Can you tell us a little about your background?
I am a jewellery designer, maker & tutor. My own company, Rebecca Steiner Fine Jewellery, has been running since 2006. My work has been showcased in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines, has won awards from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, and has been exhibited in Paris, Amsterdam, Sweden and in Australia, as well as all around the UK. I hand-make all of my own work, and also currently create designs for other jewellery companies.
In 2009 I started teaching, which I love. My mum was a teacher, and I feel that it is something that runs in my blood. I began with weekend courses at the @Work Gallery in Pimlico. In 2010 I started teaching at the London Jewellery School, and stayed with them as I continued to develop my own business.
During this time I also studied for a Masters degree at Goldsmiths, University of London. The course was in Critical Practice, and I focussed my research and dissertation on Craft and Design Education. Specifically in CPD projects for sole traders and small business owners.
Currently teaching and making both have a balance in my career. At the weekends I run a company called “We Make Rings”, where I teach couples how to make their own wedding rings. For this my partner and I converted a horse box into a solar powered, fully kitted out mobile jewellery workshop. We go from place to place, partnering with wedding venues to find wonderful locations in which to hold the workshop. Couples are first shown the techniques, they practice making their rings in silver, and in the afternoon they make the real rings for each other. It’s a very unique and romantic experience, to have your wedding ring made for you by your partner. It makes me happy to see people discover they are able to work with metal, and puts so much more meaning into this object that is worn for life.
I joined the British Academy of Jewellery in December this year, and am excited to be working with them as they continue to grow as a company.
What are your inspirations? Your creations have quite a distinctive style.
It actually started in my BA where I was researching under-sea micro-organisms. I found that none of the techniques I had learned would allow me to create the patterns and forms I wanted to make. I am a real technical geek in terms of finding out different ways to do things so I taught myself lots of new techniques; I was trying repousse which I had never done before, I started working with wood, and making casts in ceramics. Then I discovered wax carving and quickly realised it was exactly what I needed to create the forms I wanted.
So I fell in love with wax carving and I still use it as a technique quite a lot. It allows me to create very organic looking forms, almost eroded and worn away. I am interested in the idea of jewellery as “treasure”, so I occasionally hide precious stones within my pieces. They are the same colour as the metal, so they sparkle without being immediately obvious.
How did your jewellery fascination start? At what point did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I have always had a love of art and design. At school, I specialised in Graphic Design: jewellery wasn’t an option at that stage. I enjoyed creating packaging: I loved to design objects that would be handled and interacted with. In 2002 I completed an Art Foundation course at Wimbledon School of Art. Here I discovered an affinity for being in the workshop, and working with my hands. I was making a lot of pieces that weren’t necessarily jewellery, but they were all small objects that you could pick up & play with, and my tutor suggested a jewellery degree. In 2003 I went to London Guildhall to study at the Sir John Cass School of Art and Design.
I gained a scholarship whilst on the course, which enabled me to develop my own collection ready for retail. I was also able to apply for work experience opportunities in Hatton Garden, and managed to work with a variety of different jewellers in able to gain specific industry skills. For example, I worked with a stone setter to learn setting, I went to American jeweller to learn how to mix my own alloys (as we don’t do this as much here in the UK), and I worked for designer-maker Parul Tolentino, who opened a shop in the OXO Tower at the time. I learnt a lot from my time there, and continued working with Parul after I graduated. She now owns OAK Fine Jewellery, which is a quickly growing global brand.
Alongside this I started building my own business, which launched officially at my graduation in 2006. I now own a fine jewellery company called Rebecca Steiner Fine Jewellery. My work has been exhibited in Paris, Amsterdam, Sweden and in Australia, as well as all around the UK. And of course I run the ‘We Make Rings’ company.
“If you are a jewellery designer, you need to be able to express your ideas in a way that can be understood and interpreted by others. Technical drawing also helps you develop your own designs, and enables you to plan your making process to save both time and materials.”
You teach Technical Drawing and Rendering courses at BAJ. Why would someone be interested in taking them?
I think these practical courses are brilliant. The technical drawing course is a two-day course, so it’s not a huge commitment, and you will come away with valuable skills. If you are a jewellery designer, these skills are essential. You need to be able to express your ideas in a way that can be translated to somebody else: either a manufacturer in the workshop, or for a client to visualise their commission. It also helps you to develop your own designs. When you have an idea in your head, you might think you see the whole thing, but by drawing it out – especially through a technical drawing – you are forced to see it from all different viewpoints and make sure you have actually considered the whole design. This will save you money in the long run when you’re buying materials because you know exactly what materials you need. Your time in the workshop will also be more efficient because you’ll know exactly how all the components go together. Your jewellery work as a whole will improve. I think it is very worth doing.
Why would you recommend it to someone to study at BAJ?
I think BAJ essentially fills an important gap in jewellery education. Students here get to do the very technical side of things from the start, and they also learn the design side, which I think is brilliant.
A BA in Jewellery teaches a very conceptual creative side where you are able to develop unique and original designs, but does not necessarily cover the technical side in as much depth. HND training gives you the technical skills, but not necessarily so much creative input. The courses at BAJ are all about the crossover, where you get to do both. The Academy is absolutely unique and it provides a full package, giving you everything you need to be able to leave confident and set up your own business, having all the required skills.