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How one Martlesham crafter creates nature-inspired jewellery

PUBLISHED: 19:03 25 August 2020 | UPDATED: 19:04 25 August 2020

A small scallop shell crafted from silver clay, adorned with a freshwater pearl Picture: Sue Studd

A small scallop shell crafted from silver clay, adorned with a freshwater pearl Picture: Sue Studd

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Sue Studd relocated to Suffolk in 2012 – and now teaches silver clay crafting workshops.

Sue crafting in her workshop Picture: Sue StuddSue crafting in her workshop Picture: Sue Studd

Martlesham-based Sue Studd has been running The Magic of Fireflies and Dragonflies for five years. Specialising in silver clay jewellery, the former teacher moved from London to Suffolk eight years ago - and has been taking inspiration from the Suffolk countryside and coast ever since.

With a background in art and design, Sue first fell in love with jewellery making after attending a workshop back in Hertfordshire, where she learned the basics of working with silver clay.

“I really enjoyed the experience of using this fairly new product called silver clay, and I was determined to find out more about it. Unfortunately, the tutor I had learned from later closed her business, and my source of expertise dried up.”

Following her parents’ relocation to Suffolk, Sue quickly became enamoured with the county herself, and moved to Martlesham after taking early retirement.

Sue often finds inspiration for her designs while walking through the Suffolk countryside Picture: Sue StuddSue often finds inspiration for her designs while walking through the Suffolk countryside Picture: Sue Studd

“We upped-sticks and came to this area as we really loved the countryside, the stunning coastline, the history, the pace of life, the fresh air, and the peace and quiet. The countryside and the coastal areas are creatively extremely inspiring.”

After settling down in the area, Sue managed to find another jewellery tutor and was soon able to rekindle her passion for crafting.

“I took a refresher workshop and a couple of other classes, learning different techniques – from then on, I was completely hooked. I then started to develop my own silver clay designs and style.”

Silver clay is a modelling material that contains 99.9% pure silver. Its malleable properties means it is easy to work with, allowing versatility when it comes to crafting. “I also love the fact silver clay is eco-friendly as well,” added Sue.

Dragonflies, which are commonly spotted around Suffolk, play a pivotal role in Sue's designs Picture: Sue StuddDragonflies, which are commonly spotted around Suffolk, play a pivotal role in Sue's designs Picture: Sue Studd

With a reignited passion for making, Sue set up The Magic of Fireflies and Dragonflies, where she has since been able to craft and offer workshops from her Martlesham studios. But where did the name come from?

“I used to make candles using all sorts of moulds, soya wax and essential oils, hence the ‘fireflies’. I have been totally fascinated with dragonflies since I was a very young child, and that fascination still remains - I am pleased to say that we see many different species of dragonflies here in Suffolk. ‘The Magic’ comes from the alchemy of silver clay, which if you have ever experienced making jewellery from it, you will totally understand. That combined makes ‘The Magic of Fireflies and Dragonflies’.”

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Having been at the helms of The Magic of Fire and Dragonflies since 2015, Sue has embraced her natural Suffolk surroundings and manages to combine the beauty of the local area with her handcrafted designs through the art of foraging.

Sue Studd, who has been living in Suffolk since 2012, crafts silver jewellery modelled on her Suffolk surroundings Picture: Sue StuddSue Studd, who has been living in Suffolk since 2012, crafts silver jewellery modelled on her Suffolk surroundings Picture: Sue Studd

“I often pick up leaves, seed pods, flowers, grasses, reeds, acorns, nuts, and berries while walking our two Border Collies - there is just so much botanical material to inspire the making of these objects in pure silver.

“I also love gardening, and I find the elements of plant structure simply amazing. An unfurling fern frond, for example, makes simply beautiful pendants. There are so many different species of plants here in the countryside that I am simply overawed by the choice. I also love finding shells that can be used to make silver reminders of a trip to the beach – I’ve even used seaweed in jewellery making that I’ve foraged from the local coastline.”

While lockdown restrictions have meant that Sue’s classes have had to limit the number of people who can now attend, she is thankful she is able to get back to doing what she loves – teaching and crafting.

“Prior to lockdown, many people attended my workshops and I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions. Once we had to stop though during lockdown, I turned my attention to learning new techniques myself. When we were allowed to start teaching again, my classes were capped at individuals or two people at a time, in order to ensure social distancing, as safety is my main concern.

A silver pendant, made from a hornbeam leaf Picture: Sue StuddA silver pendant, made from a hornbeam leaf Picture: Sue Studd

Noticing a steady rise in the number of people who have taken up arts and crafts over the past few months, Sue is looking forward to welcoming any new students who may wish to try silver clay jewellery making for themselves.

“People have had more time to experiment, learn more skills and try new activities which hopefully they will continue to carry out, as creativity is definitely good for one’s mental health.

“I enjoy teaching one-to-one, or two people, as I can give students more time and attention, allowing them to produce some stunning pieces of silver. I am also more than happy to teach people when they would like to attend, and not just the workshops I advertise. I love teaching - after all, I taught in schools for 36 years.”

With aims to eventually expand her workshops, Sue is hoping to find a bigger space where she can teach more people at once and spread her creativity even further.

A trio of silver oak leaves Picture: Sue StuddA trio of silver oak leaves Picture: Sue Studd

“I’m exploring ways into teaching at larger venues in the area. I have previously taught at the beautiful Seckford Hall Hotel where I had a wonderful day - the Tudor building and stunning gardens provided the right ambience to the day.

“There is also the opportunity to offer more places to students, due to the space that these venues have to offer. I would love to share my knowledge and skills with adults who like learning new activities and being creative.”

Currently working on a new natural jewellery range, Sue will continue to find inspiration from the Suffolk countryside and reflect that in her handmade creations. “I am working on different designs for a new collection after my latest range of dragonflies is launched next month - this especially features the use of lots of botanical pieces foraged locally. It would be terribly exciting if I could sell my jewellery in a local shop, too.”


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