Brixton hasn’t always been the place of craftsters, hipsters, and creators. They’ve always existed, talented people tend to thrive in multicultural and stimulating areas, but over the last few years there’s definitely been a shift. Back in 2011, Amber, Alice and Jude were running workshops and markets in various venues, their art, vision and community bubbling away and seeing great results. In 2014 they brought their energy to 433 Coldharbour Lane, and now the big yellow square that looms large is an entry point into a creative cornucopia of art prints, textiles, accessories handmade jewellery, indie gifts, and workshops. Those workshops include painting, drink and draw, ring making – and the one that brought me here, Make A Silver Necklace. An opportunity to create a unique, bespoke piece of jewellery, guided by an expert, and for only £45 enticed five of us together one October evening.
The incredible talent that fills the shop (they have collaborated with over one hundred designers and offer space for makers to sell their wares) is both inspirational and intimidating. Led by Jude, and kept hydrated by Alice, we pretty soon relax, and get ready to become one of those makers, however briefly.
So step by step silver jewellery goes something like this….
After learning how to thread a saw – surprisingly difficult – we get stuck in on a piece of copper. Much cheaper than silver, it’s an ideal way to practice those straight lines, changes of directions and curves, and the process definitely informs the designs for our own pieces. Once we produced our stencils and stuck them to the silver, it was time to saw away. It’s easy to cut, or at least more so than I anticipated, and fairly fast once a decision has been made as to exactly what you’re trying to create. After sawing, it’s down to filing and sanding, an almost therapeutic job, watching your square of metal become a smooth shape that you created. Once the pendant is ready, it’s a case of drilling a hole somewhere in it and attaching a jump ring then a chain.
If it all sounds surprisingly simple, that’s because it is. What makes Turpentine unique (and awesome) is the clear passion that they have for what they do. At the same time is being in awe and respect of the makers they work with, they set up a feeling of accessibility and inclusivity. From describing their education – ‘St Martin’s, yeah, it’s just an art school round here ‘ – to the equipment needed – ‘don’t spend a fortune, find an old scrap of wood somewhere’ – and the cosy warmth of the shop and space, they clearly want to bring their craft to everyone. As well as one off workshops they run 6 week courses, graduates of which have gone on to do great things.
Handmade to the high street is their tagline, and they’ve succeeded in creating a brilliant shop space with workshops, that is ‘accessible, catchy, gender-neutral, art-based’ – and most of all fun.