My name is Holly Berkley. I am a wire work artist based in Shepton Mallet Somerset. I was born in the New Forest, Hampshire, in 1975.
My journey into wire work started when a friend gave me a Kernow Craft catalogue when I was 14. It was full of jewellery making bits and bobs and I soon discovered the wonderful world of beads. I particularly remember being taken to a huge bead shop in London, with thousands of trays of iridescent beads. They were little works of art in themselves and within a few months I was not only making jewellery for myself but for an enthusiastic returning customer base.
After school, as well as continuing to make and sell my jewellery, I studied art at degree level. Along with learning a variety of wire work techniques, including: beading, beating, wrapping, Peruvian wire work, weaving, Viking weave and silver smithing. During this time I also pursued many aspects of the creative arts not only as a craftswoman, but also as a singer and recorded an album as well as working as a professional fire dancer.
I began making wedding crowns after I developed a way of weaving flowers and leaves from straight wire. I would form a frame and then fill in the space with colour with enamelled copper wire. These started life as lapel pins but quickly developed into the vibrant decorative crowns I produce today. I test them for comfort but usually don’t want to take them off! I am often commissioned to produce a piece especially for a bride’s special day so that she can have a piece that matches her wedding dress perfectly. I love this process so much, as I get to work with the person and see their reaction as the piece develops. Recently I presented a lady with her wedding hair jewellery that we had designed together and she cried she was so happy with it. A wedding hair adornment is not only for the day but serves as a memento for many years to come, to be passed down to the next generation.
I also began making wire work bonsai trees after I produced one to display my earrings on. People loved them and started commissioning me to make them, sometimes several at a time. These are made with up to 150 meters of wire and are set onto all manner of stones from Somerset slate to amethyst crystal beds.
Life can be very busy for me as I often take on a little too much. Between being self employed, taking care of my two children who have special needs and trying to stop my 300 year old Georgian house from crumbling around us, it can prove to be a challenge. So mindfulness is an important part of my work. Making gives me the chance I need to refocus and vent my energy into something calm, while creating a beautiful piece. I have a beautiful little basket that I take with me so that I can make while I’m waiting. It has everything I need for the project I’m working on at the time, and people are always asking me what I’m up to. I find now that if I don’t have any wire to fiddle with while I’m waiting, I feel rather lost.
More recently I have begin teaching my craft, and as well as taking private lessons, birthday parties, hen dos and corporate events, I also teach at Denman, the Women’s Institute centre for learning in Oxfordshire, the Bishops Palace in Wells Somerset and Strode collage. I find great joy in helping others to express their creativity.
If you would like try wire working, you just need a few basic inexpensive tools and some wire to play with. There are loads of videos on YouTube to get you inspired. The internet is a wonderful place for sharing and learning, even if you have had many years of experience as I have, there is always something new to learn. I recommend that you start with something simple. Learn to make curves and angles, play and enjoy it. But I often find people are happier to learn from lesson as they can get help when they are stuck!
I take my inspiration from many unexpected places. I love finding and experimenting with new materials, such as unusual shells, beach tumbled glass, rare beads, semi-precious stones, fossils and enamelled wire. I take pictures of things that inspire me whenever I’m out to add to my inspiration file and often get strange looks as I clamber into a bush to take close ups of bind weed tendrils. Inspiration can be found everywhere.
Later that year I was asked to be in three issues of Vogue magazine as their featured artist, this has brought me a lot of publicity and led to further features in the Frome standard and Somerset live.
Keeping my craft moving forward is essential for me. I am always looking for new places to exhibit or teach and am full of ideas for the next project.