Today's interview is with Anna McDade, prolific producer of both 2D and 3D art.


Hi Anna, and thanks for your time.  First things first: how did you get started in jewellery designing/making?

I started out as a fine art photographer in the mid nineties, moved into digital manipulation and graphic design, then started working with a group of traditional printmakers: after experimenting with applying images to metal plates, it was a natural progression to turn that into wearable art:  I’d always been interested in jewellery, my great Aunt had been a buyer for a large Scottish jeweller in the late Victorian and Edwardian period and I’d inherited all this amazing Victorian, deco and nouveau jewellery, which was a major inspiration.

Oh, my word, that background - especially the links with art deco and art nouveau - really shines through in your work.

Was there a piece that made you think “yes, I can do this”?

When I started I was working with glass artist Sharon Hanlon, and was wire wrapping glass cabochons she was making.  It felt very natural to me, I’ve always been lucky in the sense that I pick up visual and making techniques very quickly.  So it was probably the third or fourth piece I did.  It was a piece similar to this one:

Completely different to what I’m making now, but it was a good springboard!

Have you had any training and where do you get your knowledge from?

I trained as a fine art photographer to degree level, but most of what I’ve learned since then has been self taught.  I had a few problems with soldering when I first started and spent a day with a jeweller called Helen Hill who I met through Orchid. I work with a printmaking group called Artlab, based at UCLan in Preston, so I’ve picked up some of the etching knowledge from there. But everything else has been trial and error, internet and books.  And asking people on forums.  I think it’s really important to talk to other practitioners in any way you can: Jewellery making is often a solitary profession, you can end up in a bubble: it’s really difficult to develop in a bubble!

Where do you work?

I work from home, I have a studio set up in the spare room.  It’s not big enough.  Whatever space you have, it’s never big enough!!

Are there any artists or jewellery designers you particularly admire and, perhaps more difficult to answer, why do you admire them?

Phew, that’s a difficult one, there are soooo many!  A lot of my inspiration comes from illustrative artists to be honest.

Arthur Rackham is an old favourite, from being a small child.  Photographic Artist Catherine McIntyre.  Chiho Aoshima’s amazing, vast, digital drawings on a massive scale. Barbara Mccleod’s doily inspired brooches. I love Klimt and a lot of the Art Nouveau artists.  And Edward Burne Jones.  Carravagio, I’ve never seen another painter come anywhere near in their ability to capture both the beauty and ugliness of humanity. The list goes on!

I think I’m attracted to the decorative qualities in their work, or the story that, when looking at it, spins and weaves and takes shape in my own mind.  A visual narrative, however ambiguous. (and I see this in jewellery too, an object can often be the starting point or the focus of a story!)

As you've already pointed out, jewellery making is a solitary profession; where do you find inspiration and support?

Other artists, certainly.  Friends too.  My OH is a major inspiration, he’s an amazing artist in his own right and incredibly supportive.  That’s something else which is important when you’re a maker and running your own business, a supportive network around you.

If you have a signature style, how would you describe it?

I think my work is pretty unmistakeable.  Decorative, graphic, Art Nouveau inspired.  I call my pieces tiny artworks!

Is there a skill or technique you'd like to learn or improve upon?

I’d love to be a fantastic stone setter.  I’m working on it.  It’s fiddly!  I still want to learn how to make mokume gane properly (I’ve made some, but I cheated!)

Tell us about a piece of work that makes you proud.

Hmm.  I’m really pleased with my Dragonfly Bangle.

I love Dragonflies, and wanted to make a piece incorporating them.  I tried a few different designs, but they weren’t really working for me – I think dragonfly jewellery has been done to death and can often look really clichéd, but I think I managed to produce something here that stands on it’s own.

And my first successful attempt with a piercing saw!

Do you have any pets? Tell us about them!

Percival Fluffball Scrungebagger McDade, otherwise known as Percy the cat.  He’s a mainly Maine Coon!  I inherited him from my friend who was killed in a bike accident, and I’ve had him since he was a tiny ball of fluff.  He’s super soft, loving and a total tart!  But he’s my best friend and always there to head butt you in the face when you’re feeling fed up!

Which of your personality traits comes through in your work, do you think?

My eye for detail, my love for storytelling and my need for decorativeness.

Can you tell us anything about your current work?

I'm totally obsessed with birds, crows and birds of prey in particular. I’m producing a bird range which I’ve just finished the first batch of.

I’m currently working on a range of pieces in brass at the moment too.  Gold would be prohibitively expensive for my work!  And I’m formulating designs for Christmas already!

Where do you see yourself/your work in 1/5/10 years?

Next year I’d really like to have work placed in a few more venues around the UK (and selling, of course!), my stockists are steadily growing, so I think I’m on track so far. I would like to do some large scale projects in the next five years – one of them is to produce a fully etched, complete suit of Samurai armour! Long term, I’d love to do some work in costume design, really wild, wacky, one off stuff.  I love the visual styles of Terry Gilliam and Guillermo del Toro films, and would like to see something I’d made in a film like that.

Now, after all the hard work of answering our questions, here's your chance for a shameless plug...

Well, there’s my website at www.annamcdade.co.uk, which I’m hoping to update shortly as I’ve just finished a large body of new work now.




My work is currently stocked at:


  • Spirals, Hebden Bridge
  • Artlink, Hull
  • The Necessary Angel, Keswick
  • Painted Earth, Newcastle, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
  • PAD Gallery, Preston
  • Verandah Gallery, Oxford
  • The Northern Life Centre, Colne
  • Art Parade, Saltaire
  • Jewell, Shrewsbury


I’ve also got showcase shows coming up in Bankfield Museum and the Visitors Centre & Art Gallery at the Piece Hall in November this year and the Ferrers Gallery, Leicestershire, July - Sept 2011. And I’ll be at the British Craft Trade fair again next April.  I regularly show with Artlab at venues around the North West throughout the year.

Is that shameless enough?:D

Actually, Anna, no, it's not shameless enough! As I was researching for this interview, I found a video...





Thank you, Anna, for a fascinating insight into your work and your inspirations - there's a lot of food for thought there!

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