Talking Wax Carving, Texturing & Otherwordly Jewellery With Zoë From Brother Banquo And Queen

We're thrilled to be speaking with Zoë Kavanagh, the founder of Brother Banquo And Queen, about her passion for baroque-inspired jewellery and the art of wax carving. Zoë's journey into the world of jewellery began at the age of thirteen, thanks to her mum. Her enthusiasm for jewellery making blossomed further after  studying at various art schools, when she decided to transform her illustrations, characters, and their stories into unique pieces of jewellery. Zoë employs fascinating jewellery making techniques, such as wax carving and texturing, to craft her stunning otherworldly designs.

"I wanted to make my own jewellery from my illustrations, my characters and their stories. The first piece of jewellery I made on my own was a talisman of me holding my unborn son, complete with my mullet! I was so proud of that!"

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

Thank you so much! My mum introduced me to handmade jewellery by taking me to Sunday craft fayres when I was thirteen. She bought pairs of dangly cloisonne earrings (and fabulous applique sweaters, because it was that era!) She had over thirty pairs of earrings and I loved every one, particularly an enamelled sun and moon and a pair of almost life size fuchsias! My mum actually bought me my first silver necklace for my sixteenth birthday, a stunning large pear shaped green amber surrounded by berries and vines! I adored it so much and still have it. 

As a teenager I discovered Oasis Markets in Birmingham, a set of alternative market stalls, to look at gothic clothes and saw silver dragon claws with red twinkling stones. I just loved them! It was around this time that I started treating myself to pieces of jewellery and when I met my husband, he chose me a piece of jewellery for each special occasion. He liked gothic jewellery too; it was a PERFECT scenario haha! 

Over the next ten years I went to several art schools painting, printmaking, drawing, puppet and doll making. Then I briefly studied illustration, which was where my journey really began because I wanted to make my own jewellery from my illustrations, my characters and their stories. I was knee deep in books on magic and the occult and longed to make talismans and good luck charms. 

The first piece of jewellery I made on my own was a talisman of me holding my unborn son, complete with my mullet! I was so proud of that! I bezel set a garnet into it and even did a handmade chain. I wore it for his birth. 

I love how jewellery is so powerful, particularly the stories of cursed stones because they’re so fascinating, but also so sinister they would be unbelievable were it not for the documented terrible bad luck of the stone’s owners!

What’s the meaning behind your business name?

I decided on my business name in mid-winter 2023, heavily influenced by two graphic novels: The Mysteries by Bill Waterson and John Kascht and a retelling of Macbeth by K. Briggs. The imagery in both is shadowy, desolate and magical. The Christmas period itself conjures up memories of visiting my Grandparents as a child…remembering golds, plums, berries…sumptuous burgundy and green velvet curtains, candles, candelabras…textures of pinecones and glittery glass baubles.

Around December I started reminiscing about abbeys in Gloucestershire; I could see the cold stones of the shadowy walls, bathed in warm candlelight…this led to me remembering visiting a cave in the Forest of Dean, which made me think of the enchanting stone arch down to the beach at Porthgwarra Cove, here in Cornwall. 

These memories and influences, plus my daily beach trips, merged into imagery of two underwater dwellers living in a craggy cave at the bottom of the ocean, clutching their glorious, twinkling jewels for all of eternity, hoping it gives them immortality like the very first alchemists did with trying to make gold from base metals. I sat and draw berobed monks sat around a table with fancy goblets, wearing golden bejewelled crowns and a halo, inspired by the Medieval illuminated manuscripts. Brother Banquo was born from this and then I added Queen. My youngest daughter’s name is Norma-Queenie so Queen is taken from her name. I imagine Brother Banquo and Queen to be decadent and kind of serene.

Describe your jewellery in 3 words

Brutalist, baroque and otherworldly

 "The first piece of jewellery I made on my own was a talisman of me holding my unborn son, complete with my mullet! I was so proud of that! I bezel set a garnet into it and even did a handmade chain. I wore it for his birth."

Tell us about your experience of creating a brand for your business?

My brand is built around a vision of two cave dwellers clutching their pretty jewels and trinkets for all of eternity, sitting near treasure chests overflowing with their riches. With this vision I focus mainly on dark colours from a richly gothic palette, so black, crimson and silver with a bit of a royal twist to include the gold. This made my photography aims clear in terms of my vision which matches my jewellery… textured, otherworldly etc so I photograph in the setting my cave dwellers are based in, by the sea. 

