I’ve long been a fan of chrisparry‘s craftsmanship so it’s a real treat to gain insight into his techniques and daily life. I find the more avant-garde of his designs (such as his Nail Varnish Ring) deeply fascinating. What a pro — he’s the kind of designer/maker I’m sure many of us would like to be when we grow up. In fact, you might even call him a Diamond Geezer (sorry).
Tell us a wee bit about yourself.
Hi, my name is Chris Parry and I am a professional jewellery designer/maker living and working in Gravesend, Kent, UK. You may not have heard of Gravesend, but Pocahontas is buried about 300 yards from my shop. I specialize in making bespoke pieces of jewellery, be it a sparkly engagement ring or a subtle pair of earrings. If it can be made from platinum, gold (red, white or yellow), palladium or silver, then I can probably make it for you. I started off working from home, which progressed to a shed, then a workshop, then my first shop and I am now in a large town centre shop. This comprises a retail space for my jewellery, other lovely goodies and of course my workshop.
Photos from Chris Parry on Flickr
Educate us a little on silversmithing; what’s the physical process like and why do you love it?
Each commission or repair is unique for me so I have to call upon an array of techniques. A simple ring commission might involve working directly in bullion, hammering and bashing. It might require hand-carving a wax model, so that the piece can be cast, or it might need more modern technology like computer aided design (CAD) and rapid prototyping (RPT). Within a week I can find myself smithing, carving, computer modelling, engraving, casting, enamelling, stone setting and doing a host of other techniques. It is this vast range of skills that makes my work life so enjoyable. I think most jobs become dull and boring because every day is much like the one before. For example, repairs have ranged from a 100 year old football trophy to replacing lost stones in rings.
What is the “Ring a Day” project?
The “Ring a Day” project is a task to simply create, as quick or as slow as you like, a ring every day from any material which may or may not be practical or serve a purpose. Think of it as a kind of 3D doodling exercise. I tend to run out of time to document all of my rings online, but the Flickr group is wonderful.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by my clients — I create unique designs for each of them! Every person has their own perception of beauty, and the old saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is very true. I try to be very, very neutral in helping a client realize their dream item and will offer opinions on scale or proportion or structural integrity. The beauty of working in this way is that one client might want a piece inspired by Art Nouveau, the next something minimalist and so on. I have had clients turn up with pictures of buildings, cars, flowers, tattoos or just dreamy descriptions. I work with each client to create a design and tweak it as required until they are happy.
What’s it like to work on bespoke, custom commissions? Do you have a favourite memory of one in particular?
It may seem cliché, but every commission is rewarding. To be able to create something that the client has been dreaming about is so thrilling. Some commissions are even more emotionally charged, especially when I am given a fingerprint, hand or footprint of someone who has recently been lost. Sometimes I have wonderful meetings with mothers and fathers who have lost a tiny one, and to be able to create a piece of jewellery which carries a very special memory — this has to be the highlight of any day.
Working for yourself and running your own shop/workshop has many demands. The kettle is the first thing I turn on and I try to answer emails right away. I process any sales and set a list of things to do for the day. Eva, my apprentice, arrives at 9.30 a.m. and I give her a list of tasks for the day. She is a wonderful woman: we get on so well and I could not ask for a more hardworking helper in the workshop.
Sometimes I might be mentioned on a blog or in a forum, which, whilst really nice, might create 20, 40 or 100 email enquiries. The Internet is a truly wonderful tool and in the same breath it can create a ton of traffic. I once created an Instructable, which was viewed about 90,000 times and generated a shed load of emails. I also created a free pricing spreadsheet for the Etsy community, which was downloaded about 40,000 times from my blog and again sent me lots of emails, some of which were short novels asking me for further help! Needless to say, it can be overwhelming.
Eva and I then set about our daily tasks and we serve customers in the shop. Clients come in to ask about this and that or to bring in repairs. I don’t have a typical day, as each is so unique. The kettle is never cold. I close the shop up when the town centre closes at about 5.30 p.m. and after a short trip home it is back to being a daddy and hubby again.
Anything my kids have made. My great-great-grandfather made a beautiful chess table, probably circa 1900.
I have three hot tips for any artist in any field:
You need to learn the reality of pricing to earn a living. A self-employed artisan cannot rely on their craft alone. They need to understand the complexity of running a business equally well.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I have a saying that I try to live by. It can be applied for both my personal life and my work life: “Is what I am doing now getting me any closer to my objectives?” It reminds me not to waste time on trivia.
Thanks to Chris for taking part! You can see some of his beautiful work below.