You mention on your website that each piece you make „is infused with its own story, inspired by the quiet beauty of the nature and our relationship with the wild world around us”, but are there any Irish stories, meanings or traditions that have inspired you and that you wanted to relay through them?
Oh yes, so much of my work is inspired by Irish folklore and Celtic mythology. Since I was a child I have been fascinated with herbalism and the unique relationships that cultures develop with their native plants, and Ireland is a country with an especially rich heritage in that regard. Storytellers like Sharon Blackie, Eddie Lennihan and Niall Mac Coitir are particular favourites of mine who write on the topic. Plants and trees are incredibly significant in our folklore due to our Pagan heritage and many are associated with the Fairy folk (Blackthorn and Hawthorn in particular) which are the other cornerstone of our mythology. For example, the letters of the ancient ogham language are ascribed to the names of our native trees and under Brehon law, the trees of the forest were protected. I feel it is so important to keep that unique heritage alive. I like to think that in some small way I am playing my role in preserving the old stories and also in helping others to connect more strongly to their roots.
I know you love all nature, but do you have a preferred flower or group of plants to work with? What would you say it was the most unexpected thing in working with nature?
I grew up in quite a unique environment, on a mountainside overlooking the Atlantic in Kerry, at the very South-West point of Ireland. A place where houses were blown down in the winter storms and trees were a rarity. Since I left Kerry, I have been utterly fascinated by old woodland and trees, I can’t seem to get over the novelty of them and so I would have to say mosses, lichens, ferns and all other woodlandy treasures are my favourites to work with.
I think the most unexpected thing for me has been developing a better understanding of plants as life forms, with their own personalities, needs and lives rather than as some ‘other’ beings that are somehow less alive that us animals. It might sound a bit eccentric, but I’ve been exploring plant consciousness a lot over the last few years (I would highly recommend Stephen Buhners books) and it has really affected the way I think about and interact with plants. I spend a lot of time getting to know plants throughout the seasons through my work, so I take the opportunity to meditate with the plants from time to time and that has really transformed my relationship to nature.
Your photography style is mesmerizing. I must say that I personally am fascinated by the fact that your setups have many elements in them, yet the piece you showcase does not get lost in it. It is actually beautifully complemented and emphasized by all the background elements. Does it take long to set up? Was it intended or did it come naturally?
Thank you! The photography has really developed into its own little art form over the years. It doesn’t take long to set up at all, I literally just find whatever is growing outside in the hedges or find things like bits of birds nests and seashells out on my walks and place them around the jewellery on an old piece of wood. It came very naturally, it evolved originally as a way to distract from less pretty things that were getting in my backgrounds and flowers and leaves diffuse the light so beautifully. Eventually it became a cornerstone of my brand identity and something that people have come to recognise as a unique trait of my work.
Do you enjoy taking product pictures for your shop? I know many people find it terribly stressful. Any advice for our readers in tackling product photography?
I love taking photos and it’s a really exciting part of the process for me but it wasn’t always that way. For the first few years I found it profoundly stressful and had many a sleepless night over it but I’m at the stage now where I am confident I can take a decent photo in almost any conditions. My main tips would be to always use natural light, to keep an eye on your white balance (all my early photos have a horrible yellow tint that I was somehow oblivious to) and to practice, practice, practice. Keep trying different setups, different angles and different props until you find what works for you, don’t get to caught up in what other people are doing, as odds are it won’t suit what you do anyway. Oh, and get down to eye-level with your camera!
And the question of the century, how do you deal with social media? You share a decent amount of personal information on your Facebook page, how do you feel about that? How did it impact your life?
Oh, at first it was something I really struggled with. I was a late-comer to Facebook and social media in general, so I was incredibly self-conscious at the start but over the years it becomes easier and more a part of your everyday life. Now I really enjoy and appreciate the connections and friendships I have made with my followers, and I love to think that I am brightening their day a bit with the photos of my life and my surroundings. I think it has been really good for me to show vulnerability in a public space like that, because in person I am so inclined to bottle things up and to be even a bit embarrassed by my passions and interests so it has encouraged me to embrace my oddities a lot more. The only way I can manage it all is by having a good smartphone with an excellent camera. That way you can easily snap, edit and share photos across all your platforms in a matter of minutes. I use a Samsung Galaxy Edge that I am very happy with.
Does it compensate for the lack of a physical shop? Would you like to have a physical shop?
Well, funnily enough I grew up in a regular craft shop as my parents are both potters and painters so I have quite a good idea of what both entail and they are entirely different! I love the freedom of an online shop, I can take holidays when I want and can bring my work with me wherever I go. We have just recently bought our first home in rural West-Cork, which is a dream come true that would not have been possible without the freedom of an online business, as it is just so remote. A bricks and mortar shop can feel like a ball and chain at times in my experience, but I do still think it’s something I’d like to do on a seasonal (summer) basis one day. I love the idea of opening a small, curated craft shop as I know so many amazing designers and makers in Ireland that I would love to showcase.
On a fun note, how many cats do you have now? And how does owning and fostering cats mix with making jewellery and drying plants?
We currently have seven; Indre, Kali, Poppy, Boudica, Theo, Samhain and Bumblelion! Phew! We are on a fostering break at the moment but I will start again when we are settled and have refurbished our house. I really miss having a house full of kittens, it’s so fun and fulfilling! Up until now our work has been kept safely in a studio in the city that we commuted to, so now that we’re working from home it is a bit more challenging, but the two work rooms are currently a cat-free zone. They enjoy mischief and casual destruction of other people’s property far too much to be left unsupervised near my castings.