An interview with Cari-Jane Hakes

Before I first started blogging I used to read some of the blogs over on mumsnet, one that particularly inspired me was Handmade Hybrid, the blog of jewelery designer and maker Cari-Jane Hakes. I loved the way that she used nature as an inspiration for her work and made jewelry that was properly covetable, not something that you could pick up in Topshop for a fiver but something that looked like it had been made with love, maybe even something that had grown naturally itself. It was my inspiration to start silversmithing myself. It’s therefore been a great pleasure to chat with Carri on twitter and she has always been a great supporter of my blog. When I thought about interviewing someone she seemed like the perfect choice. This was all done over email but it should make sense, I hope you enjoy it…
Q. Right then, as an introduction I know that you’re Scottish but that you live in France, how did that happen?
A. The short answer is ‘by accident’.  No really!  We went out to France in the summer of 2008 planning to be there for the summer while a house sale went through – then the recession began to bite, most of our architectural projects went on hold and we ended up staying put.  So really the situation was born out of a whole pile of negative things but in fact, I have to say, we have made it into a wonderful adventure.  I have learnt some great life lessons that I truly believe will create a solid foundation for the rest of my life.  All the important stuff seems to come out of hard and tough times – there is a reason why they say every cloud has a silver lining!
Q. And how did you get into silversmithing? In my head I like the idea that you just did a course at Basildon Tech or something but I’m guessing its going to be something a little posh than that.
A. Which neatly brings me on to your second question – how did I get into silversmithing? (do you see what I did there? silver lining, silversmithing, neat huh!)  I am actually a qualified architect and started up my own practice with my husband back in 2000.  Before that, as students, we worked on projects together and even had a spell using the pay phone in the corridor of our student accommodation as our official business telephone number!
The bit that I most loved about architecture were the moments where the building scaled right down to the size of its inhabitants.  A door handle, the way a cantilevered bench might integrate with a facade, the silver streak of a handrail floating on the edge of a footbridge.  I started doing a beginners jewellery evening course when I was pregnant with my second boy and by the time I’d completed my first ring I was hooked.  The fact that you can come up with a design, model it, make a test piece in copper or guilding metal and then have a finished piece in silver by the end of the day was really inspirational.  I love it!  It’s like architecture but at warp factor 10!
Q. I know that you use your blog as an online sketchbook and also to promote your work, what have you done on there as a blogger that you’ve found to be particularly successful?
A. Oh the unpredictable world of blogging!  It is a strange and curious world.  You can NEVER predict what will be successful.  In the past, I have participated in the Art House Co-op’s Sketchbook projects.  They are great fun, you sign up, they send you a sketchbook, you fill it in and then they take in on a tour.  It eventually ends up in their Brooklyn, New York sketchbook library.  I started posting my progress on the blog, uploading some pages onto the Art House site.  I even did a few tutorials on how I created my backgrounds for the sketches and how to do a smudgy sky with pastels etc.  Those posts have received the greatest number of hits and that is largely due to plugging into another on-line community that was buzzing with energy and ideas over how to fill their blank sketchbooks.
More recently, I did a post about lupins (yes, as in the flower) and that was very popular (see, you just never can tell).
And finally, last year, I did a makeover on my Etsy shop after a fellow Etsyian messaged me to say my work would look better on more neutral backgrounds.  After I got over the slight shock of her direct criticism I realised was right and I totally overhauled my shop.  I obviously wrote about it on the blog and it got picked up by Etsy Admin which generated a lot of traffic.
Q. And what have you done that you’ve enjoyed the most, as I know the two can be different!
A. The things that I have enjoyed the most on the blog have probably been a bit more self indulgent.  I love coming up with little mini series like ‘When I grow up I want to be a …..’ and ‘Lovely places to have a cup of tea in London’.  Discovering the macro function on my camera has been fun too.  A whole new tiny world has become revealed to me and it is an absolute joy to put together posts with all my teeny tiny discoveries.
Q. As a blogger,self-employed jewellery designer and mum, how do you make things work and find time to fit everything in?
A. Well, I realised pretty early on, that if I could make the whole jewellery business work it would fit in really well around being a mother.  As I write this, my two boys are creating a ramp out of a sofa throw for their remote control cars!  It has some strategically placed cushions and is rather good actually.  So yes, I do get a bit distracted!  The only way to get it all done and fit everything in is to let some things slide (maybe I won’t cook from scratch every night of the week) and then I have to be flexible with when I get my work done.  I can’t expect to have 8 hours straight like a regular job and to be honest, with a creative job often the interruptions are a good thing.  I can often get stuck on something, get interrupted, and then I sit back down and a solution begins to work itself out!  Well, that’s on a good day.  On other days I wonder how I’ve managed to get basically nothing done.
Q. As someone who’s recently started silversmithing myself I find that quite often (normally about the forth time in a row that I break a saw blade) that I just want to throw in the towel and feel a bit sorry for myself. Do you still get times when you wonder what you’re doing? And is there any particular project that you’v really struggled with?
A. I think when you start learning a new skill you have a very clear idea of how you want the finished object to look.  In the early days, often the end result really falls short of the image of perfection you have in your mind and that creates disappointment and frustration.  But with practice, practice and more practice your skills begin to match up to your expectations. That said,  every project is still a struggle.  Every project goes through a ‘yukkey’ phase – where you just look at it and despair and wonder why on earth you ever dare to call yourself a designer.  I’ve been in the game long enough now to know that this is just a phase that you just need to get over and get out of.  As soon as you do, the piece begins to start looking better or you come to a different conclusion as to how it should be modified and that gives you the impetus to keep going! Oh, and for the record, I break saw blades all the time!
Q. If its possible to answer, what thing that you’ve made are you the most pleased with, and why?
A. The piece I’ve been most pleased with is this I did it whilst attending a residential course.  It was such a difficult piece using lots of new techniques.  It is the accuracy of the piece which really pleases me.  In the middle, the piece comes apart, it is held together with very strong recessed magnets.  To get both halves to line up perfectly was really tricky, but it worked!   I’ve written about it a couple of times on the blog actually, here and here.
Q. And finally, in a totally selfish, hey its my blog way, any recommendations for something easy that beginners can do?!
A. Fold forming!  Check it out on google or Ganoksin
A huge, huge thank you to Carri to doing this. You can check out Carri’s blog here, follow her on twitter here, and go like the handmade hybrid facebook page here. I highly recommend all three.
Finally, all the pictures I’ve used here are of items which are currently for sale in Carri’s etsy shop, do click here if you’d like to go take a look and treat yourself. I can guarantee its an investment that will be worth it.


  1. 10th August 2012 / 11:36 pm

    Thank you Kate – it was a fun interview to do with you!

  2. 15th August 2012 / 10:06 pm

    Kate, I’ve been following Cari-Jane’s blog for just a bit, and it is pleasant to read this third-party narrative and have a variation on her voice.

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