Learn what makes your heart beat.
Like a lot of women, silver and goldsmith Rebecca de Podolinsky had, at times, struggled to find the perfect accessories to wear. And like a true blue creative, Bec, as she likes to be called, took matters into her own hands and decided to make and sell her own jewellery. And with customer tastes shifting to less traditional (read: mass produced) and to more personal, Bec was able to carve out a niche with her unique and handmade contemporary jewellery, often of gold, silver, copper and brass, and sometimes a touch of natural materials like merino wool felt.
When Bec isn’t occupied with creating new designs for her line, POD Jewellery, she also teaches jewellery making classes from her studio. Most of us lead busy lives and can find it difficult to stick to learning something new, an ordeal Bec is familiar with, which is why she has designed her workshops for the busy person, or for people who cannot attend on a regular basis. We love how this is perfectly in line with what we believe in here at WeTeachMe: that quality learning should be accessible to everyone.
In this feature, Bec took a break from her classes and creations to talk to us about her workshops, how she started out as a jewellery maker and what she has discovered along the way.
What attracted you to jewellery making? Was it your first creative interest?
I’ve had an interest in jewellery since I was young, and I’ve always wanted to work with metal, so being a jeweller is the perfect fit for me. My mum had studied jewellery making and suggested I give it a go.
I love how precious metal is so forgiving, and that one piece of metal can be used over and over again. That’s what makes it so precious. There’s also a real sense of satisfaction when you make something with your own hands.
When you first started, how did you study?
When I first started in jewellery, I took a few short jewellery-making courses, similar to what I teach now. I then took private lessons with different jewellers to learn specific skills and techniques. Now that I’m further into my career, I’ve been seeking out programs in other countries where I can learn more advanced skills to bring back and teach to students here.
Can you describe to us your career route into the jewellery market?
After 16 years in corporate marketing and communications roles, my job was made redundant. It was the perfect opportunity to focus on setting up a studio and becoming a full-time jeweller. I’d always had trouble finding jewellery I liked. It was always a little over the top or mass-produced, so you’d see everyone wearing it.
I decided to make pieces I wanted to wear and share these with others. I started selling my range of jewellery in stores and galleries across eastern Australia and then after a couple of years, I expanded into teaching and became a licensed second-hand jewellery dealer.
Any particular struggles through that route? What did you learn from them?
Coming from a corporate business background was helpful, especially when it came to things like marketing, branding and packaging. I completed my business degree more than 20 years ago and so much has changed since then. I’ve had to learn how to run an efficient business and make use of technology.
The other struggle was that I didn’t have three years to dedicate to studying jewellery making full-time, so I had to find a different way to learn. There are always challenges when you’re making anything by hand, which is what makes it so interesting. I’m always trying to find a better way of producing pieces, which sometimes means I need to melt pieces down and start again.
What do you wish people knew more about your craft?
There’s a huge difference between the jewellery you buy from the big jewellery chain stores and jewellery that has been handmade. Once I started making jewellery, I was able to see the huge differences in quality and craftsmanship. Many pieces sold in larger jewellery chains are mass-produced overseas. 10ct and 14ct and not commonly used in pieces that have been handmade in Australia; so, when you see these stamps, it’s a good indicator it’s made overseas.
When and why did you decide to teach your skills?
I decided to start teaching about two years ago. I found that there were some great courses out there, but you had to commit to attending classes each week. I found this frustrating. We all lead such busy lives, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for someone to experience making a piece of jewellery.
Can you tell us more about the jewellery making classes you run in Kyneton?
POD Jewellery Making workshops range from half a day to one-and-a-half days. Students can pick up skills without needing to make an on-going time commitment, and they leave the workshop with a beautiful piece of unique handmade sterling silver jewellery.
Students get to make a piece of jewellery that suits their taste, so everyone in the workshop will be making something different. It’s almost a guarantee you won’t see someone else walking around with the same piece of jewellery as you.
What is your most popular class? Why is it so popular?
Lost Wax Ring Carving is my most popular class. Students come along and do the workshop and then have the skills to start making their own pieces. It’s not a huge investment in tools and I give each student a set of instructions, a list of tools to buy, as well a supplier list, so they know where to go to have things cast.
Lots of people who have done this workshop are now making their own pieces for family and friends, and some have even started selling their pieces at markets.
What advice would you share to aspiring jewellers that you wish someone had given you when you were starting?
1 ) When you’re working with metal, there are lots of different ways to achieve the same result. You need to find the ways that work best for you.
2 ) Buy the best quality tools you can afford. I only bought one cheap item, which was a hallmark stamp and had to return it because you couldn’t read the stamp. Try to buy tools made in Switzerland, German, Britain, USA and Italy.
3 ) Ask lots of questions to everyone in the industry. Suppliers, such as the place where you buy your precious metals or the stores where you buy your jewellery tools, can offer a wealth of knowledge. These people are experts in their field and are usually always happy to help out.
You’ve turned your love for jewellery into a successful business. What is your dream at this point?
My dream now is to build a bigger studio and accommodation, so students or couples making wedding rings can come and spend a weekend in the country making jewellery, while enjoying stunning views.
Explore metalsmithing magic at Pod Jewellery!