Interview with a Night Owl: rifle jewellery designs by Holly Hyams
By Laura Chan
Jewellery designer, Holly Hyams has created a collection that challenges the idea of preciousness by combining semi-precious stones, silver and recycled metal. Called Jewel Ammunition and made by reshaping used rifle cartridges, these pieces aim to blur the boundaries between the cherished and the discarded; and remind us that recycling can be refined, imaginative and beautiful.
With designer Dieter Rams’ comment in mind that: ‘Good design is consistent in every detail; Good design is environmentally friendly; Last but not least, good design is as little design as possible’, Hyams achieves each statement with her sophisticated pieces that lack ostentation and are above all, wearable. So with just one week to go, if you’re still searching pieces from this collection will make the perfect Christmas gift!
I managed to catch some time with the talented designer to find out more about her work, as well as the inspiration and influences that drives her creativity.
What is your design ethos and how does this inform your work?
To create unusual, imaginative and beautiful jewellery that challenges the idea of preciousness with its contrasting materials. The direct recycling of discarded metal is very important to me, and I enjoy transforming this into desirable, wearable pieces, often in combination with rich-coloured stones and sterling silver.
Your designs made from reshaped bullets remind me of Swiss Jewellery designer Bernard Schobinger’s work, which often referred to war by reusing materials, found in city streets. Which historical and contemporary designers do you refer too most often?
I have a fantastic book called The Art of Jewellery Design by Liz Olver, which contains the work and design processes of past Central Saint Martins (CSM) students and was recommended to me by a tutor at CSM. It is so inspiring, that every time I feel lacking in inspiration, I flick through it and it has the instant ability to excite me about jewellery’s potential again.
As far as individual designers, aesthetically I am fascinated by the work of Anastasia Young . Her work is very different to mine, but I think it is the inclusion of industrial and mechanical parts within her work that drew me to it so strongly. Although they are cast components rather than recycled metal, I have always had a soft spot for industrial codes and numbering.
I was lucky enough to briefly get to know the late jeweller Michael Bolton , who made a big impact on me, not just because of his work, but also his beautiful approach to both jewellery and life.
What is your typical day in the workshop like?
I am a night owl. I often work very late into the night, and therefore my mornings are rarely an early start, however they are a lovely start to the day. I cycle along the seafront to get to my workshop, and whatever the weather, it’s an invigorating way to begin the working day.
I then make in my workshop until I either I have to leave due to an evening arrangement, or, if I am busy with orders, until I cannot focus on what I am doing anymore! My workshop is an incredibly fun and vibrant place to be, and therefore it’s relatively easy to be there for long hours.
I share with eight other makers, both jewellers and larger-scale sculptors, so it is a very inspiring workshop to work in. There are often others wondering in to say hello, and the atmosphere is at its best when it is full of people tinkering away.
How has your education helped your career?
The five years I spent in further education have helped my career greatly. I began specialising in jewellery whilst on my foundation at Central Saint Martins; however I had already completed two years of jewellery-making evening classes, which was useful as it meant I already had a basic set of skills.
I completed a four-year MDes at Brighton in Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics. It was fantastic to do such a varied, broad course, and then to find my way back to jewellery after having had the chance to make other things on a larger scale, like furniture. I think the diversity within this course helps you take a less traditional approach to jewellery.
In the third year we had the chance to do a term of internships, which was a great way to learn different skills and ways of working.
What inspires your work?
With Jewel Ammunition I enjoy playfully challenging conventional notions of preciousness. The pieces are constructed using discarded rifle cartridges combined with sterling silver and richly coloured cut stones.
Stemming from a fascination with overlooked treasures, this collection explores the fine line between preciousness and the discarded, with the dual motivation behind the work being both the use of recycled metal, and the juxtaposition of precious and non-precious contrasting materials. The inspiration behind my other collections of work is diverse, including mountain topography viewed from a plane, and abstract compositions found in the everyday, from crumbling pavements to wire fences, rusty drain covers to silhouetted scaffolding.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring (jewellery) designers out there?
Get as much experience with other jewellers as possible. Go and see them in person if you can. Also, go to as many of the good shows as you can and talk to the exhibitors. If people get to know you a bit you’ll find it easier to gain experience working with them.
Great advice. To be a successful designer you must immerse yourself in design and strive to say something new with materials and form, just what Hyams achieves with Jewel Ammunition. Hyams welcomes commissions and can be contacted at email@example.com