Movers and Makers: Holly Clifford

In this city of makers, we provide a monthly showcase of Sheffield-based creatives at their place of work. For this month’s issue, Elliot Lucas spoke to Holly Clifford who produces both stunning art jewellery (hollysuzannaclifford.com/@holly_suzanna_clifford) and a bespoke topographical contour map collection (contourmapcollection.com/@contour_map_collection).

How did you get into silversmithing and making jewellery?
When I left school, I studied at Oxford Brookes on their Art Foundation course for a year, as I knew that I wanted to go into the arts in some form, but was unsure of which area specifically – so this BTEC diploma really helped me to focus my passion. I hadn’t really even considered jewellery design and silversmithing as an option, but whilst specialising in 3D design at Brookes (the only jeweller alongside a whole class of architecture students!) I became aware of the course at Birmingham School of Jewellery and was really taken with the possibility.

What is your creative process?
It varies, for my ‘art jewellery’ there really is very little design based work, I prefer to simply begin painting the eco-resin sheets with big bold brushstrokes, then figure out how these will work with the silver shapes I have in my mind. Every piece is a one-off, not only because the paintwork will naturally be different in each make, but I consciously try to be very fluid and experimental with my making.

But for my other half of the business – Contour Map Collection, it’s a totally different story. The designs come straight from maps, the whole essence of these pieces is that they are true to the landscapes they are depicting. That means there’s a bit of tracing involved, lifting all the contour lines from the customers chosen location, playing around with the scale/positioning of the map, and giving the customer different personalisation options such as setting stones as map markers or engraving of initials, location names, dates. I really enjoy giving the client options, to make sure they end up with a piece that is truly evocative.

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Do you want your pieces to be appreciated more as works of art or as fashion?
Maybe this is avoiding the question, but I ultimately would like them to be considered as both simultaneously. My art jewellery is very much wearable art, as the name suggests! I would like the pieces I create in both sides of my business to be appreciated for the level of craftsmanship and ingenuity, as well as their aesthetics.

What’s the hardest thing about your job? What’s the best?
There are so many positives about what I do. I especially love getting messages from pleased customers, or unexpected responses to my newsletters with words of encouragement and support, those sorts of things really mean a lot and reassure me that the work I create is making an impact. The hardest thing may be working out how to juggle all the hats you have to wear as an independent self-employed designer/maker. I’m constantly trying to build up knowledge in areas I struggle with, such as the website side, accounting and marketing – things that are vital business wise, but I don’t have much of a head for!

Have you made something that you’re especially proud of? Something with an interesting backstory?
I have actually just finished making an anniversary present for my parents this week, it’ll be their 30th year married this bank holiday weekend so I wanted to mark it with something extra special. I decided to collaborate with myself as it were, and bring both my art jewellery and contour map collection together, to create a beautiful silver tumbler with a layered eco-resin and map lid. The map is of the area my parents have made their home for the last 20 years; the topography of a village on the very Northernmost edge of the Cotswolds. I marked the location of their house with a tiny faux pearl (we’re vegan) as a nod to it being the pearl anniversary. It’s tilted on its base, giving it a more of a modern look and also really shows off the silver map. The Sheffield hallmark, applied by the Assay Office in Hillsborough is really made a feature of, positioned on the outside of the tumbler. I really enjoyed making something so personal, unique and meaningful for them to treasure.

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How has COVID-19 affected your business?
With the cancellation of all face-to-face events and the closure of shops galleries things have been tough. I was really looking forward to showing at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair and Goldsmiths North in the city this summer, but let’s hope next year these events will be even better! It’s been interesting experimenting with online shows and taking part in campaigns on Instagram such as the Artist’s Support Pledge, there’s been some real positivity coming out of this situation, however, I can’t wait to meet customers in person again!

What do you have in the pipeline to tell our readers about?
The Starter Studio at Yorkshire Artspace are taking part in Art in the Gardens next weekend, which I’m really excited about! I’m so pleased the event is still going ahead, this year we have a really great stand which we’ll be sharing with some other studio holders at Yorkshire Artspace, so you’ll get to see a really wide variety of handmade work. I’m also looking forward to welcoming people to our Open Studios event, which is still scheduled to go ahead this November at the Persistence Works building in the city centre.

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