In her home in east London, jeweller Sally Lacock has carved out a serene studio space. It used to be a lodger's bedroom, but has now been reclaimed as a peaceful place of creativity, looking out onto the garden. It’s remarkably tidy. A linen-covered board is punctuated by tiny fragments of branches, unfurling wood shavings, shells buffeted by the sea, found images, and strings of vintage glass beads. Each is arranged with precision and darted with a slender pin, held indefinitely, preserved in a moment in time.
Tools are lined up, rows of hammers collected from antique fairs and markets, ready to be used by Sally to make her jewellery. Each piece – all crafted from sterling silver, some with 24kt gold-plated accents – is inspired by the idea of capturing natural objects suspended in time. “I want to capture fleeting moments in the cycle of nature,” Sally explains. “I’m interested in growth and decay, the dichotomy of strength and fragility.”
Sally studied fashion at Cheltenham College of Arts before moving to Lewes in Sussex, where she met her husband. Then the pair moved to London in the 1990s, firstly to Hampstead, then to their current home in Stoke Newington, where they have been for over 20 years. The garden is particularly precious to her, and the kitchen doors are swung wide open in the summer months.
Following a career in the fashion industry as a pattern cutter and designer, Sally took a series of jewellery courses about five years ago, honing her skills in her spare time. Traces of her previous work run through her pieces – she has always been drawn to raw edges and organic shapes. Even though she is relatively new to jewellery making, “it’s always felt like a natural thing for me to work with silver”. Working with the metal directly, Sally melts, hammers, smooths and shapes it, as well as creating wax masters which she sends off to be cast, manipulating the silver once it returns. “The beautiful thing about metal is that you can keep on reusing it so there is never any waste,” she says. Gleaming specks of silver are captured in a leather cradle beneath her workbench, ready to be melted down and used again.
She explores textures that emulate those occurring due to chance in nature – rugged, chipped edges that can be seen on a piece of bark, or perhaps a piece of pottery found mudlarking. “I never stop searching for inspiration, finding things like those little shards,” Sally says, pointing to tulip tree seeds in a tissue-lined box. She seeks to echo those textures at the edges of her rings and seed pod forms.
Inspiration is also found in curved wood shavings, inadvertently created by her husband as he carves wood. They curl around to a perfect finger’s width, and have directly influenced the irregular forms of the rings Sally creates. “As well as botanical inspirations, I’m interested in things that have been tumbled around by nature,” she says.
“When I go mudlarking on the Thames, I’m not looking for something of historical importance, I’m looking for forms,” she says, “anything that catches my eye, whether a bit of wood or ceramic shard. I’m not even sure what this is,” she says, holding a piece of pottery she found, rounded and white, “but it’s a real treasure to me.” The smooth form echoes the lampshade hanging above her workbench.
Creating a drop from scraps, Sally melts silver into a smooth organic form under the flame of the torch. To create the Seed Drop earrings, once she had perfected the form, a mould was made and the lost wax casting process used to reproduce the shape. When the gleaming silver orbs return, she removes the sprue, the passage where the metal ran down during casting. Then the stem is added, and the end smoothed before it is wrapped into an elegant arch. Sally’s workbench is marked with a precise line, which indicates where she should curve the hoops, ensuring each pair is consistent and comfortable to wear.
There are always reminders that nature can’t be controlled. Seeds sit on the table, having sprouted of their own accord. “I was just looking at the shapes, and now they’re growing,” she says. “It reminded me how full of promise they are.”
Interview by Alice Simkins.
Photographs by Aloha Bonser-Shaw.
Shop Sally Lacock’s jewellery.