The rocks are a deep black or grey, the beach is a gorgeous almost gold, and it all seems to work with my jewellery. I have guided my business by the vision, and it is all driven by a desire to create jewellery that my cave dwellers would adore.

How did you discover wax carving and what resources did you use to learn this technique?

Around mid-summer 2023 I became aware of what wax carving could create…the gooey textures of cooled molten wax that had been cast…how it would carry finger marks and tool marks through to the metal, and I realised that many pieces of my favourite kind of jewellery were once created through the lost wax method! I booked onto two courses near Falmouth and started learning it. It was instant love. 

At home I used some steel dental tools and a spirit lamp and beeswax initially. I would warm the tools gently in the flame of the spirit lamp and shape wax with the hot tool, and I would pick up wax like this to add onto the wax to build areas of my design up.

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

Buy the supplies you love, put them on your bench and have a play without a plan. If you aren’t comfortable with playing with metal without a plan, buy a pretty gemstone and let it speak to you about how it might like to be used or even place it on different metal and see which metal you like against it. 

Go out in nature and see if there’s any patterns you like that you could photograph or draw and bring back to your work. I photographed a whole faded, slightly neglected but still-loved, cliff top play area and the whole eyeline where the buildings met the sky looking back towards Newquay a few weeks back to bring into my fabricated metal work because the energy of the place intrigued me and I found its shapes interesting. Focus on what you love and see where it leads.

What advice would you give to those wanting to try wax carving but not sure where to start?

Oooh well I would definitely say book onto a course if you can afford to! I was struggling with anxiety after having my youngest late July, and the courses I did in November were the first steps to being ‘me’ again. I had two lovely experiences learning this craft and both really inspired me to continue my learning. 

If a course is not for you, you could buy some steel dental tools (if you type into the internet ‘steel dental tools for wax carving’ you will find lots of choice) and some wax and a candle to warm the tool in, so you can get going. The main two things to watch are: don’t get bubbles in the wax because when cast these will be holes in the metal and that will make a cast piece less durable, so work in good light so you can see if bubbles develop in the wax on the steel tool and you can just clean the tool and then heat it again to pick up wax to build a design up. 

The other thing is to make sure, if you are building a design up by adding wax, that the new wax is properly joined to the previous wax. 

When you drop the hot wax onto the piece you have to kind of just poke the hot tool into the previous wax layer to ensure new wax is added securely. If not, when you come to carve into this new wax layer it will just ping off! But the good news is, you can rebuild it and carve it again! It’s such a great medium to work in!

Is there a technique you haven’t tried yet but would like to try?

I LOVE setting gemstones into the craggy landscapes I create, and I would love to learn more techniques around this. I would love to be able to grain set and star set and pave set AND octopus set gemstones! I’d also really love to learn how to make a little metal juke box with a pop-up puppet!

One tool you couldn’t live without:

My iron tipped solder poker! It is my most used tool, I do use it for pick soldering, but this isn’t its main use here as I spend more time fusing than soldering. I use it for coaxing metal to go where I want it to, for example to join another piece of sintering metal when fusing and making molten pieces. It is also so useful for squashing down layers of metal during the heating process so they end up a bit flatter where I might hope to set a gemstone or also for pushing metal down into molten silver or solder to make more of a contact area.

Tell us why you are using Kernowcraft for your gemstones and supplies.

It’s because I absolutely love your gemstones so much and you’re all so lovely and helpful! Kernowcraft website photos are beautifully clear and the gemstones I receive are just stunning. 

I’m also lucky enough to be able to collect my orders and it is honestly like Christmas each time. I discovered prehnite for the first time after seeing it on the Kernowcraft website and it has become my favourite stone. 

Oh, and my solder poker is from you. It’s robust because it puts up with my shenanigans without bending haha. I also really love how you showcase books regularly because I do like a book. The customer support is exceptional too!

What’s your favourite metal to use and why?

