Jewellery artist Caitlin Hegney

Posted by Rae Gellel on

In anticipation of our exhibition, Shine 2020, we spoke to one of the eleven talented young makers set to debut a collection at this year’s digital event.

Caitlin Hegney is a Scottish native and self-described artist-jeweller who works in both metal and wood. Her latest collection, Ditto, is inspired by the repetitive patterns found on ancient artefacts, and delves into the relationship between the past and present.

What first attracted you to a career as a maker, and how did you get started in the industry?

When I was a little girl, I was always collecting things and making things. Thinking back to family Christmas dinners, I’d always make things out of the bits and pieces leftover from Christmas crackers. So, it seemed intuitive to take that further and learn more about making.

I’d always wanted to go to art school, but initially, I wasn’t sure what to study, so I did a great proprietary year at Glasgow School of Art where I experimented with the different departments, and that’s when I fell In love with the silversmithing and jewellery department, and that’s been me ever since.

What can you tell us about the collection you'll be debuting at Shine?

For Shine 2020 I have made a collection of statement pieces, and also some more everyday wearable designs as well. The collection itself is called Ditto and the reason that I have selected that word to encompass the entire collection is because it means the same thing again, which is something that's become really important in my work.

I’ve been focusing on researching the rhythmic mark making that you would find in ancient burial sites, and on the hordes and objects that you would find at these sites. This interest started with a visit to a place called Kilmartin Glen on the west coast of Scotland, which is known for being significant in terms of our understanding of human history, through different forts and cairns and hoards that were found there. It’s actually an ongoing source of inspiration, because just the other day a new horde was discovered, and there's new objects being discovered all the time.

I initially started looking at things like stone carvings, stone circles, objects that are found in the landscape, and also much smaller artefacts as well, such as food vessels and clay pots and the different patterns and textures that were created into these materials. These became of interest to me because of their ambiguity - we don’t always know much about their history, we don’t know who made them or why they’re there, it’s almost like a little language that continues something from the past into the present. I’m really interested in making pieces that re-create that relationship between the past and the present, that almost make you feel more in line with your ancestors and past through wearing them, and that's basically what the collection is about.

Can you tell us a bit about the process of designing the collection, and the techniques used in creating it?

My design process alternates between 2D and 3D. I tend to start doodling and drawing in a sketchbook, but my designs really start to come alive when I start sampling in 3D - then it becomes a relationship between the two. So quite often, I’ll be working in my sketchbook and then find little samples and begin composing and almost patchworking different designs together.

So that’s the initial part of the design process, but through making this collection for Shine, I realised how important my intuition was with the different techniques that I was using, because they allowed me to riff off of something that I knew I wanted to achieve, but also enabled me to be a little bit more expressive and spontaneous as I was making, which I think was really important for these pieces.

The techniques that I use when I am making my wearable pieces are expressive, they resonate with me because they themselves are rhythmic processes and they're quite meditative when you're doing them. One of the main techniques that I use is an ancient process called chasing, and that involves a repeating hammer action, with hand forged tools that I created based on my drawings. That technique helps me work different textures and patterns into the surface of sheet metal. One of the other techniques I use to achieve patterns in my work is forging wire and soldering it into patterns, and in a similar way this gives me the ability to draw with metal, and attempt to echo my drawings but also to keep responding in spontaneity when I’m making.

The other element to my work would be the colour blue. I use different pigments and a dyeing process to achieve this with the wood, mixing and making different pigments in the same way I would if I was painting. Then I submerge the wood to achieve the rich blue colour that you see in some of my pieces.

What does being chosen for Shine 2020 mean to you - both on a professional level and a personal level?

So, being chosen for Shine 2020 has been fantastically timed, and not only on a professional level. It feels like a great time to be consolidating things that I’ve been trying to get together since graduating two years ago, particularly the business aspect of my jewellery making. The main thing that I was hoping to get out of participating in Shine was learning how to build and strengthen my online presence, and it’s actually fallen at a perfect time since the world is even more dependant on existing in an online bubble. I already feel that I can really use technology to my advantage as a creative person and to enhance my business.

