When I first spotted Elsiem Jewellery online, I loved the striking geometric forms of the designs, and I knew I had to get them on The Jewellery Spot.
I wasn’t disappointed. It’s fascinating how Lorraine Hitt (the name behind the brand) completely managed to pivot her career from one aspect of design (interiors) into another. I also love how important practicality is in her work. For me, wearability in jewellery is essential and means that jewellery designing can be very similar to engineering in many ways!
Lorraine Hitt, the face behind Elsiem, takes us behind the scenes of her brand…
How would you describe your jewellery?
Modern and stylish, with an edge. Simple architectural forms, created with combined modern and traditional materials and techniques. Some people say my work feels very ‘Art Deco’ in style.
What materials do you use?
My latest work is mostly made from a 3D printed material called SLS Nylon. The nylon in its raw form is white, so I dye it with fabric dye, (mainly using black) for my current collections. I then add hand-cut and finished brass accents to some of the designs.
I just love the combination of black and gold. It’s so striking, and I feel it really suits my design style. This just shows how my work has progressed, as I used to make all my pieces in silver and brass.
Where do you create your jewellery?
I’m based in Cambridge and I’m lucky to have a fair-sized room in my house as my workshop. This is made up of: my bespoke jewellers bench, equipment, a desk for cleaner tasks like packing and finishing touches and a corner dedicated to photography.
I also have a separate office area where I have my computer for the CAD, graphic, web and accounts tasks. I love my workshop, I call it my ‘Woman’s cave!’
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
That’s a tricky one, because this changes all the time! At the moment I love the simplicity and form of my ‘Vibe Circle’ earrings. It’s satisfying for me to technically design the details down to the millimetre and then see it work in reality. It’s really important to me that things look great, but are also practical too. And for me, this particular design delivered – both aesthetically and practically.
What’s your favourite part of being a Jewellery Designer?
I love the design aspect, developing an idea in my head (that I usually have when I’m trying to sleep!) from a concept into a working drawing. Seeing it then made and being proudly worn is so rewarding. It’s what motivates me as a designer.
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
A couple of years ago I would have said a silver and Blue John stone commission necklace. It actually made my client cry with happiness when I presented it! I don’t normally work with gemstones, so I was really proud of this piece.
However, now I’m proud of how far I’ve come in learning the CAD and 3D printing process needed to create my current work. I’d been wanting to learn this process for a long time, and it was my Hebo collection (pictured above) that started this journey. It was inspired by my love of the work of sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo and really took my jewellery design to another level.
What’s your proudest moment of being a Jewellery Designer?
I have a few proud moments. I think my proudest was seeing three of my collections consecutively stocked and beautifully displayed in the prestigious Kettles Yard Gallery, Cambridge. But I was also thrilled to get a multi-page (including the front cover) feature in Cambridge Magazine. This was a significant step in my jewellery design career.
What’s your design process?
For my metal work I sketch the piece, then sometimes make a rough wire template to see it in 3D before I handcraft it. I design and produce my own computer aided work for the 3D printed pieces using a software called Rhino where I can see the design in colour render and 360 degree views.
The design files are then sent to a specialist printing company and either colour dyed by them for larger batches, or I hand dye them myself. I then print out the 2D templates for the metal elements and use these as an aid to hand saw, file and polish them before applying a clear hard cured lacquer to help prevent tarnishing. The brass accents and/or ear posts are added to the Nylon design with a strong epoxy resin glue.
How did you start creating jewellery?
I’ve always been a designer, spanning a few disciplines throughout my 28 year career. Firstly, I left school and trained and worked as a Graphic Designer. I then decided that 2D design wasn’t enough for me so I expanded my training and later became Designer and Production Manager at a sign writers, where I designed and applied vinyl cut and printed graphics to shop fronts/vehicles/signage/POS etc.
After my son was born, I went back to college and gained a distinction in a National Diploma for Interior and 3D Design. This led to a very successful career in interior design. But I got the bug for jewellery design during my Diploma course, when I twice won a ‘Silver Award’ for my Jewellery Shop Display and Interior Design, presented by The Goldsmiths’ Company.
I think I moved to jewellery because I’d always had a natural desire to make things by hand. And I also loved sourcing and wearing stylish modern jewellery. Therefore, the transition from my Interior to my Jewellery Design business felt completely intuitive. All these disciplines collectively gave me the skills and knowledge to create and develop my jewellery brand. They’ve also helped me make sure the designs are practical, as well as looking good.
Where do you feel most inspired?
I get a charge of excitement and motivation through my body when I either visit a good contemporary art gallery, a shop with modern design products, a design event full of talented designer/makers or even a cleverly designed interior or building.
What inspires you?
I find myself naturally designing pieces I’d wear myself. I get inspired by small elements in other simple forms of architectural, product, graphic, sculptural designs – which I then extract and develop in my own style. The material, medium and technique I’m experimenting with at the time, can also influence my designs.
Generally, stylish and simple but clever practical design fuels my creativity – in any kind of form. I also love geometric shapes and patterns. Both modern and traditional in style.
What advice would you give to people looking to buy jewellery from independent makers, but who don’t know where to look or how to go about it?
Instagram is a great place to be inspired and find styles and designers that excite you. This can then direct you to their online shop or next live event. Gallery shops and independent gift shops are great for seeing the pieces in the flesh. Look out for those respected fashion and design online bloggers as they can point you in the right direction too!
A jeweller has to be very multi-skilled – i.e. web designer, photographer, tea maker etc! How do you find that?
It isn’t easy! Although I’ve had several design roles before, this is the first product/retail business I’ve had, so I’ve had to learn lots of new skills along the way. To save money and keep brand control, I do most aspects of the business myself. However, I’ve had so much valued advice and tips from others along the way – especially the marketing and product photography. This was a whole new ball game for me and I still have a way to go at mastering it to make it profitable and not too time consuming! I leave the all important accounts to the experts though.
Where can people find your work?
As well as my online shop, my work’s also currently stocked in:
- Kettles Yard – Cambridge
- The Royal Exchange Theatre Shop – Manchester
- Arteria – Lancaster
- Bowery Gallery – Leeds from September to December 2019.