I first came across jewellery designer Caitlin Healy of Flame&Pickle at the Vieille Branche markets a few weeks back. I broke my self imposed shopping ban for one of her silver matchstick bangles + it hasn't left my wrist since. Having a little piece of Cait's work permanently attached sparked my curiosity to learn a little more about her jewellery-making journey...
Can you give us the story behind the name Flame&Pickle - what does it mean?
I had been trying to come up with a name for a while + was struggling to find something I really likes. One night, over rum cocktails, a group of friends + I were talking about the jewellery-making process + one of them said 'brought to you by flame and pickle'. That was it! I knew I'd found my name!
Flame refers to the torch I use to anneal + solder metal + the pickle is the acid bath that I use to remove oxidisation that occurs as a result of that heating. It's sort of a yin-yang type thing whilst also referencing the handmade nature of my jewellery. I like that it's ambiguous enough to be interesting without being completely bizarre.
How did Flame&Pickle evolve?
Flame&Pickle evolved really slowly over time + is still evolving. I've been obsessed with jewellery since I was tiny + started making beaded pieces as a crafty hobby in primary school. In the early 2000s I was making leather cuffs + bracelets + selling them at a gift shop my friend was working in.
Immediately after high school I did a private course in silversmithing with Shari Louise Jewellery, then based in Red Hill. It was supposed to be a group course but they didn't get any other participants so I ended up with two experienced jewellers teaching me the basics in silversmithing - it was fantastic!
I was mostly just making little bits + pieces for myself, friends + family then my sister became engaged + asked me to make their wedding rings... Since then I've taken it more seriously + have just launched my online store with a few pieces but I'm constantly adding new designs. At the moment everything is made to order whilst I figure out what's popular, but that will change in the future.
I'm still working on lots of custom commissions which is a real passion of mine. I love collaborating with my clients to design something special. I've made custom pieces for weddings, 21st birthdays, gifts for sisters + overseas relatives + I love all of them. I'm keen to keep up that side of the business as my standard range expands.
Flame&Pickle is your passion project but at the moment is still very much a side business - how do you balance the extra workload with full time employment?
It's definitely busy! I set up my workshop whilst I was still living with my parents + even though I moved out several years ago, my workshop is still in the same place it's always been at their house in the 'burbs. It's been really good for me to have the workshop away from my own home. At first I thought it was inconvenient but it's been great to be able to dedicate large chunks of time to working in the studio as it keeps my home life separate. I'll sometimes bring little bits + pieces home to file + sand in front of the television but generally all the work is done in the workshop - silversmithing is a messy business so it's not something you can just pick up anywhere, anytime, which means I have to manage my time well + be as organised as possible.
I really enjoy making jewellery so it certainly doesn't feel like a chore but I do believe in work-life balance. In addition to some late weeknights, I usually dedicate one full day + night on the weekend to jewellery + keep the other day free. I've found that I've become a big fan of meeting friends for breakfast before work when I couldn't possibly be working on jewellery anyway!
All of your creations have a beautiful patina that comes with being handmade but beyond that the themes are quite varied, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from anywhere + everywhere! For example, I made the first Ross pendant after watching an episode of Friends + The Hills Have Eyes pendant followed a trip up Mt Coot-Tha to take my brother to work. Other times I just keep fiddling around with pieces, taking them apart + remaking them until I'm satisfied. I think I'm still defining the style of Flame&Pickle. I wish I could pinpoint where I draw inspiration from because I would surround myself with it + never be uninspired again!
If you could take on your dream commission or collaboration what would it be?
I'm really luck to be working on two fantastic collaborations at the moment - one with my sister, Emma, of Seraphine Floral + another with my friend, Lisa, of Marssi Shoes so stay tuned!
I'm also currently working on some folded brass earrings to wear with an Akira wedding gown + I'd love to get Akira's tick of approval on those! In my dream scenario he sees them + calls me up to say 'let's have you design more jewels to accompany my immaculate gowns!' I think working with a clothing designer of his standard would be incredible.
I'd love to be commissioned for a piece for a fellow jeweller too. You know how architects don't always design their own homes? If there was another jeweller out there doing their own thing but they wanted me to make their wedding or a necklace to commemorate the birth of their child or something - I would consider that the highest compliment + a dream commission.
Finally, which other creatives are inspiring you at the moment?
I'm inspired by so many creative people in my life that I don't know where to start so I'll limit myself to local, handmade jewellers! I have always been inspired by Ari Athans, her jewellery is incredibly well balanced. She's definitely found her style + works to perfection. Barbara Heath, because you simply can't beat her philosophy or technical ability. Finally, Anna Varendorff, I was lucky enough to work with Anna for one week of work experience when I was in Grade 10 + she was still studying at QCA. I doubt she remembers me but I have been following her career every since + have loved watching her designs grow + mature, she's a very cool, talented lady.