Coming from a crafting family, Gemma Atwell has always been creative. But it was a pre-Christmas “now or never moment” that saw the Bath-based maker hand in her notice at work and sign up for a course in silversmithing. She now creates beautiful handcrafted jewellery from her garden shed-style studio, and, as they say, the rest is silver-dusted history.
Gemma: “The Silver Shed started in 2012, admittedly though it took a little while before I was ready to face the public with my work and it has changed dramatically over the last five-years. I was working in a retail environment at the time, and a month before Christmas I had a now or never moment – I handed in my notice and bought a garden shed! It was a long time before setting up my studio that I studied jewellery design and smithing, maybe six- or seven-years. I was looking for a short creative course and stumbled across a 10-week silversmithing one. That was it, I was smitten! I signed up for the design for jewellery City and Guilds NVQ after that.”
Gemma’s passion for making stems from her creative family, and growing up they gave her plenty of inspiration. Plus some sage words from her father!
Gemma: “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making. When I was younger I remember gardening with my dad (that was his work) and talking about what I should be doing, and him saying ‘you’re trouble is that you’re only happy when you’re using your hands.’ And it’s true – baking, making, planting… I need to be creating with my hands. My mum has always been a crafter too so we were always at fetes and fairs when I was a child.”
Not only does Gemma get ideas and creativity from her family, but she credits Somerset – and Bath where she lives – as providing her with a wealth of inspiration.
Gemma: “I am based in Bath and have a garden shed studio where I design and make all of my work. I am very lucky to have grown up in this beautiful city. It does feel that Somerset, particularly the Bath area, is a hub for creative activity. It is very easy to find like-minded folk. My partner is from Glastonbury and he is involved in the local music scene there so I get to spend a fair bit of time in that area too. Originally I was going to use my own name as my business name but I wanted something a little more memorable. There has been a running joke about all of the silver dust that coats my shed space, so the name came from that really.”
Gemma’s love of magic and fairytales is prevalent in her designs, and it’s a style that is popular with her customers. And although she admits that running her own business can sometimes be difficult, she says it’s her customers that keep her wanting to create new products.
Gemma: “Inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere. I have many ideas waiting to be developed. Much of my work comes from my love of folklore and fairytales, and Arts and Crafts-style imagery. Motivation is trickier! There are often days when I could curl up and hide, but generally the feedback I get from my customers and social media followers make me realise that I must be doing something right.”
Gemma’s designs are as varied as they are beautiful, but currently it’s her new styles that get her creative juices flowing. And it seems that size does matter.
Gemma: “The newest things that I make are usually my favourites. I have been working on some larger statement pieces recently that I love. My most popular sellers are definitely the rings and bangles with text on them. I think it’s because they bring a little bit of magic and remind people of stories they loved as children. I like to think that my style is fairly recognisable. It is quite whimsical and has common themes running across the different collections. It is important to me that the branding and staging I use match my jewellery.”
So why does Gemma love Somerset?
Gemma: “I don’t think that there is a simple answer to why I love Somerset. There are so many reasons. Somerset, Bath, is home – it is family. Wherever I go in this world I will always gravitate back here. I love the architecture of my hometown, love the cafe culture and soaking up the atmosphere whilst people watching. I also enjoy exploring the independent shops in towns like Frome, or walking straight out of the city into the rolling countryside that surrounds us.”