Feature Me Friday: Tinkan Designs

This week we feature Annabel Neilson of Tinkan Designs!
Annabel comes to us from the green and pleasant countryside of Herefordshire, which is a border county of Wales, in the UK.
Who is Tinkan Designs?
Tinkan Designs is about quality, unique, handmade designs in recycled materials. The name Tinkan Designs comes from the jewellery I make that inspired me to start the business, made from ring-pulls from tin cans, and also from a nickname I have- Tinkerbelle or Tink, and also ‘tinker’ means to work with metal, and is slang for a gypsy, which I am a bit! (Or at least I used to be!)
What’s the first thing you remember making?
I’ve made ‘things’ for as long as I can remember, in all sorts of materials. I learnt to knit at quite an early age I think, and most probably I made a scarf first. But the first things I can remember I made to sell were some stripy purses, and stripy socks that I took to Glastonbury festival, which sold out very quickly!
Where do you work?
I have a workshop where I have a forge, welder, and other ‘heavy’ metal working tools on one side, and ‘light’ jewellery making tools and materials on the other. I like to be able to work on a few things at one time, so its good to be able to flit from one side to the other! However it is an old, cold, stone, farm building, and in the winter I end up making a lot of jewellery from home. In the summer however its great with the doors open, and sun streaming in! All the other many farm buildings on this beautiful old farmstead are now used either industrially, or artistically, so there’s usually other people, and noise, about. I also work for 2 days a week on an organic fruit and veg farm, near to where I live. This is what brings in a regular income!

Why work with recycled materials?

Why use recycled materials? Its always been natural to me to re-use and recycle things from altering clothing to create a new outfit, to keeping plastic pots and packaging to be used for some other purpose. Some of its to do with saving money, and being thrifty, but its also ‘cos I just can’t throw things away, and I hate waste! Why buy new when you can still make use of the old? I enjoy the challenge of working out how to re-use things creatively, and so many so called mundane objects are actually really beautiful in their own right, and beautifully made- it’d be sacrilege to throw them away! Things like mechanical parts, cogs, bike chains, keys, plastic components, ring pulls even! Even polystyrene packaging comes in amazing different shapes (I used to collect this off the street and make them into frames for mirrors).

What are your favourite tools?
My favourite tools have got to be my rivet gun (I just love rivets!), and stud machine, doming block and punches, and of course the hammer and anvil. I also have a very old, very heavy, flypress which gives 4tonnes of pressure with the swing of a handle, making bending metal so easy!
How do you get from A-Z?
Often the material or objects I find, or collect, dictate what I make. In the case of my ring-pull jewellery I collected loads before the ideas started flowing. I knew I wanted to do something with them, ’cos they are great little shapes, but wasn’t sure what or how. It was through trial and error that the jewellery has evolved and become refined into what it is now, and as with most things, it is still evolving. It amazes me how much potential these little objects (ring-pulls) on mass, have, I am so NOT bored of them yet as a medium, and I have loads of other ideas brewing for them! (no pun intended -as they are mostly from all the beer cans that my boyfriend, and other alcoholic friends drink!)

What music do you listen to while working?

I usually have the radio on while I’m working, or if I’m at home the telly is often on as background noise.

Read any good books lately?
I only seem to have time to read novels when I’m on holiday, and its been a while since I’ve been on that sort of holiday (although I’m going to Thailand soon -WooHoo!- so maybe I’ll get time whilst lazing on the beach then!) The books I do read at home tend to be useful books either on keeping chickens, growing veg, or becoming self sufficient!
What are the five best things you’ve bought on Etsy?
I’ve only bought 3 things so far on Etsy-all gifts for other people. 2 lovely eco bath and beauty things from Spiralmoonfantasy, an Etsymidlanders team member from my part of the world, and a lovely greyhound print from ElleJW that I think I found through a treasury.
Been to any great exhibits?
Yes! I’ve just been to Barcelona to see the ‘Drap-Art’ exhibition, which is an International Creative Recycling Festival, which happens every year in Dec, and Jan. I’m hoping to be involved next year, so I went to check it out. There was some great and inspiring stuff. Also in 2009 I went to see the Banksy exhibition in Bristol museum. Quite a landmark event, literally 10’s of thousands of people went to see it, every day there was at least a 3 or 4 hour queue to get in! Having lived in Bristol, with Banksy’s grafitti a common site, it is amazing how famous he has become, and very ironic that he exhibited in the museum in this way! I love his work, fair play to him!
Who inspires you?
People like Bob Cambell who makes amazing industrial art furniture out of scrap metal parts, and Ptolemy Elrington who makes fantastic sculptures out of hub caps. Anyone really who uses different, and especially recycled, materials to create original stunning art. I admire anyone actually who can make a career out of their art, without compromising on their style. I especially admire those who run successful businesses, and also find time to do everything else, and have full, rounded, and sociable, lives. I envy people like this actually because I feel like I am always juggling my time, and compromising somewhere! Its what I aspire to I guess- to make a living out of what I make, without it becoming a chore, and still have the time and energy for everything else life entails. My brother is an inspiration (he is a stone letter carver, and a musician) as he seems to have achieved all this, and carved himself a great little life, with a good balance between work and play!
What do you do for fun?
Now my partying days are (mostly) over! I enjoy the quiet life- watching the chickens (I am new to keeping chickens-they are great!) walking the dogs in the countryside, gardening and growing our own veg, photographing wildlife, and sitting round a camp-fire with friends.I also like to listen to loud music, and have a good dance every now and then! And when I can I travel around the country to visit friends and family who are in various different locations in the UK.
How do you promote your work?
I try to promote my work through my website, face book, and Flickr sites, networking via Etsy teams, and giving out business cards whenever I do a stall, or make a sale.
Besides Etsy where can we find your work?
I do Christmas fairs, Arts markets and music Festivals here in the UK. I did have stuff in a few shops around the country, but most of them have now closed down! I have a website and a face book page and a Flickr too.
What’s in your future?
I am relatively new to the online world, having got my first ever computer just this time last year! So I intend to keep learning, and getting the most I can from it (without it taking over my life!) I need to do more self promotion (again a new thing for me!), and get my stuff back into shops and galleries. I’m also designing a logo, and I hope to have labels, packaging etc looking more professional. I’m looking forward to this years festivals, where I hope to collaborate with some likeminded people, and I also hope to be part of Drap Art next winter. At the moment I am working on a couple of Blacksmithy commissions, so I hope more of that type of work will come from that, and I will get my forge working at last! A busy year ahead!
Any words of wisdom?
I am in my 40’s and I’m still learning, it’s a long process that takes a lifetime!
Images & Text © Tinkan Designs


junckshop said...

Fabulous work! Very inspiring!

Tubby Tabby's SquawkBox said...

Very interesting interview. Her art pieces are amazing! Great job.

Rain said...

Great interview and even greater creations. I love seeing people make new lovely things out of what used to just be trash. Keep up the good work!

red or gray art said...

..hello and nice to read more about you''the colors are so vibrant and the silver pieces just lovely

The Art of Zen.......Crochet said...

Great Interview! I love the get to know you and your creativity features.

Anyone's Guess said...

Great interview. Love your work! And your studio space looks very inviting. Best wishes in building your business.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview, and so great to learn more about Tinkan Designs! I love Annabel's creative, humorous and colorful pieces!

alexkeller said...

So great to hear all about you!
And I think it's great that we're learning things in our 40s :)