Rebekah Bonaparte
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Shine 2018: Naomi Nevill

Naomi Nevill is currently exhibiting as part of Shine 2018, our annual exhibition that celebrates some of the UK’s most promising talent. In this interview, Nevill tells the story behind her nature-inspired ‘Heritage and Habitat’ collection, why the design process is so important and her time on Getting Started.

Why did you decide to become a jeweller?

I have been passionate about art and design since I was little. I have always loved to draw, paint and sculpt, my favourite teacher Mrs Jones encouraged that a great deal and had a big impact on my development. In my first year of school I made a ladybird out of clay, we added a glaze then sent them off to be fired. I remember being so excited when they came back, Mrs Jones took them out one by one and showed us the colourful, glistening pieces they had transformed into. She took mine out and it was the most wonderful deep red. She said it looked like jewels and I was thrilled. I think that transformation stayed with me - when I use enamel it still seems a bit magical. 

When studying art and design at college I did an extracurricular jewellery making course, it was only then that I considered it as a career. I loved the range of techniques, from engraving to chasing -  each skill was a fascinating new aspect to jewellery making.

You create detailed designs before making your pieces. How does this aid your creative process?

I find a design changes and develops as I work.  Like a living creature, it adapts to issues as they arise. So, the idea I start off with is often very different from the final image. Concentrating on each little detail allows me to shape the piece exactly as I want and work out the technical details, and experiment with colour. At university, I was told not to spend so long on designing so that I am not ‘seduced by the designs', however, I'm glad that I persisted as it has grown into one of my most beneficial skills,  I get exposure from winning awards and I also design for other companies, they may want a beautiful paint up for their website or innovative designs for their new collection. I enjoy the challenges that working for a variety of customers brings and the freedom of designing for myself.

What is the story behind the ‘Heritage and Habitat’ collection?

Travelling the UK on walking holidays, visiting castles, galleries and nature reserves was my childhood and ultimately, it taught me to be curious. The closer you look the more interesting our countryside becomes; observing the interplay and harmony of an ecosystem, the links between organisms and the behaviour of each species no matter how small, can be a window into the larger more complex structures that make up our environment. The more links we make, the more we understand how fragile and special each connection is. 

My ‘Heritage and Habitat’ collection combines recognisable UK heritage sites such as castles, abbeys and lighthouses, with a piece of flora or fauna from that area. The techniques used also include skills which have changed little in hundreds of years. This collection is designed to highlight the importance of maintaining and celebrating our heritage, from the countryside with all its wonderful wildlife and historical sites, to the artists and craftsmen which strive for original, beautiful and well-made pieces.

Heritage and Habitat collection un-enamelled

You were awarded silver at this year’s Goldsmiths Craftsmanship and Design Award for Jewellery Design and bronze for enamel. How has winning these awards affected the trajectory of your career?

Winning anything at the Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council (GC&DC) awards is always an honour. The quality of work is so high, and it gives you a chance to meet some great makers and get some recognition for pieces that you have been working so hard on. Before even entering a piece, the awards are already pushing you to be more imaginative and help to improve your technical skills in-order to make, or design, something that deserves to be there. I have been entering the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council awards since university and through the contacts I met and the interest I received, it has helped me to develop my technical and artistic ability.

You previously took part in our week-long business course, Getting Started. What lessons did you learn during this week and how did it help you prepare for Shine?

Getting Started was a wonderful opportunity as creativity does not necessarily come hand in hand with business acumen! I enjoyed the wide range of subjects covered. It especially helped with my new collection which has complex one-off pieces alongside more commercial jewellery. Particularly, pricing my pieces correctly and identifying the right customer base and location is very important. I would recommend it to anyone in their first few years of business.

What are you looking forward to most about exhibiting at Shine 2018?

Having my whole collection in one place is very exciting. I don't think there are many galleries in which you could show such a wide range of work with different price points and get such a diverse audience. It will be nice for all the people I have been working for or training with to have the chance to see my full collection.

Contact Naomi Nevill