Goldsmith Tiffany Budd is based in rural county Sligo, in the North West of Ireland. ‘I’m originally from the South of England but not long after the birth of our first child we started to think about moving elsewhere to raise our family. I had relations in Ireland and we just fell in love with Ireland and with Sligo, it seemed a great place to rear a family, so we moved over,’ says Tiffany.
Starting out in the shed …
In 2005, when her eldest child started school, Tiffany decided it was time to focus on her jewellery and turn her hobby into a career. ‘I worked from 9.30 until 12.30 while the children were in school … out in the garden shed! I was tripping over the lawnmower to get to my workbench,’ says Tiffany, laughing at the memory. ‘I stuck with the shed for a while but then moved to a studio workshop at a gallery in 2012. I was there for about a year and then unfortunately it closed down.’
During that time however Tiffany was able to build up a strong local client base. It was an Art and Craft Gallery and, working in her 10 x 15 ft corner, visitors were able to watch her work. ‘I was part of the Made In Sligo Craft Trail and visitors would drop in to watch the ‘making’ that was going on there,’ she says.
Since the closure of the gallery, Tiffany is back working from home but now has a dedicated home studio/office. ‘We moved house and I now have a dedicated space, so no long out in the shed!’ she adds. ‘I sometimes run short courses in goldsmithing, I don’t really advertise them much, and most are one-to-one, but it is a nice break from routine and I love passing on my skills too. But most of my time is spent on making and design. I am currently creating a body of work in gold, between commissions.’
All images by Steve Rogers Photography (except for National Museum of Ireland project images by Tiffany Budd)
The personal touch …
90-95% of Tiffany’s work is commissioned. ‘Most customers have seen something online, or know someone who has one of my pieces and then they come to me to commission a piece for themselves. I know many have been waiting for years for the right ‘excuse’ to treat themselves; to mark an important birthday or milestone. It’s one of those really special purchases,’ says Tiffany.
The vast majority of her clients are women, often commissioning pieces for themselves. Some are building up collections over time; when they commission one piece they usually have a longer term plan for other pieces in future. As Tiffany’s business develops, engagement and wedding rings are becoming a more important aspect of her practice too.
‘As the pieces are commissions, it is very personal for each client. Each piece tells a story or marks an event. For example I designed a brooch for a family whose brother had passed away. They wanted the brooch to symbolise all seven members of the family, including their late brother. They were getting it designed as a gift for their mother. It was quite humbling to sit with the family and go through the process of designing this piece of jewellery that symbolised so much love. It was a really lovely job to do,’ she says.
It is very rare for anyone to approach Tiffany for the same piece of jewellery they have seen elsewhere. ‘There is always some personal significance or aspect to each piece I design. Clients have been attracted by the design and workmanship of other pieces I’ve done, but want some personal input to their own commission,’ according to Tiffany.
While a lot of Tiffany’s clients are quite local, she has had international commissions from France, Germany and Canada to name a few, these have usually come from word of mouth recommendations from previous clients.
Bringing history to life …
As well as her usual work Tiffany has recently been involved in a project at the National Museum of Ireland in Turlough Park, Co Mayo. The project involves replicating part of their Viking silver hoard for their handling collection and Tiffany found it a very exciting project to work on.
‘Myself and my husband Michael, who is a blacksmith and sculptor, were approached by the Museum to work with their education programme, which demonstrates their collection to school groups and the public. I was given the opportunity to show how Viking craftspeople would have made a silver penannular bracelet and show them what a finished piece would have looked and felt like. Michael demonstrated the making of a Viking fighting axe,’ says Tiffany.
Showcasing her work …
‘With the internet, everything travels so organically. Physically a piece will only travel so far, but images can go anywhere,’according to Tiffany. Therefore she applied for support from ‘a creative momentum project’ for a professional photoshoot of her work and process. Sligo-based photographer Steve Rogers undertook the assignment.
Photos are always a challenge for Tiffany as her commissioned pieces are gone straight away and she doesn’t have a stock of pieces on hand. For the shoot she had to call back pieces from galleries and a few friendly clients!
‘I met Steve before the day of the shoot. We discussed what shots I was interested in. He was very open to ideas and easy to work with. We had the idea to use models who were not professionals, we wanted to show real people wearing my work. I have a couple of friends Katy Wilson and Marketa Formanova, who are dancers, they aren’t professional models but were totally up for the challenge!’ she laughs. ‘Steve was great at bringing them out of themselves and the shoot was good fun.’
Future plans …
So far Tiffany has used images from the shoot on Instagram and Facebook and for printed poster marketing, but she is hoping to use further images for Point of Sale material, business cards and postcard size images for a press drop or to target craft magazines. One of Tiffany’s images is also proving very popular in the current MyCreativeEdge.eu digital marketing campaign advertising MyCreativeEdge.eu internationally.
‘I plan to continue with the commission route, but I do make speculative pieces. I’m looking for an exhibition space and would love to publish a coffee table book to coincide with the exhibition, which I’m planning for early 2019. Finding the right gallery is like finding a needle in a haystack however! I’m investigating galleries at the moment and that’s my big plan over the next year. I’ve had this idea for an exhibition and accompanying book for years and I’m really trying to focus on it now,’ she concludes.
"You have to keep going forward, if you take your foot off the accelerator for a minute, you lose momentum."