i have had the honor and privilege of receiving a copy of the wonderful book “Steampunk Emporium” by UK-based jewelry maker, costume designer and crafter, jema “emilly ladybird” hewitt. “steampunk emporium” is about creating fantastical jewelry, devices and oddments from assorted cogs, gears and curios. it is vastly full of wonderful jewelry and costumes, many project instructions (20!) and a wonderful variety of intermixed stories. it’s quite a delightful book for anyone interested in steampunk, jewelry, costume making or just reading adventurous tales.
to be entered to win a FREE copy of jema’s book “steampunk emporium” from northlight books, simply leave a comment in this post before july 19th. limit to US visitors only, please. see below for the additional giveaway: a little altered bits bundle of steampunk and vintage bead goodness (no geographical restrictions — i’ll ship it anywhere).
don’t fret — if you do not win, you can still buy yourself a copy on the shop mixed media site here: http://www.shopmixedmedia.com/product/steampunk-emporium-z8074/ or any local bookseller anywhere in the world.
and now, for the interview…
Please tell us a bit about yourself and the art that you create.
My name is Jema Hewitt and I make unusual costumes, wedding gowns and jewellery, particularly Victorian-inspired steampunk styles. I live amid the rolling hills of Derbyshire and have an Aladdin’s cave of a studio in Nottingham. This area of England used to be the heart of the textile and lace making industry back in the Victorian era and I love the fact I am carrying on that tradition. My steampunk alter ego is “Emilly Ladybird” and I use that persona to create fantastical steampunk objects d’art.
What creative paths has your life taken to lead you to where you are today?
Oh so many, I was very fortunate to meet like-minded artists and craftsmen early on in my career and they have remained great friends, inspiring, swapping knowledge and contacts, giving each other jobs and helping find commissions. I worked freelance for so many different places too, always also working part time in shops and cafes to keep my rent money coming in. I suppose working at the bead shop in Nottingham was my first writing break – I did a puff piece for the shop which was published in a magazine and that lead to my first book which was most exciting.
Can you tell us about your art studio?
It is a tiny unit in an old Victorian hospital which had partitions put up in the 1970s to make it into light manufacturing units. It’s owned by the council and is rather unloved and neglected, but we keep our heads down so they don’t put the rent up. 😉 There are lots of wonderful artists and craftspeople in the building so it’s not lonely. My room has a huge window and is full of light, its packed floor to ceiling with cupboards full of fabric and trims and things with a wardrobe full of costumes and props. The studio is my “clean” space for fabric and sewing. My jewellery making tends to take place at home in the cottage, on the dining table. Fortunately my husband is very tolerant of my creative madness. I have boxes and boxes of clock parts, resins and beads hidden away under the stairs.
What artist would you bring back from the dead if you had the power to do so?
I would love to learn from Lalique. His jewellery is exquisite and I think he’d have been incredibly inspiring to be around, I’d love to see what he would do with our modern tools and materials too. I would love for Van Gogh to see how much his work is appreciated now too.
Where do you find your deepest inspiration?
From the people around me. They inspire, challenge and support.
Have any artists heavily influenced you in your artwork (known or unknown, living or not)?
I think some of my jewellery work is quite Alphonse Mucha inspired, it took a long time for me to find my own style; it’s hard when you are working as a commercial artist sometimes because you are always restricted by a client’s desires, you have to be able to adapt your style or mimic someone else’s. I’m becoming more and more interested in abstract pattern cutting techniques, Vivienne Westwood type Victoriana, proper punk haute couture, and I will forever be grateful to Donna Kato for inspiring me with her books on polymer clay techniques. My longtime friend and collaborator Lyssa has been a huge influence too. We started Kindred Spirits together and although she has gone down a different career path now, our house style was very much developed between us. We still get together every week to talk and enthuse! But really I suppose my influences constantly change as my work develops and explores new avenues.
Do you have a favorite piece of art that you have created for “Steampunk Emporium”?
I love the absinthe fairy necklace; it has that luscious Art Nouveau feel to it, while still being steampunky. I do like absinthe, especially with cream soda, so I’ll admit to a soft spot for the absinthe fairy! I’m also rather fond of the adventurers pocket watch.
If you could give one piece of your art to anyone in the world, who would it be?
I’d like to see Lady Gaga or Dita von Teese in one of my costumes, most definitely!
Describe a typical day in your life.
Patted awake by a cat or bunny around 9, gradually come out of my coma (assisted by a nice cup of tea from my hubby), then maybe go out for breakfast with him too. Arrive at the studio by 11.00 and do some pattern cutting or sewing, maybe have a client fitting or prepare for a workshop, exhibition or event. Work through lunch (I often forget to eat when I’m at the studio…). Order fabrics, do some taxes/book keeping or pay bills. Have a cuppa with one of the other studio folks or meet a friend for a chat, leave the studio about 6, get home and have dinner with hubby, watch some DVDs then do some jewellery making or writing, computer type things till eleven or so, then a bath and bed around midnight!
To be honest there’s no typical day though, I might get up at 5 am, drive to be on a film set by 6 and then spend the day loitering, or I might go to an exhibition and spend the entire weekend in fabulous costume, selling my wares!
Do you have any advice you would offer to an emerging Steampunk or jewelry artist?
Don’t undervalue your work. Price it properly even when you are starting out, charging for every minute of time spent on it. If that scares you, consider swapping rather than selling your pieces for things of equal hourly value, babysitting, accountancy or cake making for example.
Make sure your work is unique and marketable; try to find an area of design no one else has explored yet. Make a really spectacular showpiece and get it seen in blogs, Etsy, galleries… everywhere!
(this is the lovely miss jema “emilly ladybird” hewitt herself)
Where else, online or in print, can our readers find more information about you and your wondrous creations?
There are so many places!
And an Etsy page where you can actually buy some of my one off pretty things http://www.etsy.com/shop/SparkleyJem
I also have a blog which I rather sporadically post my epic costume making processes to http://sparklyjem.blogspot.com/
I write regularly for “making jewellery” and “making” magazines (UK) and I am featured in the new “Steampunk Bible” by Chambers and Vandemeer.
Finally I have written lots of books too, from tiara making to basic beadwork as well as the latest of course, the lovely “Steampunk Emporium”!
. . .
as a reminder, all you have to do to enter to win a FREE copy of jema’s book “steampunk emporium” is leave a comment before july 19th.
you will also automatically be entered to win this little bundle of rusty gears, cogs, watch parts, antique brass beads, sea green glass beads, and vintage pearly beads (from the 40s) in a pretty little organza bag from me — maybe you could make a pendant, necklace, brooch or some pretty earrings with them:
here are the contents laid out for you to see (probably a little more helpful):
good luck to all who wish to enter! i will be doing a random drawing on july 20th for two lucky winners, and will announce them that day. you may enter until midnight on july 19th PST.
(you can also read this interview on the altered bits website, or view past interviews via the links at the bottom: http://alteredbits.com/guest-artists.php)