My name is Kaye Blegvad, and I currently live in London, England. I make simple, graphic jewelry, most of which is developed from my drawings. I’m also an illustrator, and that influences both my aesthetic and my ideas. My shop is called Datter.
I began making jewelry just for fun while I was living in New York and working as an illustrator. It was a nice way to turn my ideas and drawings into something more solid – more tangible, somehow. Plus it meant I got to have the jewelry I wanted but couldn’t find anywhere! Most of my early pieces were just things I wanted to wear. I quickly got hooked on the process, and I found it really exciting to make something and have it magically turned into metal. It feels kind of alchemical.
Most of my inspiration comes from ancient artifacts, talismans, religious iconography from many different cultures, and antique jewelry. I also look at natural forms, shapes, and patterns. What I like most about a lot of ancient jewelry and objects is that many of them had great meaning – they weren’t just decorative objects, they had religious or cultural significance. I want to try to put that sense of meaning and symbolism into my work, for things to feel protective, or a bit powerful. And sometimes, of course, you just want to wear a ring with a cat’s face on it, and that’s cool too. It doesn’t all have to be too serious.
I tend to sketch out ideas for the rough design of a piece and then work in casting wax to make it three-dimensional. The shape often changes once I’m working with the wax; something about seeing it in 3D often gives me ideas. This wax model is then cast into metal, using the lost wax process. I get a metal version back from my caster which is pretty rough and weird looking – sort of like something you might dig up from an archeological site. I then work on this piece with files, sandpaper, and polishing tools, to get it just how I want it. This creates the final “master” of the piece, which then has a mold made of it so I can make multiples.
Depending on the piece, the next step is to put it on a chain, or solder with earring backs, or size as a ring. They’re then oxidized and polished to the final finish – done! I like pieces to look a bit raw and to show real signs of being handmade – I don’t like anything to be too polished and “clean.” The process is part of the product, and I like that to show in the final result.
Beyond the process itself, the thing that keeps me going is seeing how people respond to my work; I often have customers telling me stories of what my jewelry means to them, and it’s really, really wonderful to hear. My rings have been used as wedding and engagement rings, charms have represented people’s children or as a comfort to remember someone they’ve lost. I’m glad I’m not purely making “fashion” pieces, but also things that make people feel good, that signify something meaningful, and that they might wear every day and feel empowered by. That’s pretty great!
My favorite piece is the watchful eye ring. It’s one of the first pieces I made, and I made it for myself. My dad had bought me this amazing, creepy ring when I was a kid – it must have been the mid ’90s – that had a horrible glass doll’s eye set in it. I loved it. But it was made of cheap metal and gave me a rash when I wore it, so it just sat around looking cool and creepy. I’d been looking for an eye ring ever since, so when I started making jewelry, it was an obvious piece to make. It’s funny because eye jewelry is absolutely everywhere now. I should’ve just waited a few years! But it’s become one of my best sellers, and so many of my friends wear it – it kind of feels like a class ring for weird artsy women. I’m proud to be a member of that class!
I started selling my jewelry on Etsy to pay for the hobby – it gets expensive to make this stuff – with no business plan or real ambitions, but it slowly started to take off. That was almost three years ago, and since then it’s grown into a real business. I’m so grateful that I get to make things for a living. I think Etsy has really helped me connect with people who understand the nature of handmade and see the value in it. It’s nice to be part of that community. I’ve been lucky that other people like my work and want to wear the stuff that I want to wear. Etsy has a ready-made audience of people who “get it,” and that’s invaluable.
Turning your creative outlet into a business also changes the way you experience creativity. It’s an interesting balance – your creativity is no longer just for fun, it’s a job too, and so in a sense there’s more at stake, it feels more like work. It’s different than working just for yourself, where maybe you could spend months working on one intricate piece, or exploring something minute that nobody else will ever notice. You give up a little of your freedom in that sense – but then again, suddenly you have the freedom to make a living from something you enjoy, and the higher stakes can sometimes be more motivating than working at leisure. For me, I’m more motivated to keep up momentum, to come up with new ideas, make new pieces, explore what people will respond to, and to keep improving the quality of the things I make.
Studio and maker photos by May Coker.