“I am driven by my passion for the earth’s treasures; the magic of minutiae, tiny intricacies, small imperfections, and the individual’s search for preciousness. I seek out the unconventional beauty within and this fuels my creativity, whether in the rarity of material or my curiosity in nature.” (Ruth Tomlinson, London based luxury jewellery designer)
Renowned for her meticulously handcrafted, luxury jewellery, Ruth Tomlinson continues to grow her business and brand, now in its 16th year. Following on from the success of the ‘Hoard’, ‘Midas’, ‘Lustre’ and ‘Encrustations’ collections, 2017 is full of new additions including a fresh focus on one-of-a-kind pieces. Lawfully Chic recently caught up with Ruth to ask some questions.
LC: What is it that drives you to make this kind of work?
RT: My inspiration is drawn from the mysteries of historical jewels and the ephemeral nature of life – its cycle from birth to decay. My work is often a response to my immediate environment, whether a fleeting moment on a train in India or being totally immersed in a single jewel at a local museum. My eyes are wide open to new discoveries and I love to observe and absorb my surroundings. To me, working with such precious materials is a privilege. Each piece of jewellery should be unique like each of us, and this is how I like my jewellery to make people feel. I hope to evoke a sense of wonder around the work; a modern British classic of the future, handcrafted and ready to be filled with its own story – throughout our lifetime and generations to come.
LC: You work is very unique – how did your aesthetic come about?
RT: My work is an accumulation of ideas inspired by my experiences in life. Whether I am travelling on a train in India, scuba diving in the tropics or going for a country walk in the lake district, I am constantly searching for beauty. I guess my work is autobiographical in the way it evolves and changes over time.
LC: What is the process behind creating a piece of jewellery?
RT: Once I have a new idea, I use my sketch book to document and explore the concept further. Then I begin experimenting with materials – my work bench is where the biggest discoveries are made. Each gemstone is then carefully hand-selected for the design. It is an organic process which is reflected in the jewellery we create.
LC: Who is the typical Ruth Tomlinson customer?
RT: Our customers are design savvy, individual and interested in craftsmanship. They have their own sense of style rather than being dictated to by fashion trends.
LC: If you could get your hands on any materials in the world to work with, what would those be?
RT: There aren’t any materials I particularly crave working with. I don’t necessarily know I want to work with a material until I have discovered it. I am inspired by all different materials, whether it be a bit of broken glass from a bus shelter (or ‘Hackney diamonds’ as we call them in London) or a bit of rusted wire found in a gutter, to precious gold and coloured diamonds from the other side of the world. I look for preciousness within a materials qualities and history rather than inherent monetary value.
LC: Do you have a particular piece of jewellery you wear every day? What makes it so meaningful?
RT: Strangely I don’t wear jewellery everyday as my job is very practical. However, one of my favorite pieces is an eternity band given to me by my boyfriend (furniture designer Gareth Neal). It was antique and gradually the stones have fallen out, some of which I leave, some I replace with random antique stones I find.
LC: Has your ‘spontaneous finding’ led to collecting? If so, what do you collect and why?
RT: I do have an inspiration box with materials and objects of interest. This is where I go when I need to create a new collection. I love to understand the essence of old, found and random materials and objects.
LC: We hear you’re an art lover (with a soft spot for per-Raphaelite imagery)… How does art influence your jewellery?
RT: As an artist and designer living in London I am always looking at events happening in the art world. My favorite place to visit is the National Portrait Gallery to look at the Tudor Portraits. The detail and intricacy of the costumes is breathtaking. I also love the freedom of the work by Cy Twombly. I’m really interested in the spontaneity of his mark-making.
LC: Your work is heavily inspired by the intricate shapes, patterns and textures of the natural world. What sort of natural objects are you drawn to, and how do you translate these into your designs?
RT: I’m always looking for the unconventional beauty in the world. I guess you could say I’m very inspired by the Japanese term wabi sabi: perfectly imperfect, like nature at that stage of its life cycle. This applies to objects I have in my life and the jewellery we make, finding that perfect point in is life cycle and seeing the beauty in the unfinished or at the first signs of decay. I am wide open to the idea of beauty in the world and can find it in a common weed or a rarity in nature that I will most probably see only once, like the way a shell might be attached to a twig.
LC: You have an amazing collection of “found” treasures that you’ve picked up on your travels. When did you start collecting objects, and do you have a favorite treasure?
RT: This was most definitely inspired by the way my family taught me to look and appreciate the nature in the world from a young age. Enjoying the free things in life from a shell on the beach to a flower in the woodland. Another big influence was a curiosity cabinet, made up of big drawers divided into tiny matchbox-sized sections, we used to have in the house when I lived with my inspirational aunt and uncle. They had the most interesting collection of minutiae from small bird skulls to Italian milliflori glass. I was able to add to the collection and have a sense of what was small precious and a ‘curiosity’. So I have always been looking but I like to think my eye may have developed over the years.
To find out more see https://ruthtomlinson.com/