My jewellery was always going to look like this.
How do you define personal style? Where does it come from? I’ve been told since my youth that my drawings are very recognisable as being mine. That some of them were really my style. But I’m still unsure of what that really means – the answer is probably unique to each person. And because I could never get a straight answer when I asked what made my drawings mine, I decided to come up with my own.
To me, personal style isn’t consciously developed. It’s not about wanting to revolutionise what’s been done before. It’s about authentically expressing your inner world.
Fellow Motley designer Alice Cicolini recently showed me her favourite childhood book. “No wonder my work is all about colours and patterns”, she exclaimed, flipping through the colourful pages. That’s really what personal style is – the ability to see into your past and say: “Where I am now makes sense”.
As designers, we are interested and influenced by different things. I like to think that style becomes a door to our inner bubble, our thoughts.
So when I started trying to define my own style, I thought back to who I admired when I was little. When I was 10, I remember that my friends were really into the Spice Girls. But I was obsessed with Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse. I can see how their use of colours and surrealism influenced me, then and now. There were a lot of animals in Chagall’s paintings, which I always liked. At the time I was also collecting little leaves and bits I found in the forest. I always carried little objects I loved looking at. I had a tiny ice cream box toy I carried everywhere, because I loved the colour combination.
That’s where my personal style started – as a miniature collection of colourful trinkets, forest bits and toys. From there, it’s been an instinctive and meticulous process. I constantly refresh my sketchbook of inspiration and take visual notes of what I want to work on. After that, there’s a lot of sketching involved. I don’t take direct inspiration from other pieces of jewellery, but I might make a note of a technique that inspires me to create something new.
That evolution of style never really feels complete. I took some time last year to reflect on what I had created so far and where I can go next. Nothing is entirely finalised yet but there are a couple of things I am looking at – gemstones, enamel, new ways to be playful.
Whilst I see personal style as something positive now, that’s not always been the case. I remember looking at classical paintings when I was in art school, and seeing that mine looked extremely different. I asked my teacher if she could show me how to make “real paintings”. She explained that I could learn the technique, but that it was more important to develop a personal style and approach to art.
I want to create something new with my jewellery, but sometimes I wonder if it doesn’t look enough like “real jewellery”.
It’s then that I remember that a lot of what’s now seen as true, classical art was once considered weird, ugly, not ‘proper art’. It’s way more interesting to embrace the imperfect, the personal and the different rather than fitting in with preconceived ideas. The whole point of creating is to push our understanding of what art even is. That’s where the magic happens.
For my part, I’ll keep being inspired by nature and art and will keep creating personal work, even when it feels like it doesn’t fit an existing mould or category. I’ve been drawing a lot of parakeets (a lockdown discovery on long London park walks) and looking at Celtic animal symbols. Who knows what will come of either?