HAYLEY Nippers has been ‘dabbling’ in silversmithing since she was 18 - and she has found something therapeutic in what people might consider an old-fashioned craft.
“I’m basically a rookie but there are not many people who do it in Barnsley,” said Hayley, of Ashwell Close, Shafton. “There are probably people doing it under the radar.
“As it started off I was looking for things to do that were relatively simple that I could produce quite quickly so I didn’t have to charge as much if I sold them.
“The first thing I made was a plain silver ring. I used to be really anal about things like whether you could see the join, and you can tell when something’s had time taken on it.
“But the more time you spend producing things and repeating the process you find ways of cutting corners to get the same effect.”
Hayley has learned from her mother - a seamstress who learned how to sew by hand before moving into factories and making garments on an industrial scale - how to produce work quickly without compromising quality.
Her self-made workshop, a small shed in the corner of the garden in which her mother used to sew, is clearly a labour of love.
Hayley uses old cabinets that belonged to her mother, an improvised ‘pickle tank’ - a device used to clean metal - made out of a slow cooker, and has cupboards and draws filled with experiments and bits of scrap metal.
The workshop has become a retreat for the 24-year-old, who suffers from depression and sees making jewellery as a form of therapy.
Hayley says two periods of serious illness starting four years ago ‘scared her half to death’ and, combined with the death of her grandfather, took a toll on her mental health.
“Because of the long waiting lists it escalated in between the two episodes. I was in such a state of anxiety, I spiralled downwards,” she said. “I had symptoms of PTSD because I had flashbacks to the time I was ill.
“14 months later I watched my granddad die over three months. That was emotionally traumatic for us all, and then my relationship broke down.
“The therapy that I had showed me I had been anxious all my life, it all came to the surface.”
She began therapy and is now on medication, with further therapy sessions planned, but she also uses her work as an outlet.
She says: “Everybody’s got to find a niche, what works for one person doesn’t work for another, and when you start going down the mental health route and identifying you need help, you think it’s textbook and it’s not.
“I’ve not had such a good time, but this has helped. Being creative does help.
“I come in here in all moods. I can either be really productive speeding through everything, or just need to clear my headspace.”
THE IDEA to begin selling her work came quickly after leaving college, but Hayley struggled to find an identity until just over a year ago, when she set up Hartorium.
“Me and my mum were discussing it at length. It’s one of the hardest things to do,” she said. “It’s like choosing a baby’s name. It was my baby at the time.
“We thought about ‘artorium’ - like ‘art emporium’ - but I looked it up and it was already registered.
“And my mum said why don’t you put an H in front, and I actually thought it sounded a bit naff, but I looked what Hart meant - a stag that has seven or more spokes on its antlers.
"That was it then," she laughed.
The antlers became a ‘brand’ for Hayley, who currently studies for a Higher National Diploma in Art and Design at University Campus Barnsley.
Many of her pieces, which include pendants and ear climbers, use the antler motif.
She has since put together an online shop, as well as showing her work at the Wakefield Artwalk.
Hayley says that while the making side of things is a ‘form of escapism,’ for her the pleasure is in the recognition she gets from people who like her work enough to buy it.
“The first time somebody bought something I was elated, because I’d spent time making this thing and for somebody to like it, that’s where the goal was for me.
“I don’t know if that’s my inner child talking but I’ve always wanted people to like my stuff.
“I did an order for a lady in America, she was looking for my jewellery in particular because she had a highland-themed wedding and she was looking for antlers.
“It made me so happy to think that I was such a part of her big day.”
While the craft seems specialist, Hayley says it is not as complicated as you might think - and despite being a ‘rookie,’ she is looking at passing her skills on to others.
“It’s nothing you can’t teach at an evening class,” Hayley says. “There isn’t actually a silversmithing tutor at Barnsley College now, so one of my tutors approached me recently and asked if I would want to do it and I said yes.
“I never thought I’d be able to teach, I’ve never been one for dictating to people, but I would love for people to feel how I felt when I started learning.”