Pride Month Student Spotlight: Phoebe Woodall

We’re so excited to begin our Pride Month Q+A series, where we’re shining the spotlight on LBGTQ+ artists and allies in the BAJ Community.

Today we’re joined by BAJ Birmingham Level 3 Jewellery Design and Manufacturing learner Phoebe Woodall. Read below to learn more about her time at BAJ, experience as an LGBTQ+ artist, personal style, aspirations and more.

Hi Phoebe, thanks for chatting with us! Can you please tell us about your journey into the world of jewellery so far?

Hi!! My journey so far has been a short but very exciting one. I recall wanting to be a goldsmith when I was in my early teens and I thought that being able to make my own rings would be the coolest thing in the world (I still think this!), but it wasn’t until lockdown when I had the time to take up new hobbies that I really discovered my love for jewellery making. I taught myself how to wire-wrap rough gemstones, but what I really wanted was a solid foundation of skills so that I could explore other jewellery making techniques. When I discovered BAJ, everything fell into place! I’ve loved every second of the course so far and I can’t wait to start making my own pieces.

LGBTQ+ jewellery student shown at bench for Pride Month

How long have you been creating and designing jewellery?

I started designing and wire wrapping in 2020, but studying at BAJ has been pretty instrumental for me in building the skills I need to be able to manufacture my own pieces from scratch. I feel I have a good understanding of the fundamentals of jewellery design and manufacturing now and I’m confident I’ll be able to make and sell my own pieces with the skills I’ve learnt.

Do you find the jewellery industry to be a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ artists?

I do! I think there’s always more work to be done, but I absolutely feel welcome in this space and like my ideas and identity are celebrated, and that’s really important. Most creative spaces tend to be very queer, so I’ve had no problem finding other LGBTQ+ makers to skill share with and take inspiration from. However, I’d love to see more Jewellery businesses and workshops promoting themselves as queer-friendly and engaging in meaningful allyship. Showing solidarity to the queer community and letting them know they’re welcome in your space is super easy, and it’s something I’ve seen only a handful of Jewellers local to me do successfully. As a queer person potentially choosing an engagement ring or enquiring about bespoke design services, I’d want to know that the businesses’ values align with my own and that my identity would be respected throughout the process. It’s something I’m going to make sure I implement when I eventually have my own Jewellery business, and I’d encourage other makers to do the same! Whether it’s a Pride Month collection, a portion of profits donated to an LGBTQ+ charity or just a section of your website, it’s always worth showing up for queer people and making your allyship visible.

If you had to describe your jewellery style in three words, what would those three words be?

Ooooh that’s a good one. I’m still in the process of defining my style at the moment… I have too many ideas for what I want the overall vibe of my jewellery to be and I can’t choose! I’d perhaps describe my future jewellery as whimsical, ornate and playful. I love small details and delicate work and I want my jewellery to reflect my love of mythology, literature, space and all of the things that inspire my creativity.

Whimsical jewellery made by LGBTQ+ student at BAJ, shown for Pride Month.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your art?

Honestly, it might be a question of where *don’t* I draw inspiration from. I’m very easily fascinated and so I have an infinite number of favourite artists, things, places, people, interests, social and artistic movements… Finally my neurodivergence comes in handy! I tend to gravitate towards Greek Mythology, space, music, the occult, queer culture and history. I love old things, so anything antique or vintage is right up my street, too. Whilst too much inspiration sounds like a nice problem to have, narrowing down the ideas and being decisive is particularly difficult. I’ve learnt some great creative thinking techniques at BAJ that have helped me to cut through the noise and fine-tune my ideas so that I’m not trying to cram too much into one piece, and it’s been a game-changer! Nailing the creative process and learning how to get the best out of my brain has been invaluable, really.

Who are your favourite LGBTQ+ artists?

I have a few! I love Keith Haring and David Hockney, anything by @pinkgabbercat, @hellomynameiswednesday and @beeillustrates on Instagram, and if we’re talking any kind of artist, I’ve got a heavy obsession with Chappell Roan at the moment… The artists I connect with the most tend to be really bold and outspoken about their activism. Speaking of, I love the work of Atomic Gold, too. They’re a queer and trans-owned jewellers and their work and activism in the industry is lovely to see.

Do you have a favourite piece that you’ve made? If so, what makes it your favourite?

Currently my favourite is a wax-carved bombe ring that I had casted in silver. It was the first wax ring I ever made and I was really proud of it and how even I’d managed to make it for a first attempt. I engraved some tiny floral details into it as a test just to see how it’d look, and I ended up really liking the outcome. I got a bit too excited during the polishing process and lost some of the engraved details, but I love it like my firstborn child!

What has been your favourite thing so far that you’ve learned on the Level 3 Diploma in Jewellery Design and Manufacturing course at BAJ?

Learning wax carving has absolutely been my favourite so far. It’s such a satisfying process and there’s something about it that just allows my brain to switch off whilst I’m working on a piece. I actually find it really relaxing! The support from BAJ tutors during the wax carving project has been second to none, too. I learn so much from each tutor and they’re always so willing to help out when I’m asking a million questions and trying to wrap my head around the nitty gritty details of carving and casting. Shout out to Collette, Miranda and Sarah for being so fantastic and patient with us.

Is there a particular technique or skill that you’re most drawn to?

Whilst it’s not something I know how to do properly yet, I’d really love to learn some different types of stone setting. I love doing small detailed work and I’d be thrilled if I could set my own stones properly. Star setting looks so dreamy!

What do you see next for you, post-graduation?

I’d like to take another few specialist short courses in stone setting and gemmology, but now that I have a solid foundation of skills and knowledge to build on from BAJ, I hope to set up my own business selling my pieces. I work part-time in Marketing right now, so I’ll be spending most of my weekends and days off trying to establish the best manufacturing process for what I want to create, and then I’ll be cracking on with Instagram and TikTok to get my pieces seen. I hope to start selling pretty soon after I finish the course.

What would your advice be to someone considering coming to the British Academy of Jewellery?

When I first enquired about the course I was pretty nervous and didn’t have much belief in my own abilities, but no matter your experience level, I think there’s a huge amount of growth and learning awaiting you at BAJ. Studying here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself and my personal growth, so if you’re looking to learn how to make jewellery and aren’t sure where to begin, I can wholeheartedly recommend a BAJ course. There’s no harm in trying something new and it’s never too late to pick up new skills! In less than a year, I’ve developed skills I never imagined myself being able to do, and I feel very fortunate to have come from having minimal jewellery manufacturing experience to feeling comfortable experimenting with different designs and manufacturing methods in my time at BAJ. The tutors are some of the most experienced creatives I’ve ever met, and I feel lucky to have learnt so much not only from the course content, but from each individual tutor and their unique expertise.

Do you have any specific advice for LGBTQ+ creatives?

I’d say don’t be afraid to explore the connection between your own creativity and your identity and how this could show up in your work – we’re multifaceted beings and expressing your artistry in a way that feels true to you is a wonderful thing. It’s so okay to be bold and loud and share your lived experience through your work, too. We deserve to have our voices heard and our work celebrated as much as anyone else! Meeting and connecting with other LGBTQ+ creatives can be really affirming too, so if building a community of queer creatives or joining a queer artist support network is possible for you, then this can be a really good way to skill share and foster a sense of belonging as a queer artist in the creative world.

Click here to follow Phoebe’s jewellery journey, and here to find out more about our Level 3 Jewellery Design and Manufacturing diploma.

Jewellery made by LGBTQ+ BAJ student, in interview for pride month.

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