From jewellery novice to soutache star

Almost exactly three years since Sarah Burnett-Moore first attended  London Jewellery School as a jewellery novice, she is teaching with the school and writing a book about soutache jewellery. In that time she has completed both the Diploma in Creative Jewellery and the Advanced Jewellery Diploma. So we decided to ask her about how jewellery has become such a part of her life and how she fits it in round being a busy doctor.

Although you are now teaching with LJS, you first came to the school for a beginner’s class three years ago. Was this your first foray into jewellery? And what interested you in taking classes?

I did some silver work in my teens, but frankly did not have the patience to finish anything properly, so apart from a bit of low end beading, I didn’t really make any jewellery.

Three years ago I was looking for something to do with my teenage daughter, and I was intrigued by the idea of metal clay. I did some internet research and found the London Jewellery School.

I loved the class so much I booked onto more, realising that I needed many complimentary skills to make the jewellery that I had ‘in my head’ so to speak. And then some more classes, and more still…

stone setting london jewellery school

Stone setting projects from Sarah’s advanced diploma work

Since then you’ve completed the diploma in creative jewellery and the advanced diploma, which shows a real commitment to your jewellery making. What decided you to do the diploma programmes and what difference has it made to your work?

I was chatting to a friend of mine who was coincidentally considering taking the diploma course, and I realised I had already done a lot of the components, so I decided to complete the rest – and talked to school about how I could do that.

I have become a bit addicted to the jewellery school, as I’ve done almost every class available, so the advanced diploma was a great opportunity to come back. And, it really has consolidated some of the more specialist skills such as stone setting and fold forming.

fold forming silver

Silver brooch created using fold forming techniques

You are a medical doctor and are involved with a charity. How do you fit jewellery round the rest of your life?

Good question! I’m one of those people who never stops, even if I go out to the pub I’ll have something I’m making on me.

I’m a complete workaholic, and if it wasn’t for the jewellery I’d be reporting scans all day every day, including the weekends. The proceeds from everything I make are donated either to Cancer Research UK or their subdivision the Bobby Moore Fund, because both my mother and I had breast cancer, and my father died of bowel cancer.

Now you are introducing soutache jewellery to LJS and also writing a book about it. Can you tell us a little about the technique and what attracted you to it?

soutache earrings

Soutache earrings

Soutache is a technique of combining stones, beads and a herringbone braid with embroidery techniques, so fundamentally it’s sewing with spectacular results.

You can make fantastic baroque style pieces with minimal outlay or equipment, and even large pieces are incredibly light and easy to wear. I started doing it as I also do millinery, and I wanted something unusual to put on my hats.

I learnt at a short taster course with Miriam Shimon, one of the world experts.

There are only two English language books, neither by a British author, and one in Lithuanian. All are quite conservative in terms of the projects, and I wanted to create something a little more quirky and modern which is why I’m writing my own book.

What are your other favourite techniques and what inspires you?

I love paper, it’s a real challenge in terms of creating a 3D form from a thin flat sheet.

I also make a lot of friendship bracelets with silver and semiprecious stones, and upcycle diamanté necklace with neon ribbon.

friendship bracelets

Friendship bracelets

If you had unlimited budget what would you like to work with or create?

I would love to convert a barge into a floating craft school – there are Thames moorings very close to our house. I’m happy using fairly cheap materials, but the making environment is so important.

And finally, the key LJS question – what’s your favourite biscuit or jewellery making snack?

Well… the lemon moons at the school are my current favourite, washed down with vast quantities of diet cola.

Details of Sarah’s soutache taster class can be found here.

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