Mark Fenn has recently published his new book Narrative Jewelry: Tales From The Toolbox
Our Directory Maker of the Week, Mark Fenn, talks to us about getting into making, what inspires him and his favourite part of the making process.
Who or what got you into making?
As a young boy of five maybe six years old my Dad used to take me and my younger brother to the British Museum every Sunday (maybe to give my mother a break!). Every time we would make the Sutton Hoo hoard our first stop. I remember being fixated on the gold belt buckle and the purse lid with the deep red stones. Later in my twenties I saw the work of silversmith Michael Lloyd and I thought I want to be a silversmith. So I took several Adult Education night classes in jewellery making, and began making and selling my work. In 2008 I decided to take a BA (Hons) degree in silversmithing, goldsmithing and jewellery at UCA and I graduated in 2011.
Could you please tell us a bit about your work?
I split my time between, silversmithing and Jewellery making and other creative practices (recently I’ve taken up lino cut printing and hand carving wooden spoons.) I love to learn new skills to push myself but everything I do is based in being made by me by hand. I learnt the skill of keum boo and made a collection, which has sold well in a gallery in Whitstable. I also recently developed a small collection of earrings in collaboration with the gallery Frank. I continue to make my narrative works, and am currently designing a new collection. For the past two years I have been writing a book on narrative jewellery (www.narrative-jewellery.com) which published in October this year.
What are your inspirations?
I use a personal narrative within my jewellery making and I am inspired by my new environment here in West Wales. I have also been inspired by writing the book and the work of other makers. When I'm looking for ideas I walk my two dogs, sit with a cup of tea and enjoy the fresh air, the amazing views and wildlife. I'm loving the freedom of living at Dolwerdd, I have my own study, much bigger studio than before, and now the book is complete, more time to sit at the bench. On the silversmithing side I’m more led by the technique of hand raising and how far I can push myself and the metal. I found doing some pottery night classes inspired me; working in such a different medium ignited a desire in me to try replicate the pottery vessels I’ve researched while taking the classes.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
I enjoy the whole process, from the first spark of an idea and the challenges the making process brings. But I also love seeing happy faces of couples when I've helped them make their own wedding rings. There is something very satisfying in sharing knowledge and also in completing an item that has been commissioned.
What are you working on right now?
Some narrative pieces that are based on my new location, I moved to West Wales last year. I’ve also set myself a challenge to see if I can make a tea pot in one hour. This came out of a discussion with other silversmiths on the subject of can you call yourself a silversmith if you have not made a teapot..... This led into discussing the Johnny Vegas one minute tea pot from the BBC’s The Great Pottery Throw Down.