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We met with this month’s Lin Morris Limited Edition designer, Eleanor Bolton, at her east London studio to talk about her design inspirations, how she started out in the industry, and the reality of being a young creative in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
How did you become interested in making jewelry?
Throughout school I always found that I liked to work in 3D, I didn’t enjoy painting and was pretty terrible at drawing. Physically making things was something I always enjoyed and that resonated with me. So I dallied a bit in sculpture and that crossed over into body adornment – I was making big, sculptural pieces. I then went onto study jewelry, and by the time I was doing my MA, I was making bigger and bigger pieces, and it was getting quite impractical! I was using a lot of metal and incorporating a lot of found objects, and the pieces were quite heavy. So after a while I decided that instead of making art jewelry that would only be displayed in a gallery I wanted to make wearable objects, that people could actually wear.
Coiled rope features regularly in your work, how did you discover the technique?
At the RCA I spent a lot of time experimenting with different materials – trying to find a way to create form and volume without making really heavy, weighty pieces. This is when I started working with textiles, and then through that I discovered coiling. I guess it’s become my signature, but I am interested in taking it in a different direction or bringing in other materials. For example with the Brighton necklace for Lin Morris I’ve used the rope in a different way and incorporated the metal loops.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I love to work in 3D, so for me, it’s the materials at the very beginning of the process that inspire me. It’s interesting to play with materials and see how I can push them in different directions. That’s really how I started working with the rope and developed the coiling technique. Everything I make is inspired by elements of things I do or see on a daily basis, it’s everything and nothing at the same time.
I also find the work of Sandra Buckland’s really inspiring. She makes sculptural knitwear that really pushes the boundaries of what you can do with a simple material.
Do you wear jewelry yourself?
I’m actually really fussy about jewelry, I like simple shapes and circular things. I wear hoops and flat circle stud earrings a lot, but I go through phases where I’ll wear earrings and rings, or I’ll wear necklaces a lot. I’m not one of those people who can wear everything at once. When I’m in the studio I like to be quite casual – plus jewelry also gets in the way of making!
How difficult is it to be a young designer in London?
London is an incredibly expensive place to live and work. Due to all of the government cuts in the UK, there aren’t as many grants for new designers as there used to be. I was part of Craft Council’s Hothouse programme – a business incubator programme where you can go to a series of workshops over six months that help you with professional development and business planning – I found it incredibly useful.
So there is stuff out there that’s really helpful, but there aren’t any set-up grants or business funding initiatives that you used to hear about. My advice to anyone starting out would be don’t go into this unless you’re ready to work hard, you can’t go into it with any doubts.
Where do you sell your designs?
I’m at Darkroom in London and I’m at Julie’s on Madison Avenue in New York, which is a wearable art gallery. It’s amazing, she has everything from ancient vintage kimonos to jewelry and handbags. I’m also in Phillips De Pury on Park Avenue in New York and the Artisan Social Designer in Paris.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m impatient but I’m also not in a rush, I’d like to get to a point where I can sustain this. At the moment I still work part time and I’d like to be able to outsource manufacturing a little more so I’m not doing everything myself. Eventually I’d like to go into other accessories – at the moment I have a lot of ideas for bags but I don’t even have a moment to consider it. I’ve got too many ideas for jewelry let alone anything else!