The Passionate Collector

An Interview with Clare Hillerby

I think I have more than my fair share of ‘collecting’ genes in my DNA, I love calligraphy, and I have a large collection of vintage stamps and postcards from my youth.  These items are like a time capsule that transports you back into yesteryear where people relied on the written word and the postal service to communicate, they had beautiful penmanship and maps were hand drawn with pen and ink; a GPS was not even on the horizon!

I discovered Clare Hillerby’s work a couple of years ago and was in awe of how she captured many of my favourite things and transformed them into highly desirable contemporary jewellery. Clare has a passion for ephemera; she collects old papers, handwritten pieces and extracts from postcards, stamps, postal markings and old maps.

Clare says of her work: “handwriting forms the starting point for my work. Old papers featuring handwritten messages by unknown characters are sourced, interesting sections are extracted; messages become ambiguous, they are then combined with new metalwork, and contemporary stories emerge.

Silver is often oxidised for a depth of colour and to allow papers to become the highlight. Details of yellow gold tube riveting are used to construct parts of the work to reference an industrial landscape; our new history being created daily. Semi-precious beads are added for texture and colour.”

Interview with Clare:

Charmaine: What led you to jewellery design?

Clare: When I started studying I first specialised in fashion. Then I noticed in my fashion designs that I was more interested in the details so I decided to change direction, applying to Edinburgh College of Art; the jewellery course was so well respected and such great people were graduating from there. I appreciated the way you design in fashion though, I think I took that with me into jewellery, and I love the creative process of  jewellery, from the designing through to making and selling.

Charmaine: Tell us about your passion for postcards and stamps from yesteryear…

Clare: I’m inspired by the everyday, people, the city – perhaps from coming from a small compact town to Edinburgh.  The city is full of layers of history merging into the way we use it today, narrow closes and roads beneath roads, I have been really inspired by my time living here.

The postcards I use have been sourced from old bookshops in Edinburgh, while I was studying I collecting them for inspiration.  The postcards weren’t really valued or appreciated at that time, which is what I liked, people’s lives intrigued me; little pockets of stories from decades ago, and you can’t help but imagine the lives the writers of the postcards had and that of their intended recipients.

Gradually the postcards became part of my work. I see them as a precious material, more than the silver in some ways as they are so unique. I discovered a shop to buy great postcards which also sold stamps so I gravitated to other forms of ephemera to make some interesting contrasts, I like variety (I get bored very easily!)

Charmaine: How do you source your materials what aesthetic do you look for?

Clare: People used to write so well, there’s a certain time in the mid-20th century were people perhaps stopped taking so much care, condensing their narrative to ‘having a great time/weather is good’ kind of a postcard, I suppose the more ways to communicate and the busier we get, the more watered down they each become.

I like the older postcards, where people were more likely to take their time using real ink pens and it was a treat to buy, send and receive a postcard.

Having said that, back then, there were more mail deliveries throughout the day, you do find postcards with a quick one liner ‘meet you at 6’.  We do the same now electronically –with our mobiles.

I’ve become more particular with the ephemera I choose over time, searching for interesting, characterful handwriting. The writing has to be quite compact to get a lot into the ovals I cut out for the jewellery; each has to say something about the writer. They always have to feel nice too, although they are trapped between silver and perspex for practical reasons, the feel of the paper is just something special I get to enjoy!

Charmaine: Do you share your work space? How would you describe it?

Clare: I have a studio on my own in a building full of artists and makers. So it’s a completely dedicated studio space to make and design and think. One side of the studio is making and the other is the thinking side with a wall full of pinned ephemera (Charmaine: see image below this wall is like a work of art). It’s a very practical space, brick and concrete which only opens to the public once a year. I’m lucky to have a window which gets lots of sun and a view of roof tops with a million chimneys and a sky that constantly changes; it’s good to look at clouds when you’re trying to think!

Charmaine:  I can see where you got your inspiration for the silver lining and rain cloud earrings (see image right and  below)!

Charmaine: What tips would you give on how to wear jewellery?

Clare: I like to see people wear my work quite casually and regularly, rather than just for special occasions, and mixing things their own way. Although I do make bracelets to wear with particular earrings for example I think you can mix anything together to your own preferences, postcard necklace with stamp earrings for example work really well. I like the way people pair them up, it’s often in a different way than I imagined. People gravitate to certain materials too, (I sold to a geographer recently who wanted mostly maps!).

Charmaine: If you had an opportunity to meet anyone who would it be and why?

Clare: There are so many well-known and interesting famous people to choose from but I would really prefer to visit a regular someone in a time and place very different to what I take for granted, seeing how they live and work, it would be far more interesting.

Some new pieces from Clare:

In store we have some new pieces by Clare, including several charming cufflinks featuring maps and stamps.  In addition, we are stocking some new pieces with the option of customising her necklaces and a bracelet with your choice of semi-precious beads (just check out the options tab under each item).

Image Above L to R:  Line of Colour Necklace in Labradorite, Postcard and Oval Earrings, Bangle Wound Quiet.

Image Below L to R: Stamp Earrings, Silver Lining Earrings, Clare’s creative visual board from her Studio, Viewfinder Brooch & Circles Bracelet.

Shauna Mayben @ Lobo Luxe

The idea behind my store was to present a range of collections that are unique and not easily accessible to women who are time poor or would need to travel great distances, to find that special something.

Looking through the store I hope you have noticed there is a diversity of design, every designer/jeweller has a different approach to creating pieces to adorn the body.

Adding to the diversity of the store, and the list of great Australian designers at Lobo Luxe, is collection of works by Shauna Mayben.   Shauna’s work has a strong narrative behind each piece and she believes that jewellery is more than just a ‘bauble to adorn’.

Shauna tells her story through her pieces: whether it be the impact of money on our lives in the “Money Makes the World Go Round” range; the sentimental connection we have to photographs – in her “Antique Photo” range; the romance in “He Whispered Sweet Nothings in Her Ears” earrings; or in her signature Locket pendants – with a hidden gemstone, these pieces further highlight her skill and craftsmanship, Shauna refers to them as “precious vessels for treasures to reside in”, a contemporary twist on lockets from yesteryear.

Not only is her work beautifully made but it also has a strong sustainable element, and this was recently recognised when she received the Tasmanian Government’s Bricolage Design Prize, for environmentally sustainable products.

Shauna prides herself in using 100% recycled silver, and upcycling industrial off cuts, rescuing abandoned photographs, diverting materials from landfill and making wearable pieces that don’t cost the earth.

I hope you enjoy Shauna’s collection and maybe you will add your story to one of her pieces by making it your own….please see her range at Lobo Luxe