Interview: Holly Suzanna Clifford

© Holly Suzanna Clifford

Jewellery. We’ve all seen it. Your partner looks great wearing it and your dad has never quite been able to understand it. To shed some light on how it gets made, Dash Majesty spoke with Holly Suzanna Clifford to find out if the whole process comes down to ancient magic or just hours of painstaking work.

Dash Majesty: Could you please introduce yourself and your label?

Holly: I’m Holly, owner and designer/maker behind Holly Suzanna Clifford. I work independently, hand making unique pieces of contemporary art jewellery inspired by plants and landscapes. The business is only in its fledgling stage currently; after graduating in Summer 2016 I moved home and transformed (with a lot of help!) one of the garden sheds into a neat little jewellery workshop, which is where I am now based.

DM: How do your pieces differentiate themselves from other jewellery brands?

H: The work I create is really one of a kind, due to the techniques that I use in its production. I have always loved drawing and painting and missed using these processes when it came to the actual making of a piece – I didn’t want to leave it behind in the design stage, so I developed a way to work it into the final outcomes. I encase delicately hand-painted, botanically inspired scenes within layers of glass-like resin – the resin acting almost like mini canvases that I can set into my pieces. Every item is individually painted and hand crafted, no two are ever the same.

Botanical Silver Leaf Disk
© Holly Suzanna Clifford

DM: How long have you been creating and how has your practice developed?

H: Throughout school, art was always my number one subject, however, the curriculum was very fine art focused so I never really experimented with much else except paints. At A-Level I had some brilliant teachers who encouraged me to drop my inhibitions, work bigger and be more expressive, which really helped my work and the way I thought about painting develop. Through looking at use of light and colour within painting I became very interested in the Impressionist movement, a style that still greatly influences and inspires my work today.

My art foundation year was where I first really discovered 3D Design as a subject. My main piece for my final major project – a giant hand-pierced copper collar inspired by contour map lines, representing ties to home – was the beginning of an idea that I keep revisiting and reworking, leading to the development of my newest range – Custom Contour Map collection.

Studying at Birmingham’s School of Jewellery really opened my eyes to the whole contemporary/art jewellery world. I experimented with all sorts of weird and wonderful materials, although my favourite designs have always had some sort of connection to nature. It wasn’t until my final year that I discovered which elements were really important to me within my work, but when I acknowledged them I ran with my new found focus until graduation, producing my Glasshouse collection.

Since leaving university, my practice has had to adapt to the realities of not having constant access to lots of specialist tools and machinery. Luckily, my work doesn’t require much in the way of equipment, however it has still been a little restricting. On a positive note, graduating has given me a whole new sense of freedom within my work! I’ve been exploring creating more wearable, commercial pieces and to develop ideas that had not been possible within the time restraints and briefs of the degree.

DM: How do you approach a new collection? Where do your ideas evolve from?

H: I always have so many different ideas at a time it’s a challenge to narrow them down. My ideas almost always develop from the natural world; flowers, vines, landscapes – the outdoors is just endlessly inspiring. I like to do a lot of drawing at the start of a project, to plan out my ideas and work through things before grabbing the real materials and heading for the workshop. I find that when I draw, I often come up with designs and little quirks that I don’t think I would ever have ended up with if I’d just jumped straight into the making process.

© Holly Suzanna Clifford

DM: Where do you receive inspiration for your designs and artwork?

H: My work encompasses ideas from outside of the jewellery realm, drawing from illustration, great painters such as Monet and Klimt, as well as old dioramic books. However, the underlying source of inspiration running throughout my work is from plants and nature. My collections Botanical and Glasshouse are inspired by both the beauty and chaos of plants and gardens; specifically focusing on scenes inside greenhouses, capturing the foggy nature of the glass, the foliage pressed up against it etc. Glasshouse grew solely from research trips that I took to see the incredible glasshouses at Kew Gardens in London.

DM: Regarding the RBSA prize for Creativity and Innovation and also the Birmingham Decorative & Fine Arts Society (BDFAS) Annual Award you recently received, what impact has this had on your career as a jewellery designer?

H: Winning these two awards has definitely helped me begin to get my name out into the contemporary jewellery scene. I exhibited some work at RBSA Gallery as part of their All That Glitters autumn exhibition this year, which was a brilliant platform. The BDFAS presented me with a grant of £500, which was incredible and utterly invaluable to me as I began setting up my workshop back in August last year.

DM: Which upcoming projects/exhibitions do you have planned?

H: I have just launched my new range – the Custom Contour Map Collection. I love it when jewellery has some sort of story or meaning attached to it; this collection is very much about creating truly personal pieces that hold a lot of significance for the wearer. I’m not quite sure what it is that draws me to maps so much, but I think many people feel the same way – I just think they’re endlessly interesting and beautiful.

© Holly Suzanna Clifford

Using the OS map coordinates of a customer’s chosen location, I lift the contour lines from these areas and cut their exact relief into silver, which I then form to create precise miniature wearable landscapes. Tiny, granulated silver balls can be added at specific coordinates, marking their favourite spot within the map, or the location of their home. For added sparkle, a stone could be set to mark an important point. Finally, to personalise the piece even more, I am also able to stamp the pieces with inscriptions, such as an important date, name, initials or location.

You can buy Holly’s work by clicking here.

You can fulfil Holly emotionally by following her on Instagram.