What do starlings have to do with jewelry?

Posted by Estyn Hulbert on

My friend, photographer Katherine Newbegin, visited my studio and made a little film. While she was here she asked me where I get ideas for my designs.

What inspires each new piece? Where did the idea for the first Leaf earrings come from? Or for the Wild Geese necklace?

It's so rare that a piece is inspired by one thing. Anything could spark an idea or suggest a design:
the magical way an artist stacks wood,
watching starlings' astounding flight patterns,
or giant portraits mown into a field in my town.

The sights and feelings end up in some kind of big soup inside me, which gets expressed in earrings and necklaces and bracelets. A handful of shells from a beach in Hawaii sat on my desk for months before combining with my obsession with making circles and becoming the Cones necklace.

In practice, designing is a series of steps, from one design to the next, to the next. I'm thinking about the last piece I made and the questions it raised. "What if this part was bigger? What if it was curved instead of straight? What if the circles stacked up? What if, what if, what if?" Each answer leads to the next question.

Scribbling on the backs of envelopes, I race to keep up with the possibilities that ripple out from each design, trying to record the potential to be made next time. I am holding onto a thread that carries me from one piece to the next, and from numerous inspirations, through my hands and out into the world.

I love to read.

My latest favorites were the Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante, starting with My Brilliant Friend — it amazes me how an author can take me so deeply into her world.

And if you like seeing people's homes as much as I do, you might like Restoring a House in the City by Ingrid Abramovitch. Old houses, lovingly restored.

What have you been reading? Let me know. I always need suggestions.

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