Artist: Wendy Humphreys
Business: Alphabetti Spaghetti Design Ltd
Location: Modena, Italy
Web site: http://alphabettispaghetti.etsy.com
What do you create?
Precious Metal jewellery. So, rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. Mostly in sterling silver, but sometimes with gold accents, and in mixed pieces with bronze, which creates an interesting contrast. I'm not a big "stone" person, but I do like using rough, uncut stones in my work, like rough, uncut diamond cubes which have proved really popular. They're great to work with.
Where and when do you do your creative work?
I have an absolutely gorgeous attic space where I live in Italy. It's got exposed beams and floor-level windows. It's just great, and my own little sanctuary. I'm up there pretty much every weekday, but if I'm not too busy, I try and take Fridays off to get out in the fresh air!
Do you have another "day job"?
I'm very fortunate that this is what I do pretty much full-time. I do the odd translation or proof-reading job, but that's quite infrequent at the moment.
Where and what did you study?
I went to uni in Portsmouth in 1995 to study languages. I'd been teaching English in Portugal for three and a half years, and decided that if I was going to get on, I'd better do a degree! Languages come quite easily to me, so it seemed the natural thing to study. While at uni, I did a evening class in jewellery-making, even though I had dabbled a few years before. This class made me more confident in things such as soldering and stone-setting, and I just made my own way after that. I like to read about a technique in a book, then have a go for myself! After that, I went back to teaching English for a bit, before doing a Master's in Ecotourism. I'm very keen on environmental issues and wildlife, and I thought it would be an interesting course to do. It was! Unfortunately, I was unable to find an interesting and decently paid job in the environmental field, so eventually, my partner and I decided to up-sticks and move to Italy, his place of birth. We've been here for about 18 months now, and making my jewellery has been a life-saver in terms of having something of my own to do while trying to acclimatise to living in a foreign country.
What inspires you and what motivates you?
My mind's buzzing pretty much all the time with ideas. Ideas can pop up from all over the place. I look in jewellery magazines and books, and online, and in jewellery shops, but I couldn't really say what my main source of inspiration is. I belong to a couple of what are called a "street teams" on Etsy – "Etsy Metal" and "Etsy for Animals". This group is composed of people with a common interest of sorts. Either geographical, in terms of interests, or the things they make. My street teams are called "Etsy Metal" and "Etsy for Animals". We recently joined forces to produce a piece to support a ban on the hunting of harp seal pups in Canada. It was a terrific campaign, and I've sold three seal-themed pieces so far and am donating the proceeds to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
I've always been interested in art, but my drawing skills are truly awful. I can copy things really well, but drawing something from my head is just a joke! If I need to get a design down on paper for a jewellery project, it's usually composed of an illustration that looks like it's been done by a 5-year-old, and rather lengthy written instructions.
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
We've had an online shop for about 3 years where we sell very nice laptop bags, made with designer fabrics. As resellers, this has had its limitations, and since we moved to Italy we've let that slide a bit. Before we moved to Italy, we had all kinds of ideas, one of them was to source locally produced olive oil and honey and resell it in England. The problem is that postal costs in Italy are phenomenal, so it wasn't really feasible. It's on the back-burner for now! I was going to learn bee-keeping, too, but that's also on the back-burner!
How did you choose the name for your business?
We wanted something that sounded Italian, but that English people understood as well. Since part of our business is graphic design, and involves using different fonts at times, the "alphabetti" bit seemed to fit in. We were amazed that Alphabetti Spaghetti was available as a domain name, so we snapped it up while the going was good.
What do you love most about creating your work?
I've always liked jewellery and my mum used to call me "Magpie" when I was little, for my love of shiny things. So now, I can make my own. That's very satisfying. I love seeing a thing materialise into reality just from an image in my head. The latest project to create a seal-themed piece for charity was very special for me. Difficult, but fun to make, and I was so proud of the result. It is my favourite piece to date. I like thinking "Oh, I wonder if I can make that", having a go, and it turning out okay. It's a constant learning curve, and I love the buzz that gives me.
What's the most fascinating place you've been?
While I was studying for my languages degree, I spent 4 months in Corsica. The university there was this tiny place in the mountains. It was just heaven. The scenery, the wildlife, the people... It was just beautiful. I really cried when I left. I got the chance to go to Turkey on a field trip while I was doing my master's. Again, scenery, wildlife and people featured strongly, but I have to add food to this list!
A book you love:
Anything by Tracy Chevalier who wrote Girl with a Pearl Earring, particularly her book Virgin Blue which is just captivating. Also anything by Alistair McCall-Smith. He just makes me laugh out loud.
What is the most interesting thing about you?
I don't think I'm very interesting, per se. I'm interested in a lot of things, so can pretty much talk about anything! I (think I) can communicate telepathically with animals, and I'm obsessed with bees and wasps! (In a positive way).
What achievement are you most proud of?
Going to university after hating school. I wasn't an under-achiever or anything, but left with only one A-level after two attempts! I was pretty much burnt out, thanks to a history of being bullied and racially abused.
What do you love to do in your free time?
We have a fabulous climate here in Italy, and so I love to go out walking or cycling. We live next to a nature trail which takes in lakes and fields. It's just fantastic, and I always see interesting wildlife when I'm off down the trail.
What do you hope to achieve next?
I'm hoping at some point to be able to expand to sell my jewellery in places other than Etsy. It's quite hard to get set up selling at markets in Italy, because the culture is very closed, and they don't want to let any outsiders in. At the moment, I'm trying to build up my confidence to make more challenging pieces, and to not get scared if someone asks me to do a commission! An exhibition would be nice at some point!