Can I have two? One for each process. I LOVE copper when I am fabricating jewellery from metal sheet and wire because I love how its colour changes when it is heated with a torch. I also love how bright copper polishes up; it is the most incredible colour. When having pieces cast, through the lost wax process, my favourite metal in the world is brass. It looks like liquid gold and feels like I have a little bit of the sun with me!

Soldering Poker


Metal Sheet

"I adore faceted garnets and rose cut garnet cabochons, I love their deep crimson colour and how they twinkle in the light."

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

Oooh I adore faceted garnets and rose cut garnet cabochons, I love their deep crimson colour and how they twinkle in the light. 

I love cutting a little shape out of the back of the metal below where a cabochon is going to sit and then holding the jewellery up to the light and seeing through the gemstone. I recently used a smooth garnet cabochon in an earring and cut a little moon out of the copper behind it. When I wear the earring you can see through the gorgeous red of the garnet in the moon cutout, it is so pretty and I love how garnets are a bit translucent. 

I am also really drawn to labradoritemoonstone and dendritic agate. My very, very favourite stone is definitely dreamy prehnite though! I just absolutely adore the little cloudy blooms in it and the rust-coloured inclusions, I love its healing powers too! I would love a pink thulite heart cabochon and some rhodochrosite next, plus an orange sapphire at some point.

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

A rectangular faceted labradorite necklace with lots of tiny clear cubic zirconia surrounding it. I was gifted this necklace nine and a half years ago, at the Christmas just before having my eldest child. It was a strange time because I was suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum and I was in and out of hospital with complications and reduced movements. I ended up begging for an induction due to my anxiety level. The induction was booked, but in the end it had to happen because I developed a problem with my liver due to the pregnancy. 

Hospitals terrified me and this was made worse by all the sickness, so I was quite weak… and I think it made it impossible to think or see a life outside of this as I was too sick to do anything but lie down, and that gave too much time to overthink things. Wearing this necklace gave me great comfort and distraction during the scans and fear of those last three weeks of the pregnancy. 

The labradorite necklace lay twinkling next to me, or in my hands, or around my neck. It was, hands down, the most beautiful necklace I had ever seen, and it was gifted to me when I needed it most as I later found out that labradorite is a stone to help with transformation and transition. Perfect, in every way.

We love your use of texture, shapes and patination, tell us more about your design process and where you find your inspiration.

Thank you so much! I have always been drawn to texture. As a child I would sit on walls or the ground chatting to friends, making dens in woods, sit in the grass splitting grass blades and making grass houses. I would make rubbings of bricks and slabs with a crayon, as the different bumps and patterns fascinated me. I think this has subconsciously inspired my jewellery making because when I took my molten rings down to the beach and found they were almost camouflaged I was really surprised, so I tried photos on the beach rocks and found the same. I started noticing how, even on bumpy paving slabs, my jewellery almost merged into the slabs in places. I wasn’t intending this and yet I love it.

In terms of design process, I really enjoy the freedom of letting the metals melt and combine in the way they want to. I then quench and pickle the pieces and have a look to see what I could do with it. I am not a planner. Instead, I’ll have a selection of gemstones that I feel drawn to that day, I’ll place the stone onto the metal and figure out how best to set it. I prefer a claw setting so I will see where would be good to solder wire to secure the stone and then I might shape the metal. I am very inspired by puppetry, graphic novels, printmaking, carnivals, circuses, folklore, and ancient art, particularly the Iron Age and Paleolithic Age plus art from the Gothic Revival and the Renaissance. I’m hugely inspired by magic, mysticism and the tarot too. I love old buildings, libraries, museums and anything with a bit of history that is ornate.

"If you are wearing your jewellery, or someone else is, that’s it you’re a jeweller. Congratulations, and don’t question it!"

We adore the chunky brass ring you wear and feature on your socials often. Tell us more about the idea and process behind this design.

Awww thank you! I LOVE this ring and wear it daily. It means so much to me. I had wanted to try wax carving for a while and was so over the moon when I had a go. 

This was the first piece I made and it was based on a few things; my youngest son, how I see Banquo in Macbeth, Gollum with his large shiny eyes and a fictional content monk, the latter because we were coming up to Christmas and I was thinking about the abbey’s I visited at that time of year as I lived near Tewkesbury Abbey and Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire for a long time, and visited Tintern Abbey in Monmothshire regularly. 

