Jodie Metcalfe is one of the five New Makers that TOAST will be supporting and nurturing throughout the year. Made from recycled 9kt gold and silver, her jewellery incorporates reclaimed precious stones and is created through age-old techniques that make each piece entirely unique.
Having grown up in Dorset, jeweller Jodie Metcalfe moved up to Scotland in autumn last year. She’s now based in Durness, where the dramatic, rugged landscape both echoes and inspires her elemental pieces, and the powerful ocean allows her to pursue her love of surfing when she’s not in the studio. “It’s really mountainous here”, she says. “From my studio there is a mountain view on one side and the sea on the other. The sea is only a two-minute walk away.” Having only recently moved, she considers her studio to be very much a work-in-progress. “We’re still putting down the flooring!” It’s a shipping container from Inverness and a crane had to be used to place it in situ. “I've got an idea of how I'd like it to be. But it’s hard to find furniture or little bits I need, as we’re so isolated.”
Despite the practical challenges, the remote location is ideal for Jodie to go for long exploratory walks. If she wishes to go further afield, she can journey to the Aberdeen coast to go fossicking for unusual banded agates. On the west coast, she also plans to go adventuring on the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Mull. Her inspiration often comes from long rambles—“I could be walking and I'll see something that catches my eye, a little stone somewhere in a certain shape.”
She’s also captivated by ancient jewellery, excavated from layers of earth on archeological digs. She’s fascinated not only by the processes used to create the pieces, but how people have always felt such a strong, enduring connection to jewellery. If there is an ancient piece she is particularly excited by, she experiments with the techniques used to create it. “I prefer working directly with the surface of the metal,” she says. “The coins I've made are hand-hammered, so each one is totally different. It's a similar process to how people work with ingot molds and manipulate the metal into whatever shape they would like it to take.” This preoccupation with individuality, natural variation and unexpected outcomes is integral to her work.
Jodie’s infatuation with jewellery found by chance is reflected by her work with discarded or fragmented vintage pieces, which she repurposes. “I scour the internet for vintage pieces that are broken,” she explains. “There's something sad about destroying something that someone might like! So I'm always looking for damaged pieces, as I can justify unsetting the stones and melting down the metals. With my stud earrings for TOAST, the stones are found in vintage jewellery. It’s a nice way of repurposing those things that people were just going to throw away or sit collecting dust.”
She encases the precious stones, such as diamonds and sapphires, in molten gold, through a pouring process that ensures each resulting piece is entirely unique. Firstly, she makes a mold out of two aluminium rings and packs it with Delft clay sand. “Then, I make a tiny channel and set the stones within that channel. I heat the metal up in a crucible and pour that down into the stones. It finds its way around the stones; it embraces them in its own way,” she explains. Working in this way is not an exact science—“It can be really hit and miss, so some stones will get swallowed whole.” In that case, she’ll melt the gold down again. “I'll just keep redoing it. The benefit of gold is that you can keep repeating the process. It never runs out.” Jodie works with recycled 9kt gold, which can come from dentistry and computer parts such as computer chips. Ever-resourceful, she also melts down metal from the vintage jewellery she finds, often choosing to buy pieces that she can repurpose entirely.
Once settled in her new studio, Jodie plans to create more pieces of jewellery inspired by the remarkable landscapes around her. “There are some monument sites around here and I still haven't asked anyone exactly what they're about—there are rocks perched on top of mountains in really obscure places. I'll find a lot of inspiration here; everywhere you look is just amazing.”
Interview by Alice Simkins.
Studio photography by Suzie Howell.