One of my favorite things about being part of the contemporary jewelry industry is getting to meet designers I've long admired (I try to keep the fanning out to a minimum when this happens...it doesn't always work ;). Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting jeweler Ruth Tomlinson at her cozy studio at Cockpit Arts - a designer/maker collective in Central London. My trip to England was extremely short (and mostly jam-packed with antique buying), so I was thrilled to be able to count her as the only maker I got the chance to meet with in London. She welcomed me and my friend Adrienn into her studio and showed us a range from her collection, all beautifully laid out for us to peruse and try on (#dream!).
A great little video introducing Ruth and her work - via her website.
I've been a longtime fan of Ruth's work, following her on instagram and lusting after the unique stone choices and beautiful textures and forms that have become her signature. She began her jewelry career at age 10 (!), and has since refined her craft to include inventive techniques in wax casting, electroforming and wire work. The results are stunning - her pieces boast surfaces that seem as though they have built up over centuries, with precious stones, diamonds and pearls seamlessly embedded in meticulously finished metal. Being apprenticed to a jeweler who specializes in polishing left me a sucker for good finishing, and Ruth's work did not disappoint. Though I had visited her work in person at stores like Liberty London and Love Adorned in New York, it was exciting on another level to see and touch so many pieces at once! I was immediately drawn to the almost roman, relic-like quality of her work, like pieces of treasure unearthed from a shipreck. Below are some great examples of how Ruth uses incredible texture + shapes, combined with unconventional stones to create fine jewelry that is both stunning and trailblazing at the same time.
|A mix of rings and bangles laid out for us to peruse.|
|Closeup on some rings - the hand-applied texture unique to each piece is incredible to see and feel.|
|Her Raw Diamond Ring with Granules show the encapsulated setting style Ruth is known for.|
|The Raw Champagne Diamond Pendant - an irreverent take on the classic diamond halo.|
Those who love to stack as much as I do can rest assured that any of her rings will blend seamlessly within your personal collection - even the antique pieces Adrienn and I were wearing looked at home with everything we tried on. I couldn't help but notice how the settings allow for the creation of some great stacks: they're low, but not so low that it's impossible to combine them with other pieces, which makes for great versatility.
|Single Sapphire Encrusted Engagement Ring + Double Beaded Wedding Band.|
|This Grey Diamond Cluster Ring stacked beautifully with my own antique wedding bands.|
|A Georgian-era diamond band blends seamlessly with two of Ruth's rings (L), while her Ombré Sapphire Ring fit right in with Adrienn's own Georgian eternity bands (R), via Instagram.|
|This Spinel + Ruby Ring looked killer with my own Georgian garnet + aquamarine halo.|
To put it simply - the magic of minutiae and miniature worlds...I'm captivated by ideas of preciousness and beauty.
I'm generally inspired by the world around me, and things that have inspired me throughout my life - anything from the feeling of walking along the beach to a Tudor portrait in the National Gallery. As a designer/artist I have quite eclectic taste, drawing from things that inspire me in nature, the arts (from fine art to fashion), craft, and poetry. And finally, I'm inspired by the people that wear our jewels - they are who we make them for, so they can celebrate a special, unique moment in their lives.
Well, I have come a long way since the age of 10, when I started selling Fimo and bead jewellery in my family pharmacy/chemist on the seafront, but I have always been inspired by materials, process, and my surroundings. I think the two main creative influences in my work are nature and historical jewellery, these are things that just flow out of me. And of course I have become more technically advanced, but using alternative techniques I discovered along the way that felt in tune with the work has changed my work as well.
I LOVE making and creating but as creative director of the brand I have to wear many hats. This is sometimes hard to balance, but a great team to help achieve our goals makes it all possible! They allow me the time to design, create and make...I have always got so many ideas for new pieces and collections, and that is what is most important, to keep the work fresh and exciting for our clients, and as a business.
For advice, all I would say is follow your passion, believe in what you do and work hard! You can do anything you like.
As I mentioned, I tend to go back in time when I look for 'maker' inspiration. I feel it's best not to be inspired by other contemporaries in the jewellery industry too much, as it's essential to stay unique and true to my individual vision. However, there are many talented designer/makers in the design and craft work whose work I admire, including my partner, furniture designer Gareth Neal. If I had to choose a contemporary jeweller I would say Karl Fritsch. His work is so free and playful and precious - so many elements I can identify with.
All in all, it was amazing experience meeting with Ruth, and one that inspired me to connect more with my surroundings as inspiration for my own work. Below you can find 7 pieces I picked from her collection for my holiday wishlist - I highly recommend checking out her site for more drool-worthy items!
Middle: Sapphire Cluster Ring
Bottom Row (L-R): Emerald Beaded Edge Stud Earrings, Beaded Edge 5-Dome Ring, Beaded Edge Gray Diamond Drop Earrings