Story of the Jewel: Jema Hewitt Special, Part II

Emil­ly Ladybird’s Tools, by Jema Hewitt.

Last Wednes­day, we were intro­duced to the ver­sa­tile tal­ents of Ms. Jema “Emil­ly Lady­bird” Hewitt, whose beau­ti­ful jew­el­ery graces the pages of The Steam­punk Bible’s fash­ion chap­ter.  This week, we wrap up Ms. Hewitt’s raw inter­view with a talk about her pas­sion for jew­el­ry mak­ing and her role in the Vic­to­ri­an Steam­punk Soci­ety.

If you are inter­est­ed in know­ing more about Ms. Hewitt, you can learn about her jew­el­ery mak­ing, and how to make your own Steam­punk jew­el­ry, from her new book Steam­punk Empo­ri­um: Cre­at­ing Fan­tas­ti­cal Jew­el­ry, Devices and Odd­ments from Assort­ed Cogs, Gears, and Curios.  You can also vis­it her shop, Dick­ens and Riv­ett, as well as her cos­tum­ing stu­dio Kin­dred Spir­its.  She will also be appear­ing with coau­thor S. J. Cham­bers in Lon­don at Vik­tor Wynd’s Lit­tle Shop of Horrors/The Last Tues­day Soci­ety, Sep­tem­ber 6 at 7 pm.  To find out more about that appear­ance, vis­it here.

SPB:  What are the defin­ing design ele­ments of Steam­punk jew­el­ry?

JH:  For me per­son­al­ly it needs Vic­to­ri­an style detail­ing and an ele­ment of clock­work or engi­neer­ing. I real­ly love it when pieces move, but the jew­ellery I main­ly cre­ate is not in that price brack­et. My pieces have a feel­ing of ele­gant use­ful­ness to them; I want them to be objects that might do some­thing won­der­ful at any moment, like open the gate to Atlantis, or enable you to see Shangri-la.

I think they should be hand­craft­ed with lov­ing care and skill, not nec­es­sar­i­ly shun­ning mass pro­duc­tion of parts, but the parts should be put togeth­er with style and flair, whether they are pre­cious stones and 24 carat gold or wire and vin­tage but­tons. I love the use of recy­cled vin­tage objects – that is def­i­nite­ly “punk”!

I make pieces for both Ladies and gen­tle­men, and I think it’s real­ly excit­ing to see unusu­al cuf­flinks, cra­vat pins and watch fobs actu­al­ly being worn again. There’s a lot of scope for dif­fer­ent styles and prices of jew­ellery out there and some won­der­ful cre­ators. What I do dis­like how­ev­er is see­ing a ran­dom watch part just glued onto a back­ing with no fur­ther cre­ative input.

SPB:  What is your process?  What goes into the craft­ing and con­cep­tion of your pieces?

Lunar Devices, by Jema “Emil­ly Lady­bird” Hewitt

JH:  Most of my pieces orig­i­nate with a sto­ry idea, I’ll be hav­ing a “Marie Antoinette on the moon” moment or a “Vam­pires on Venus” evening.  I imag­ine who might need the piece and why, I sketch a few ran­dom ideas and shapes, usu­al­ly fair­ly bad­ly – they are just to remind me of impor­tant points, and then I rum­mage through my box­es of antique parts, bro­ken clocks and watch­es and start putting it togeth­er.

I sculpt — using poly­mer clay, embed — using resin and gen­er­al­ly com­bine a lot of mul­ti­me­dia tech­niques as well as tra­di­tion­al smithing and jew­ellery con­struc­tion. My back­ground is in props and mod­el mak­ing rather than engi­neer­ing or horol­o­gy so my pieces are inex­pen­sive cos­tume art-jew­ellery not fine gem set­ting and sil­ver­smithing.

I use a lot of vin­tage brass fil­i­gree and old cogs donat­ed by local clock­mak­ers! There is so much Vic­to­ri­an and clock/cog styled mate­r­i­al avail­able in the jewellery/altered art and scrap­book­ing world now. I’m like a child in a sweet shop and I use it all! Friends and fam­i­ly will send me ran­dom bits and pieces too which is always excit­ing.