On a personal level, being invited to participate in Shine this year has been a lovely way to feel part of a network and connected to other makers again. For months I hadn’t really spoken to another creative practitioner, and it feels really nice to be connected to them, albeit online, and to share and go through an experience together at the same time.

What have you learned from the process of planning and creating your collection?

I have learned that you can't always plan everything. I don't know if it's just the pieces that I’ve made for this collection, but I did a lot of work figuring out what it was that I wanted to submit. As I was making some of the pieces, towards the end of the processes they started evolving and getting little lives of their own, and actually that's made me realise that maybe I need to start making earlier in my practice – maybe for me, the creativity comes from the making element.

That aspect was really rich for having ideas, and it gave me a chance to select the pieces that I wanted to submit, because I designed and made more than I needed for the collection. It’s great because it’s given me some new ideas moving forward as well, with some new work that I want to produce. So it’s been an interesting way to make, when you’re not working to a brief, but you’re working to make pieces for a certain purpose.

What do you enjoy most about being a maker - for example, is the joy in the making itself, or in sharing the finished pieces with the world?

I think that the thing I enjoy most about being a maker probably is the making process. I love those transitional moments when something is a little seed of an idea in your head and then it pops out and it's on paper. The relationship between that point when it's on paper and when it becomes a sample and then when the sample becomes something more like a resolved design.

I think all of that is a privilege - to be able to let your yourself design and make and also to keep ancient craft skills alive. I think that's one of the reasons why I was drawn to the jewellery discipline, to be able to work in a craft that isn't practiced as readily as it was in the past, and to build and to make it relevant for contemporary society. That's why making is probably one of my favourite parts of being a maker and designer, however I do obviously love it when you get to work with customers and share your work with other people too, it's so rewarding.

What kind of person do you think will be most attracted to your collection, and to your design style in general - do you have a target audience in mind?

I like to think that a variety of people would be attracted to my collection. I don't ever design with a specific age group in mind, but I am becoming more aware that my style of designing is quite classic, so it can consist of pieces that perhaps transcend time, they don’t really go with fashion trends. However, I think my jewellery resonates with a certain type of person, they're very in tune potentially with the earth, they're maybe interested in a little bit of history and symbolism, they might view jewellery as more of an amulet or a memento rather than value it for just the design itself.

I also think that the kind of market that I would be targeting with my designs is a market that appreciates unique craftsmanship and is looking for something that they know is handmade and has a story behind it, a story that hopefully they can tell through wearing it, that will also have a connection to the maker.

What are you most looking forward to about participating in Shine 2020?

I’m looking forward to quite a few different aspects of being able to participate in Shine such as working and learning from the different professionals in the different fields. I find it really interesting to see how these different specialisms connect; how as soon as you’ve been given the tools from another discipline, for example web design or being able to write about your work, how you can take that information away and put your own spin on it.

Being able to be part of Shine and to work towards the briefs and little assignments that we participants are being given, is an opportunity to put your own mark on that as a maker, and I think that’s really important – rather than just learning by a textbook, you’re implementing what you’re learning through what makes you unique as an artist and a maker.

The other thing that I’m looking forward to is meeting other people who work in the discipline, and learning more about their practices and being able to connect with them, finding out what they're struggling with and what they're looking to learn as well. It can make you feel part of a network, one that is very easy to feel that you've dropped away from when you leave that art school setting.

What's next - what are your creative and career goals for the next two years?

So, my creative career goals for the next two years would be to implement everything that I’ve learned whilst working on Shine 2020. I am looking forward to actioning all of this and seeing how it can help me to develop my business.

I’m aiming to keep developing, keep designing, and keep making. I’m also looking to build into my current work a more accessible collection that unites my work with wood and metal. I feel like the wooden elements of my work at the moment are more reserved for statement and one-off pieces, so I would like to make them into a more commercial line that's accessible to a wider range of people.

Along with my jewellery practice, I’m also hoping that when normality resumes I can continue to develop my workshop practice, because up until this point with the coronavirus, I have been creating workshops and sharing them within the community, and sharing my passion and different craft skills and with different members of society, so I would love to keep building on that as well.

Discover Caitlin Hegney's new collection

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