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Directory Maker of the Week: Flux Play

Flux Play is part of In the Loupe at Birmingham School of Jewellery until 16 December

Our Directory Maker of the Week, Flux Play (aka Maria Whetman) talks to us about getting into making, what inspires her and what she loves most about her work

Who or what got you into making?

I have been making little things, little items and objects since my earliest memories, out of all sorts of things, with lots of detail and carefully made. Often they were just little objects with no function or purpose, but I really fell in love with creative play in metals when I was an art student at Hereford College of Art back in 1987, where we had an inspiring and helpful jewellery tutor and a tiny little workshop.

The little compositions I was making in metals were nearly always mixed with other materials and eventually started to evolve into wearables. My parents were always lovers of craft fairs, taking the family to them, as well as visiting interesting places of heritage and National Trust properties, so I suppose my eye for detail and the hand-made must have been burnished by those experiences.

Tell us a bit about your work

This is a simple question I'm asked a lot, but I actually find it difficult to answer! My work is process-led, or materials-led before it is 'design-led'. That is, I like to explore a process or a material and see where it takes me and look at what the results are telling me, rather than having a pre-ordained purpose in mind towards which I design, though having said that, I do get commissions which of course have to be followed according to the instructions of the client!

My output over the years has been quite broad, lending itself to the origination of the name I gave my enterprise: FluxPlay. I was well-trained in design-thinking and exploration at Hereford all those years ago, followed by excellent technical training at Central Saint Martins in 1989, but I still continue to find interest and inspiration in new directions all the time. I've always made and always taught, I gained my PGCE in 1994.

What are your inspirations?

Most recently the place I have chosen to settle and call home - the Bere Peninsula and Tamar Valley - has become an inspiration for my Material Landscape collection, which has its roots in work that I produced during my Design Masters at the University of Plymouth, where Pete Davis and Polly MacPherson helped me think and analyse things in new ways. Layers of material and an artificial landscape in that part of Devon are a byproduct of a fascinating mining heritage. It's the aesthetics of those old abandoned sites, and the processes which led to what we see as remains, which has inspired that collection of work. I'm better known though for my earlier designs incorporating old tins into jewellery designs, which I started doing in the early 2000s. I still work in tins...they're just too fun to let go of.

What is your favourite part of the making process?

I'm quite old fashioned, I love all of the making! I would find it very hard to work as a designer with no direct, tacit involvement with the materials. I do still love sketching out thoughts and ideas too, but I have found over the years that I spend more time thinking through play at my bench in my small workshop, than in my sketchbook, though there's always been an element of that, I've always wanted to get involved in every aspect of every thing that I make....which is not always practical! My favourite part of the making process I guess, is the part where a beautiful and absorbing object sits finished on my workbench after originating entirely from raw materials.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I am excited to be having meetings with Victoria Sewart from Victoria Sewart Contemporary Jewellery Gallery & School about creating some new taught classes which I will deliver for her in addition to those which she already offers. We're really lucky in Plymouth to have a jewellery establishment which includes cutting edge jewellery designers and conceptual makers alongside classics and favourites and she's just celebrated her first decade in business, alongside her assistants who are often my ex-students. Vic' is a diverse jeweller herself so she has a really good understanding of the market.

I'm also finishing off some items for a small, high-quality craft fair I'm doing nearer to Christmas. I rarely do fairs anymore, maybe one every three of four years, as lecturing and making for galleries has kept me too busy to make the stock that is required, but I still enjoy doing them, meeting the people who are ultimately the recipients of my efforts! It's good to see my work in context.

View Maria Whetman's Directory profile

Visit In the Loupe at the Birmingham School of Jewellery until 16 December 2016

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