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Talking Gold And Sand Casting With Billie Ellen Designs

Today we're chatting with jeweller Billie Ellen, the founder of Billie Ellen Designs, all about her love for gold and sand casting. Billie Ellen joined the world of jewellery making at a very young age whilst living on the Cornish and Norfolk coast, starting with sea glass jewellery and gradually progressing to metalsmithing using natural materials. Read on to learn about Billie Ellen's journey, favourite gemstones and techniques and lots more...

"Growing up on the Norfolk and Cornish coast, I had a love for the beach. This led me onto making sea glass jewellery which progressed into silversmithing and goldsmithing. That's when I truly found my passion for making jewellery."

Hi Billie Ellen, we absolutely love your jewellery designs. How did you discover the world of jewellery making and what drew you to it the most?

I started jewellery making at the age of seven or eight, using polymer clay to make beads, I then progressed onto using epoxy resin. Growing up on the Norfolk and Cornish coast, I had a love for the beach. 

This led me onto making sea glass jewellery which progressed into silversmithing and goldsmithing. That's when I truly found my passion for making jewellery. 

You have such a unique and signature style, how long did it take your to find your ‘aesthetic’?

Finding my own aesthetic within the jewellery world was a struggle for me, there are loads of people making jewellery and I found it demotivating to come up with a design, to see that it's already been done before! 

I've always responded to natural materials, elements etc, so an organic influence felt most true to me and my jewellery style. 

 "The most important thing for jewellers struggling to find their own feet in the jewellery world is to stay true to yourself."

We love your use of various techniques such as granulation and sand casting, what made you pick these techniques and why?

I've always loved living by the coast, so sand has always been a part of my natural palette. Using local sands offers a unique element to the casting process

Reticulation and granulation are other techniques I use frequently, again they help add texture and interest to a piece of jewellery, giving them an organic look and feel. 

What advice would you give to jewellers struggling to come up with new ideas?

I think the most important thing for jewellers struggling to find their own feet in the jewellery world is to stay true to yourself. Create a mood board of jewellers you look up to, write down what you like about their designs, their brand etc etc and work out what it is that's missing from your own business. It may be that you like a natural free flowing feel to your pieces, or maybe you like precision! Remember that everybody is different and there is most definitely a place for you within this trade!! 

Do you work on your business part time or full time, and how do you stay organised and on track?

I work on my business part time, balancing a life, other work commitments and your own small business can be challenging and busy at times but working from home allows me to head to my bench most days which I am so grateful for! 

Staying organised is the key to running a stress free workshop, I found writing down a to do list, starting from things that need doing immediately to less urgently, helped me to feel less overwhelmed! 

What challenges did you come across on your jewellery making journey and what’s your advice to fellow jewellers that might face the similar?

Moving house several times! This meant I was out of my studio for 6 months, which led onto a massive creative block, when I finally got back to my bench! 

I still experience creative blocks but I've learnt to use this time wisely by doing admin for my business or jotting down new ideas for collections and social media posts! 

What’s your favourite metal to work with and why?

Definitely gold!! I am a gold girl, I've always favoured gold over silver but never did I think I'd be working with it one day! I love how easy it is to work with. 

It's a treat when I get to work with higher carats, but I love the variety in colour you get with gold.

What are your favourite gemstones to use in your designs and why?

There's so many to choose from, but I love working with salt and pepper diamonds, their variety in colour is stunning! 

I also love London blue topazAquamarine and Cornflower blue sapphires, the colours of these stones remind me of Cornish summers! 

What’s one thing you wish people knew about jewellery making?

I wish people knew how much effort goes into making each and every piece of jewellery, even from the hours of research to find the best supplies, tools and stones. Down to the little things, such as the designing and packaging. 

It takes a lot of hard work even before you start attending craft fairs or finding places to sell. 

Aquamarine

Gold Metal

Diamonds

"I am a gold girl, I've always favoured gold over silver but never did I think I'd be working with it one day! I love how easy it is to work with."

Tell us the inspiration and design process behind your gorgeous ‘golden shoreline’ ring

This ring design was actually a happy accident! I had wanted to make a ring that was more angular, perfect straight lines and with a few flush set symmetrical stones. However as I started to shape the ring, it created this beautiful "flowy" shape to the sides of the band, reminiscent of where the sea hits the sand. The choice of stones were inspired by the beautiful blues and whites we see on the Cornish coast. 

What’s your favourite design you’ve made to date and why?

This is a hard one! I get attached to all of my jewellery pieces, I spend a lot of time making them and in a funny sort of way, I end up bonding with them! If I really had to choose though; I'd say it was my North Star pendant. I lost my uncle last Easter and inherited some of his gold. I wanted to make my mum a piece of jewellery to remember him by, I recycled the gold and casted the star using beach sand from my uncles favourite beaches. I then set a peridot in the centre of the star which is my uncles birthstone! 

Tell us about your workspace and your go-to tools…

I'm very lucky that my studio is within my house! I have a few benches to go between. One for soldering, one where I do the majority of my jewellery making, and another for anything messy! I.e wax carving, sand casting etc! My go-to tools have to be: my Durston mini rolling mill, I love this as it enables me to recycle all of my scrap metal to make into new jewellery! It's much more ethical and budget friendly. I'm constantly using my callipers to check stone sizes, burrs, and calculate ring measurements. Another one of my most used tools is my pedal operated, quick release pendant drill!
I started with a hand held Dremel and investing in this pendant drill was by far my best decision! 

What is the most underrated tool?

The most underrated tool in my opinion is the raw hide mallet! I use this hammer for everything, I love how it's hard enough to shape jewellery without damaging the surface of the metal.

Calliper Gauge

Dremel 4250 Multi Tool & 35 Accessories

What's the most sentimental piece of jewellery you own?

I'd have to say my most sentimental piece of jewellery is my gold signet ring. I wanted to make something special to celebrate my 18th birthday. 

It was my first time using gold, sand casting and flush setting! 

So I already had 3 challenges to contend with! I took my time and with absolute disbelief managed to pull it off first time! I still claim beginners luck on this one though! 

To make the ring even more sentimental, I decided to use gold from my late grandmother and set a salt and pepper diamond in the centre. 

Facebook or Instagram? What’s your favourite thing about using either one as a platform to promote your jewellery?

Instagram for sure! Social media is a minefield and can be quite hard to navigate. I'm sure other jewellers will sympathise with the struggle of creating content, especially trying to grow a larger audience. 

This year I'm focusing on posting more behind the scenes with me included, I've learnt that my followers and customers like to see who is behind 'Billie Ellen Designs' it also gives an insight into the work that goes into each piece. 

When you’re not making jewellery, where can we find you?

I love my fitness! I go to the gym most mornings, I find this a great place to relax from the stresses that come with balancing a small business alongside full time employment. 

I also have 3 lovely (albeit vocal) little terriers, I often get my ideas for new jewellery when out walking my dogs. 

What designs are you currently working on/any hints of future collections?

I like to flick between different pieces of jewellery, so at the minute I'm working on getting some new designs out. 

I've (very) recently reopened my Etsy shop so I'm working on this too. I usually stock local galleries or work on commission so this is new to me! 

As for a future collection, I have two ideas in mind for the very near future. Both designs play with natural textures, one being more coast inspired and the other being more nature inspired. 

But that's all I can say for now!! 

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