When it’s fin­ished each piece will have a mini sto­ry to go with it, usu­al­ly about its ori­gins and sub­se­quent dis­cov­ery by “Emil­ly lady­bird” who works in acqui­si­tions at Dick­ens and Riv­ett, auc­tion­eers. This sto­ry is often post­ed to the main site along with the piece if it’s for sale, I also write an on-going sto­ry on Twit­ter, as Emil­ly lady­bird, dur­ing which dif­fer­ent pieces appear as plot devices.

SPB:  Can you tell me more about the Vic­to­ri­an Steam­punk Soci­ety?

JH:  The VSS is a not for prof­it orga­ni­za­tion whose aim is to pro­mote and sup­port the Steam­punk move­ment in the Unit­ed King­dom. It pro­vides a con­tact point for press or enthu­si­asts to learn more.

There are just 8 Full Mem­bers who form the main “orga­niz­ing com­mit­tee”, head­ed by Lady Elsie and Major Tin­ker.  Any­one who attends a VSS event is award­ed Asso­ciate Mem­ber­ship and they are also encour­aged to vol­un­teer as event orga­niz­ers and assis­tants. Hon­orary Fel­low­ship is also bestowed upon those lumi­nar­ies felt to have made a huge con­tri­bu­tion to the Steam­punk move­ment in the U.K.

It encour­ages mem­bers to behave cour­te­ous­ly, with beau­ti­ful man­ners and gen­teel behav­ior high on its list, tak­ing the best parts of the past and mix­ing them with mod­ern cre­ativ­i­ty and respon­si­bil­i­ties.

The VSS orga­nizes an assort­ment of events through the year, includ­ing the largest ded­i­cat­ed gath­er­ing of Steam­punks in the UK – “Week­end at the Asy­lum” a full fes­ti­val of lit­er­a­ture, art, per­for­mance and music in his­toric Lin­coln, cumu­lat­ing in a grand ball.

VSS Mem­bers also attend­ed the recent Steam­punk exhi­bi­tion at The Oxford Muse­um of Sci­ence and exhib­it­ed at London’s MCM Expo. They also sup­port a num­ber of char­i­ties and raise mon­ey for assort­ed wor­thy caus­es.

Steam­punk Pock­et­watch, by Jema “Emil­ly Lady­bird” Hewitt.

SPB:  You’ve been orga­niz­ing Victorian/Steampunk events for over 15 years.  How have you seen these types of events evolve over the years?

JH:  To begin with we were either mobbed or sneered at if we went out in cos­tume, I remem­ber one time around 1999 when The Com­pa­ny of Crim­son were in Cam­bridge and it lit­er­al­ly took us half an hour to walk 50 yards, so many peo­ple want­ed their pic­tures tak­en with us. I sup­pose it was real­ly unusu­al to see folks dressed up – you couldn’t just buy Vic­to­ri­an out­fits (this was before e-bay!) So we’d made every­thing our­selves.

We found all the atten­tion a bit intim­i­dat­ing to be hon­est; although we tried to be gra­cious, per­haps we were a bit naive… how­ev­er, recent­ly I saw 10 mem­bers of the VSS pose with style and good humour for no less than 20 min­utes, just so a  group of tourists could take pic­tures in Whit­by.

I think nowa­days because there are so many more peo­ple dress­ing up, and because the gen­er­al pub­lic is more aware of Steam­punk, every­one is more pre­pared for the atten­tion and  so set­tles down to enjoy it.

Events have gone from small inter­ac­tive role play week­ends with lots of plot — to dress up socials includ­ing vis­its to muse­ums and steam fairs and after­noon tea. There’s a lot of empha­sis on involve­ment for all the fam­i­ly, bring­ing your “coglings” along is encour­aged at many events. Peo­ple still tend to have an “alter ego” when in cos­tume or post­ing on forums, an inter­est­ing name and a bit of a back sto­ry, which keeps things fun.

I think to be hon­est the main dif­fer­ence is the sheer size and fre­quen­cy of events. Long may it con­tin­ue.

“Story of the Jewel: Jema Hewitt Special, Part II was published in Art, Fashion, Interviews, Photography and tagged , , , , .

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