to take my art. I was so focused on learning skill sets and making things look realistic that I wasn’t allowing myself to fully explore the actual content and what I wanted to say with my art. It was so good for me to take a step back and essentially start over to see my art in a completely different way.
My designs now are ideas I had for a long time that I just felt wouldn’t work on paper, and I didn’t believe I was capable of having an audience connect with my work. It felt like I was just sticking random objects on a piece of paper and that was that. But once I started to think of it as a piece of jewellery, I could break it down and understand it better. Everything flows better when you’re not fighting yourself the whole time.
What’s your favourite part of the jewellery making process and why?
Sawing! I find it very therapeutic to cut out all of the elements of the design and see it start to come together. I also really love the process of removing the patina to highlight the focal points of each piece.
Where do you find inspiration for your collections?
It depends on the collection, but I take a lot of inspiration from the seasons, movies I’m currently watching, books I have read or even video games!
We love your behind the scenes videos! Why do you think it’s important to show the process of your pieces?
It’s important for me to show the behind the scenes so that people can understand what goes into each creation. Oftentimes someone may see a finished product and not know how much work it was to make, so getting to show that helps me connect better with my audience.
"Every time I see an opal my mouth just drops. It’s like holding a piece of magic in your hands, it just doesn’t feel real..."
What’s one gemstone you’d love to use in your designs but haven’t yet!
Dendritic Opal! I tend to focus heavily on my illustrations for my designs and the stones I pick tend to come second, but sometimes I like to give the gemstone its “moment to shine”. I believe dendritic opals beauty speaks for itself, though I have yet to find a way to include it without it being overshadowed by the design.
What is your workshop soundtrack right now?
Well, my husband actually plays in a Celtic band called Syr that I travel with them in between collections. They just finished recording their third studio album which is what I’ve been spending most of my time listening to! Besides that, I listen to a ton of video game and movie soundtracks. Basically, I love anything Celtic, Fantasy, or Medieval!
What do you think are the most magical gemstones?
Absolutely, hands down, Australian Opals. Opals are my absolute favourite, and it’s quite funny because I do not usually like the colour blue. I’m much more of an earth tone kind of person. But every time I see an opal my mouth just drops. It’s like holding a piece of magic in your hands, it just doesn’t feel real.
What’s your favourite and most challenging part about running a small handmade business?
One of the best parts about running a small business is the connections that I get to make with the community online. I also really enjoy the flexibility of being able to set my own schedule which leads me into one of the most challenging parts which is being my own boss and making sure that I stay on that schedule. Another challenging aspect in the beginning was overcoming the fear of failure enough to actually start the business!
Can you tell us about the design you’re currently working on?
Yes! I am currently designing a new potion bottle shape. I love potion bottles! I find they are the perfect canvas for adding elements that I love. This time I’ve decided to add bats and leaves trailing down the side of the bottle. I love going back and recycling some of my older designs and updating them with new magical details.
When you’re not making jewellery, what are you likely getting up to?
When I’m not making jewellery you can find me taking care of my plants which I have absolutely everywhere in my studio! And as I mentioned earlier, I travel quite a bit with my husband’s band as their media manager. I photograph and film all of their social media content, and I design a lot of their artwork and merchandise. I also play video games and read quite a bit.
We love your Halloween designs! Tell us more about these pieces and do you have a favourite?
Thank you! Though I tend to do a lot of spooky/witchy stuff pretty regularly, I do have designs that I only bring out seasonally such as my current favourites, which are my pumpkin potion bottles!
What’s one thing you’re looking forward to right now?
I’m looking forward to having my best friend Emilie come visit me in the US! She lives in Montreal, Canada and I don’t get to see her very often. She’s one of my biggest supporters and I haven’t gotten to see her since I began my silversmithing journey, so I’m very excited to show her around the studio, and maybe even teach her how to make a ring or two!
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Learn metalsmithing for free with Kernowcraft! You'll find helpful guides, guest tutorials and step by step projects with shopping lists so you can get making in no time.