I used a photo of my son to loosely work from and, with the other inspirations in my mind, it all came together.

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

For my eldest daughter’s ninth birthday, I made us matching necklaces based around a character called Mr Egg, set in his sweet kingdom. Mr Egg is an oval prehnite cabochon and he’s wearing a crown made of fused and melted metal. One of the sweets is a tasty copper spiral set into molten silver, another is a fused and melted strip of metal with flush set gemstones. Mr egg himself is bezel set onto a piece of copper and silver, representing a chocolate lime. Above him, attached to the handmade chain, is a heart made of one side of silver and one side of copper, this represents those red and white sweet hearts made by Haribo. 

It is my favourite design because of how much it means to both of us. I worked so hard on making it and chose the stones because green is her favourite colour and the prehnite is perfect because, in addition to being so pretty, it’s a stone for dreaming and inner knowing…I want her to always trust her intuition.

"There is so much skill involved in jewellery making and I would love to see people not feel guilty about the prices they charge for their highly skilled work."

Tell us about your workspace and how you make it your own.

My workspace represents a flurry of activity and several projects in progress. I have one side which is the ‘clean’ side where I do any inspiration drawings and paintings for wax carving, the actual wax carving and building up of designs in wax using my spirit lamp, and I have a fish mouth and dust collector for doing any sanding of wax and metal. 

Then I have the other side which has seen some events. It is my first bench and several accidents have happened on it from lots of little burn marks, to an epic liver of sulphur spill! 

I have posters, prints and drawings on the walls, some that I have made and others I have bought from local artists. I also have cards and prints that have been gifted to me, plus some guitar posters because I love guitars and one day I hope to make a fused and melted metal guitar brooch as I can see the design in my head, based off my beloved offset paranormal Fender Squire guitar, named Butterscotch.

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

It really is a huge skill to even make a ‘simple’ ring! I see so many jewellery business owners questioning their prices and feeling that maybe they are too high, but they’re absolutely not! 

Jewellery making is an incredible skill…from getting bezel sides to sit flush to solder them correctly, or even getting a bezel the correct size for a gemstone, or fusing metal so it is fully fused and robust, the knowledge to set gemstones securely and safely. There is so much skill involved and I would love to see people not feel guilty about the prices they charge for their highly skilled work.

Texturing & Polishing Advice

Cleaning & Caring For Jewellery

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

In a museum or art gallery! I love the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, The Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro and The Box, Plymouth. 

I can also be found on the beach off the coast off Morva where all the mermaid’s purses are and there’s black sand as well as golden sand, or in TaLay in St Ives having the most incredible food with my family. 

I can also be found sharing books with my family in a café, play park or at home, or playing the guitar as I have recently started taking lessons.

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

Instagram! I love using the hashtags to find other makers I resonate with as it’s so nice to feel part of a community. I love how each post must feature a photo as I am a very visual person and I find it easy to have other people see my work by using hashtags.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given since starting to make jewellery?

Follow what you love, there’s usually more than one way to make a piece… find an enjoyable way and you’ll find that you really strengthen the skills that make you happy! 

Oh and if you are wearing your jewellery, or someone else is, that’s it you’re a jeweller, congratulations and don’t question it!

I’m really loving everything I am doing right now and I'm very grateful to be on this jewellery making journey!

What design are you currently working on? Any hints of future collections?

In wax I am working on a little carving of ‘The Fool’, a tarot card from the major arcana. I have made him carrying a doll of a textile clown I made. I like what he represents as I feel I have the same in my work…a devil may care attitude…that feeling of being carefree and taking a risk with my jewellery making. 

I am also making little carvings of Brother Banquo and Queen which are going to be rings. I am going to then work on a skeleton procession inspired by the carnival and acceptance of death and celebration of life, this is inspired by prints I have seen of The Three Living and the Three Dead, an illumination of three people living and three people dead. 

I’ve started illustrating my own tarot deck and I can’t wait to make jewellery based from these drawings. In metal I’ve started making big, fancy, pretty earrings, with bezel set garnets and dangling brass moons, based on some gorgeous gravestones in a Saint Just graveyard, ancient crosses and the stars in the clear night sky over west Penwith, where I live. 

I’m really loving everything I am doing right now and I'm very grateful to be on this jewellery making journey!  

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