I discovered Jacqueline Ryan’s exquisite work on Instagram. Her work just shone out of the screen for their texture and colour.
You can see how she’s so heavily influenced by nature and plants. And it’s not just me that thinks her jewellery is beautiful. Whenever I’ve shared photos of her work on Instagram stories they’ve always been hugely popular.
So I’m really thrilled to be featuring her on The Jewellery Spot now. It’s amazing to think all her creations start life as tiny miniature paper sculptures. I love the sculptural element of them – wearing them really is like owning a mini-sculpture. And the subtle use of colour gives an amazing depth.
How would you describe your work?
Much of my work is made up of movable elements, which shake and vibrate on pins as the body moves. My work’s intended to be worn, (as well as exhibited) because whilst always aiming to be visually stimulating and aesthetically exciting, it’s also the tactile qualities of jewellery that make this art form so appealing. Ultimately it’s the interaction of the wearer with the work which truly brings the piece to life. This, for me, is what completes its function.
What inspires you?
I’m still in awe of nature’s “creativity”; the order and chaos of it. I love the very fine details of nature and qualities such as the colours, textures, forms and compositions, which nature generates as organisms grow or decay. I love the perfect, yet imperfect way which nature replicates itself and grows. If I had to simplify I would say my work is a celebration of the natural world and renects my passion for animal and plant life.
The fact my work’s inspired by nature is just a small part of the story. Since I originally wanted to become a painter or an illustrator, my approach to jewellery has very painterly roots. My jewellery’s tied to tradition because every single part is always and without exception, hand-made entirely by myself. My approach isn’t at all conventional and at times I find myself adapting the techniques around my work or inventing other ways to do things.
I’m also influenced by ancient cultures such as the Egyptians and the Etruscans. I greatly admire the way which they adored, respected and worshipped nature. I try to capture a similar element of timelessness in my work and I hope my jewellery may be preserved in time. That’s along with the works of other makers who share the same convictions in high quality craftsmanship, aesthetic distinctiveness and originality.
The pop of colour in your pieces is very distinctive – where does the idea for this come from?
Part of my inspiration for colour is driven by the fact that in Italy there’s a particular quality of light and colour throughout the Mediterranean. In summer when the sun is high, the colours are brighter and more vivid. I think this changes the way I see things. It certainly changes my mood.
My colour palette has been dominated by blues. When I first started enamelling I favoured single shades of blue. And I occasionally used many hues in a piece to obtain soft gradation from dark to very light blue. Just very recently I’ve been exploring a more vibrant palette of mixed colours (including pastels). This represents the different mood of the changing seasons.
How do you approach creating your designs?
A great deal of what I make today is based on childhood memories. But I continue to collect visual information directly from nature. I spend a lot of time observing and making studies from the natural world. Especially through sketching and painting organisms, structures and forms and it’s through this that I establish a starting point; the beginning of a long process of development.
Once I have my drawings, the second stage is working to create miniature sculptural structures in precious hand-made Italian artisanal papers. These are all hand-cut and constructed. I make them in the hundreds, keeping them in stacked boxes, mounting them in sketchbooks and framed drawings. The paper sculptures bridge the gap between the two-dimensional studies and the finished piece in three-dimensions. Through all these time-consuming processes a sort of abstraction takes place in many stages.
I like to call this transformation a metamorphosis. Like a moth which begins with a single egg, hatching to become a caterpillar. Which ultimately transforms into a chrysalis and emerges into the adult lepidoptera.
Wow, what an amazing amount of work! I bet most people don’t realise just how much thought goes into planning each piece.
My drawings and models aren’t often seen alongside my jewellery so they remain as an unseen parallel world and are the “invisible histories” of my jewellery. During the creative process, I don’t initially perceive whether what I’m working on will be a ring, a necklace, a bracelet and so forth.
What I come up with initially is an object in its own right, not identifiable with jewellery at all. The jewellery piece I make depends on what the structure or model suggests and what it best lends itself to. In this way, the jewellery is a consequence of the object and not the other way around.
Where do you work?
Although most of my time is spent at my workbench at the studio, I’ve made a point of arranging my sketchbooks, paper models and framed drawings along both sides of the entrance corridor. As well as my display cases of natural objects, which I’ve been collecting most of my life.
I like to start my day (and end it) walking through the studio and looking at what inspires me again and again. Especially if I’m stuck for long hours at the bench. I can’t start work without my black tea – this is my ritual!
It’s rare to see articulation and enamelling together – what made you decide to pair them?
I’m not sure articulation and enamelling have been great partners in the past. This maybe because enamel is glass and combining this with metal makes two elements, each of them difficult to use and often even more difficult together. I didn’t study enamel in a traditional or structured manner and I’ve experimented and found a way of using enamel on my own terms. This has become my signature way of using vitreous enamel.
The articulation happened quite naturally since the first works were oral in structure and I wanted to convey their qualities in the metal with enamel. It seemed natural that the elements be moveable since flowers and plants are certainly not immobile. It just worked.
What would you say the difference is between ‘jewellery’ and ‘art jewellery’?
Technical understanding and ability allows me to express an idea with freedom. But it’s just as important to me for the work to take on other and deeper dimensions – like conveying a message, telling stories or revealing the character of its maker (rather than simple design or “just being jewellery for the wearing”).
I always think that when someone acquires jewellery made by an artist, they take with them a small piece of the soul of the maker. A unique expression that represents one single moment in the life of that artist at one particular point in time. Rather than a manufactured object, the wearer gets a real story. They also get something in their hands was actually made by a person, rather than a machine.