Artist: Simone Walsh
Business: Simone Walsh Jewelry & Objects
Web sites: simonewalsh.etsy.com, www.blog.simonewalsh.com, www.simonewalsh.com
Location: Sydney, Australia
What do you create?
I primarily handmake jewellery made from sterling silver, silk, gemstones, vintage beads and anything else I'm taken by! I also create one-off sculptural pieces for exhibitions, along with more conceptual jewellery, also for exhibitions – these can be made from materials as diverse as precious metals, paper, soap, wood, base metals, lipstick, textiles and more!
Where and when do you do your creative work?
I have a basic studio set up in my apartment, which unfortunately also needs to double up as my office – I call it my 'workroom' as whatever I do in there it's always work of some description! As for when I do my making work, really it's whenever I can – I can still be up making at 2am sometimes. As my business grows it takes up more time each week, which does tend to mean I work far too many hours all up!
Do you have another "day job"?
Yes, I currently work four days a week for an interesting non-profit which has employed me for several years now. My role is primarily as a web designer/producer, but I also do graphic design and typesetting for them. Fortunately I am able to work entirely from home and have quite a bit of flexibility in my job.
Where and what did you study?
I studied Visual Arts with a jewellery major at a technical college in Adelaide, Australia for 1.5 years full time initially. After travelling overseas for a while, I moved to Sydney where I completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts with a jewellery and object design major at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. I also have a post-graduate qualification in internet design. I'm considering doing another year of jewellery-related University study possibly next year if I can possibly manage it.
What inspires you and what motivates you?
Lots of things! Currently I'm inspired a lot simply by materials and techniques – and also wanting to push myself further technically. I love working with silver particularly and right now I'm obsessed by intricate saw piercing, so that is motivating me quite a lot. I'm also fascinated by ornament and pattern, along with differences in the way western culture refers to nature in art compared to Asian cultures, especially the Japanese. Plus sentimentality and intimacy is a major inspiration in a lot of the one off work I do.
When did you start doing this?
I think I made my very first piece of jewellery with an intention of continuing in this field in around 1992 – it was an extremely basic wire wrapping piece. I ended up starting to study full time in this area in 1994.
Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
Definitely. I'm sure like any kid, I love making a big mess with paint! I was also interested in simple embroidery, knitting and macrame – things we were taught at school – although I don't think I was ever very good at any of those things. As I got older and went to high school I became very interested in art history and theory. I think then I first started to develop an interest in three-dimensional work.
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
I started my business in the early '90s when I first began making basic jewellery. Initially I sold at markets, but as I learnt more serious metalsmithing skills I started selling work through shops. It really wasn't until around 2000 when I returned from a stint of living in the UK that I began pursuing my business more seriously and finally in 2006 things really started moving for me as I dedicated more time to it and moved my work to the web.
How did you choose the name for your business?
Actually, my parents chose it, seeing as it's my name! But the 'jewelry and objects' bit is really a simple reflection of the work I do.
What do you love most about creating your work?
I love looking at a finished piece – especially if it was quite challenging – and thinking 'Wow – I made that!'. I also usually love the process. I really enjoy soldering, for instance, and get a lot of satisfaction from a good soldering job, as strange as that may seem. Plus it's great to have the freedom to be creating things that I like and actually enjoy making rather than being directed by someone.
What's the most fascinating place you've been?
I think it would be a toss up between Istanbul and Tokyo! Going to Tokyo felt a bit like going to Mars – it seemed so radically different to anywhere else I've been and of course is so utterly enormous and busy that it makes London look like a little town! Istanbul is very big, busy and beautiful and I completely fell in love with Middle Eastern-type aesthetics and architecture while there – the mosques there are absolutely incredible and very inspirational.
A book you love:
Just one!? I read a lot. No matter how busy I am, I read a little bit every day – even if it means going without enough sleep. So one book I'll throw in here is Don Delilo's Underworld, which I've just re-read and is brilliant.
What is the most interesting thing about you?
Gosh, that's hard to answer! I guess that I've done a lot of different things in my life and have had a lot of interesting experiences as a result. I've worked in so many diverse industries from the music industry through to a charity dealing with ethics, and from very lowly roles through to relatively high flying ones. Plus I've travelled a fair bit and have spent time living in both hemispheres of the globe. And, of course, I've been an art student!
What achievement are you most proud of?
It's not really one achievement, but I think my independence. I've always been fiercely independent. I put myself through University without any assistance from my family and as a mature age student which makes things more difficult – and I did extremely well. I also managed to keep running my life without assistance through a lengthy bout of very poor health a few years back – although I did come close to giving up! Plus I've travelled quite a bit on my own to different places around the world as well. Right now I'm working hard towards being completely self-employed doing both jewellery as well as web-related work – and I think I'll get there!
What advice would you give women starting their own business?
I guess one of the things I found most difficult to learn was the importance of networking. I was always really cynical about the idea as it seemed like making friends in order to benefit yourself. But now that I'm doing it and seeing the benefits, I realise it's not like that at all! You can make very genuine friendships while also learning from someone or exchanging information or even seeing how each other's businesses might link up. Plus of course you can make purely business-level relationships which are great as well. I'd also emphasise that you need to be willing to do everything for yourself and to spend the time learning how to do so, especially if you're an indie designer or are running a very small business. You need to be bookkeeper, photographer, marketer, stockroom, packaging person, secretary, web designer, copy writer, legal expert, search engine optimiser, etc., on top of whatever it is that your business is actually about.
What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Probably time – I never feel like I have enough of it and I'm also very aware right now that if I work too hard (as I almost always do!) it puts my health fairly seriously at risk. So finding time and making time work always feels like it involves a lot of juggling and compromises, which I don't always like. Plus of course part of that is the difficulty in finding the time to simply be creative and develop new work.
What do you love to do in your free time?
Gosh, I have so little of what I'd regard as free time! Normally I'm multi-tasking even when doing 'free time' type stuff. But I love to read, catch up with friends online and offline and when I'm in the right city I love spending time with my nieces and playing with them (which definitely can't involve multi-tasking!). I also love travelling and would like to be doing more of it.
What are you working on right now?
I'm making a set of three brooches about secrets and intimacy which I'm submitting to an awarded exhibition, Contemporary Wearables, which is held every two years in Australia. The brooches feature panels in sterling silver which have some intimate secrets etched onto them in images and text. Over the top of these will be placed intricately cut out panels of semi-transparent soap, so you'll be able to see parts of the secrets, but not enough to figure out what they are. The only way to see them in full would be to use up or break the soap. They're really designed primarily to be exhibited rather than worn. No idea if I'll get accepted as the exhibition is always swamped with applications, but we'll see!
What do you hope to achieve next?
World domination! But, really, I'd like to pull my health back into shape again while simultaneously growing my business at the rate it's been growing over the last 12 months ... which may prove tricky! I'm also seriously pondering getting myself into the position where I could consider moving back to London in 18 months time or so, which would take quite some effort but could be great.