Nicola Beer

Hi Nicola, thanks for taking time to do the interview. Can we start off with you telling us a bit about yourself and what initially brought you to the creative process and metal clay?

I have always made things, even when I was a child I would make gifts for my family from old objects that I found and repurposed.  As an adult I continued this and every year I would make presents for my loved ones from whatever medium I was interested in at the time.  A few years ago I had a routine operation that went very badly wrong and I almost died as a result.  Although I recovered, 3 years ago I had some complications and this meant that I was sick from my day job for a full year.  During that time I was mostly housebound and spent my time learning how to make basic jewellery from gemstone beads.  I became part of the handmade jewellery community and quickly progressed to wire work and then found silver clay.  I had been a skilled sugar craft artist; I would spend hours creating intricate sugar designs and although I appreciated the joy that cakes brought to people, I was sometimes a little disappointed that all of my work was destroyed in minutes.  Silver clay was a way to preserve the posterity of my skills and it was a revelation to me.

I believe that you are part of Metal Clay Ltd's 'Metal Clay Makers' ambassador program. Can you tell us what that involves?

It’s a wonderful job!  Every other month, Metal Clay Ltd send me a mystery parcel of products to test and create with.  The parcel always has some element of ACS in it and some other tools and products that I may not have previously used.  I have discovered loads of brilliant things that I may not have chosen for myself under normal circumstances.  As a maker, I am encouraged to report back on the products and to show how I have used them in my work so that I can help to increase the exposure of metal clay to my customers.  They really do enjoy seeing what goes into my work behind the scenes.  I have pushed myself to develop as both an artist and a teacher and made my first ever Youtube videos.  That was nerve wracking!  It has given me the opportunity to build relationships with the lovely people at Metal Clay ltd and has helped to grow my network and make new friends.

You are a regular contributor to Making Jewelry Magazine. Is the exposure that you get there beneficial to your business and your development as an artist?

Yes definitely.  I have been published as a writer or artist in four different magazines, in both the UK and US and was discovered through my Facebook page by the editors of those publications.  Making Jewellery Magazine is the UK’s biggest selling jewellery mag and I am very lucky to be asked to contribute to it on a regular basis.  It helps to broaden my reach to readers who are not as heavily involved in the Facebook communities and that has been very beneficial to me.  In terms of writing for the magazine, it has helped me to also broaden my horizons and to develop myself as an artist.  Each commission comes with a theme, and sometimes a request to use a specific technique or feature a specific aspect of metal clay, which means that I have to push myself to think outside of the constraints of my usual design style.

You draw a lot of ideas from fairy-tales, legends and nature to produce your work- can you share with us a little bit more of your process in creating pieces?

I think I am still a child at heart.  I have always been a bit of a dreamer with a vivid imagination and I haven’t really grown out of that.  Fairytales and their literary origins fascinate me.  They have become Happy Ever After stories, born from folk tales with much darker roots, originally created to act as words of cautionary advice or admonishment.  I find that dichotomy very interesting.  I am also a romantic and love the look and the history of old things, my personal style could be described as anachronistic and I think that is reflected in my design aesthetic.  All of these things inspire me,  I love to make beautiful, wearable jewellery, with a story, that can’t be found from commercial sources.  I like the idea that my art appeals to both the young and old and who doesn’t love the idea of magic?  The sintering process of metal clay seems like magic to me, like alchemy.  Perhaps that doesn’t really describe my process but it’s where it starts.  I really don’t have a process as such, I just sit down with my materials, start and see what develops.

What is your current challenge this year as an artist?

Time is my main challenge.  I still work full time in a really responsible and, at times, stressful role.  I love both of my jobs but between the day job, creating jewellery, writing and teaching, I don’t have a lot of free time.  I would love to travel and teach more this year so I need to make time somewhere but I have to also try to maintain a work life balance as I do miss my husband and dogs terribly when I am away.

You are becoming better known in the international metal clay community. How helpful is it for you to be able to tap in to all of these artists and creators on a daily basis?

Although I didn’t set out to become known in the metal clay community, I do appreciate all of the love and support that my fellow artists show to me and I feel incredibly lucky that my work has been received so well.  Ours’s is a close knit, although very geographically large community, and I benefit greatly from being a part of such a wonderful team of people.  Everyone is so helpful and passionate about their art and that inspires me to grow as both an artist and a teacher.  As a medium, metal clay is relatively new and it’s so useful to have a community of people with whom to share experiments and new techniques.

If you had any advice for someone starting out in metal clay, what advice would you give them?

Experiment but develop your own style and stay true to what motivates you as an artist. Take some classes with everyone and anyone you admire who teaches metal clay, the experience you get from an actual tutor is worth its weight in gold…or silver in this case!  Metal clay can be an expensive art to get into but it doesn’t have to be.  There are loads of different tools out there to purchase but start with the basics and expensive gadgets and tools are not immediately needed.  The best tools you own are your hands and your imagination, use them both, frequently.  Share your work and be inquisitive.  Be involved in the community, create and enjoy the journey.