Returning Elements maker Stacey Bentley has been going from strength to strength since exhibiting at Elements 2 in 2016. Here, we get to know Stacey as we chat about how her design practice has developed over time and what we can expect from her in 2017.

Stacey Bentley necklace  Stacey Bentley necklace & earringsStacey Bentley necklace

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I was born and raised in a small industrial town in West Yorkshire. I have always been quite creative, I loved to dance, paint and draw. When it was time to choose a career path, I chose art school. I was accepted into the Leeds College of Art BTEC Foundation course and I fell in love with design, particularly jewellery design.

I moved to Edinburgh in 2004 to attend Edinburgh College of Art where I gained a 1st class Honours Degree in design and applied arts and a Master of Arts in Jewellery. I’ve been making ever since.

I love living and working in Edinburgh. I particularly love the architecture, which is a constant inspiration for my work, and the stunning countryside outside the city.

You’ve had great success as a maker in quite a short time. What drew you into jewellery design in the beginning?

To be honest, I had no intention of being a jewellery designer. I really wanted to be a painter when I started college. I had no idea that you could go to university to get a degree in jewellery design.

The Foundation course at Leeds allowed me to attend a range of classes and exposed me to lots of different disciplines such as textiles, fashion, photography, sculpture, and illustration. I turned out to be quite good at making small sculptures, and my personal projects developed into designing ‘wearable sculptures’. From there, I was encouraged to apply to Edinburgh College of Art to undertake a degree in jewellery making.

What have you been up to since exhibiting at Elements 2?

I have been developing my newest body of work, which I showed the very early stages of last year at Elements. It’s crazy how long it takes to develop a new range and there are so many stages to go through, but I love the process: sketchbook designs, test pieces, reviewing the work, re-making the work, photographing the work, and more.

I feel like I have a focused and slick collection. It features diamond set necklaces and rings, new enamel colours and some striking black and gold leaf necklaces which I am particularly proud of.

I also got married in January and travelled the west coast of America for three weeks visiting LA, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Bodie, Mammoth Lakes and Death Valley, to name a few. It’s been a busy few months and my camera is full of photographs which will be used in my sketchbook!

The pieces in your new collection are beautiful – we particularly like the new colours you’ve included. How has your design practice developed over the years?

Thank you very much, I love colour! It brightens up my day and that’s why I use it. I think that my initial interest in painting led me naturally to enamel, as it is essentially painting on metal. I chose to focus on the process of using enamel during my BA and MA as I wanted to develop its use in contemporary British jewellery design.

Although this is still my aim, I tend to use enamel as a means of achieving a bold, statement aesthetic. I matte back the shiny fired surfaces and combine it with highly polished silver and gold. My work has become more wearable over the past few years and the colours are fashion led.

I love to see people wearing and enjoying my work. When I see clients getting joy from a piece of jewellery that I have made I feel like I’ve achieved my goal as a jeweller.

Although my work has changed dramatically over the last few years, the source of inspiration is constant: architecture. My husband and I like to explore when we are not working, and we always have our cameras with us when we travel to new places, just in case we see something that will inspire our work!

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Your second solo show, ‘Rhythm’, is currently showing at The Scottish Gallery. Can you tell us a little about how that came about and how you prepared for it?

The Scottish Gallery approached me about a year ago after following the developments in my work. Like any show where you and your work are the focus, it’s a bit daunting, but I decided to treat it as a fantastic opportunity to develop my new collection.

I knew I wanted to focus the showcase around a strong collection of necklaces, so I just ran with it. I made the first necklace and the rest naturally developed. The work for the show has been in the making for the last 12 months.

What’s one unique thing that you would like people to know about your jewellery? What makes it so special for you?

Each piece I make is inspired by a place. Usually a piece of jewellery originates from a photograph, drawing, or memory of place I’ve travelled to. It may be an angle from a temple in Japan, a colour on a beach house in Los Angeles, or the shape of a stained-glass window in Egypt. It all comes back to an experience I’ve shared with family or friends and that’s what makes each design special to me.

What else is coming up for you in 2017?  

I’m very excited about exhibiting in Elements 3 in November. It means I get to design and make more work for our Edinburgh buyers and collectors. I’m also showcasing at the Goldsmiths’ Fair in London (week 2, stand 2), as well as showing a smaller collection in Dazzle at Dovecot during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

I’m also working on a side project developing a range of alternative wedding and engagement rings which I am excited about. I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time so watch this space!

Stacey Bentley ringsStacey Bentley ringsStacey Bentley rings

You can see Stacey’s work at The Scottish Gallery until 1 July and at Elements 3 from 2-5 November. You can also follow Stacey on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Images provided by Stacey Bentley.