The Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship & Design Awards, also known as the Jewellery Oscars, took place last month. Celebrating excellence in technical and creative design, this annual ceremony, managed by the Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council (GC&DC), features both established and new designers.
IJL are special patrons to the awards and keen enthusiasts of supporting all from within the industry, as such we once again presented our own award as part of the ceremony.
This year’s IJL Award winner is Sonia Cheadle. Sonia has a reputation of combining traditional materials with contemporary techniques to create classic pieces that can be relished every day. Her award-winning piece, Carbon Cuff with Yellow Diamonds, perfectly depicts how her refined creations showcase her innovative talent.
As this year’s winner, Sonia is invited to exhibit her piece on the GC&DC stand at IJL in Alexandra Palace in September. We spoke to Sonia Cheadle to find out more about her work, inspirations and creative process.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m a huge fan of the Art Deco period, early Cartier and the glamor of the 1920’s. Add to that a dash of urban topography, a passion for miniature engineering and viewing cityscapes at night, from a high.
When did you first know that you wanted to become a jeweller and run your own business?
I’m not sure whether it was luck or fate? During an Open Day visit to see the Ceramic’s Degree course at Loughborough University I found myself wandering… two doors down the corridor was a Studio that instantly drew me in. Weird shaped benches, a ‘tink-tink’ of tiny hammers, flames, heat, forges, the smell of burning and an excited buzz of creativity… I returned home and that evening declared, “I want to be a jeweller”.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Affording to make my first collection for Goldsmiths Fair. A decision to work with diamond was not going to be cheap. I invented a ‘refundable sponsorship’ scheme and approached family and friends with the promise that any donation would be repaid when the ‘sponsored’ piece sold. The idea was a great success and enough money was raised to invest in materials required. Upon visiting a recommended diamond dealer, they enquired why I needed so many small round diamonds… “I’m putting together my first collection for Goldsmiths’ Fair” … pause… “Do you need a sponsor?” Thank you Backes & Strauss, for my first jewellery leg-up.
What has been the proudest moment of your jewellery career so far?
Recognition at the GCDC awards, the Jewellery Oscars. A couple of years ago, after a nasty ski accident, in pain and on crutches, I attended the ceremony and was awarded Gold and the IJL Award for a series of brooches made the previous year. A second Gold and a second IJL Award was awarded this year, definitely defining moments, I am honoured and ridiculously proud to be classed amongst makers viewed to be at the top of their game.
What is your next ambition?
To explore and keep exploring, exciting new materials and the latest techniques. With a keen ambition to focus more on one-off ‘art’ works, as well as working closely with a select number of clients on exclusive, bespoke built jewellery; heirlooms of tomorrow.
You also run a small school dedicated to the design and creation of beautiful jewellery. Talk to us about the importance of nurturing home-grown talent?
It’s extremely important to nurture home-grown talent and for many years this area was overlooked by our trade. In the mid 2000’s I set up a small jewellery school from my Studio in Clerkenwell for this exact purpose, as I felt knowledge sharing and technical guidance was key to supporting makers and the industry. This ran successfully for 10 years, right up until I moved my Studio to Walthamstow. Upon departing Clerkenwell I offered my tutoring services to The Goldsmiths Centre, Britton Street, where I now run an intense two-day course, several times a year, on the techniques of ‘Mounting & Setting Stones’. Skills, bench tips, tricks and trade guarded secrets were kindly divulged and passed on to me by some of the trades finest, this cemented my early learning’s, if I can pass on an ounce of knowledge that assists a new maker then my job here is done.
What is the best piece of advice that you give your students?
“Stop trying to second-guess what people might like to buy… put that energy into designing and the things you create will sell”. A close mentor and successful Silversmith shared this little gem of advice at the start of my jewellery journey… boy she was right!
Which celebrity would you love to see wearing your jewellery?
Not a huge fan of celebrity or stardom and the roll it plays in today’s society… a little late to the party but I would have loved to have adorned Audrey Hepburn, the epitome of style, class and chic.
IJL is the UK’s leading jewellery trade event that proudly supports all members of this industry. Whether you’re just starting out or a little further down the road, IJL gives you a stand to shine.
Find out more about Sonia Cheadle here, or come and see her at IJL this September. You can also find her on social media @SoniaCheadleLDN