Radio 4 Journalist Judi Herman is running a series ‘Commissioning Affordable Jewellery’, focusing on alternative materials. She interviewed myself and my client Toby Austin, who commissioned a ring for his girlfriend’s birthday. The ring includes paper which is significant to them both and hearing them talking about it is really touching.
Transcript of the radio program below:
'Commissioning Affordable Jewellery'
Transcript of ‘Woman's Hour’ interview – Aired on Wednesday 10 July 2013
Toby Austin and Clara Breen talk to Judi Herman about creating commissioned jewellery
Jenni Murray: The idea of commissioning a piece of jewellery sounds like a costly luxury – but it needn’t be, if what is precious to you is not gold and silver and gems but perhaps the meaning behind the piece. In the next in the series, Toby Austin and designer Clara Breen tell Judi Herman about their collaboration: It was a personal gift for Toby's partner Susanne, a ring for her 30th birthday.
Toby: 'I thought something rather more special than an off the shelf gift was in order, so the idea came to commission something – I wasn't exactly sure what, though…
Judi: What was it about Clara's work that made you choose her?
Toby: The rings that I saw, really caught my attention- They were full of vivid colours, and I wanted to know a little bit more about them. It was then that Clara started to explain the process behind them, particularly this idea of capturing some memories – This really resonated with me.
Clara: I'm a bit of a hoarder, and I seem to gather tickets, receipts, photographs, leaflets, especially on travels - to me they are like geological strata that signify layers of memory. Jewellery is often used in that way anyway, with precious metals, but by using the paper itself I'm saying : actually this material is precious, because is signifies those memories.
Judi: Then you had to think of a way of actually making the paper more permanent?
Clara: Yes, I combine fine silver, which is pure silver, and very soft, and it is sort of enclosing the paper, like an enlarged rivet – In that way, it becomes quite strong, in fact the metal and the paper support each other. With the pressure of the silver around it, the paper almost becomes like wood again, I suppose.
Judi: Explain to me how the commissioning process works.
Clara: The paper has to come from the client, and it's quite important that they source suitable things that are significant to them. In Toby's case, we had the coloured card that he printed the scans of photographs and tickets onto.
Judi: So, Toby, you've brought some of the card in, it isn't the original paper in this particular case, is it? There are probably good reasons – we've got Susanne's degree certificate here; which I think she wouldn't want to be cut up.
Toby: That was one idea which Clara suggested, which I didn't think was going to go down too well with her, and also I wanted to make sure that the ring was of suitable colours, to match a few other things that I've given her in the past- her favourite colours if you will.
Judi: Which are?
Toby: Turquoise, mainly, but also some creams and light greens
Judi: So that's why so many of these documents are printed onto different card with those colours?
Toby: Exactly. So I then set about trying to find documents that would encapsulate the first 30 years of her life.
Clara: You know, I have to sit and cut all these documents, with my little scalpel knife, and I sort of enter life stories, and I find that fascinating.
Judi: Here it is, It's just a round ring, with a silver rim, and it's just lines and lines of colour, so we don't know what documents are in there – we just know how pretty the colours are, obviously the turquoises and the greens and so forth. We see the stripes, but it's a secret, isn't it? A secret between the two of you- it's very romantic!
Toby: That's partly what attracted me to it – I liked the idea of having something extremely personal, that wasn't outlandish or showy, something that we could share the secret behind, without anyone else knowing.
Clara: Because it's squashed so tightly, you do need 20 to 30 layers of that thick card
Judi: You can have 20 or 30 memories in this tiny little ring?
Clara: Yes, exactly.
Judi: Let's have a quick look at what would have been real plane tickets, once upon a time, wouldn't it? But it's just a computer print out – but again you printed it onto this nice card.
Toby: We had a wonderful holiday together a couple of years ago to South Africa, which was very special for both of us, so I decided to include the ticket from this trip.
Judi: I'm not at all surprised to see some Olympic tickets there, and then there's those wild and wacky friend's photographs, with everybody making faces- in other words you got all your mates in there aswell?
Toby: Exactly. I wanted to make sure everyone who was special to Suzy was included in some way. We included images of her parents and late grand-parents, even a couple of the old family dogs aswell.
Judi: I just love the fact that you've got her music certificate – and it's grade 8 piano, so she's quite a musician then?
Toby: Yes, actually that's very prescient, because her birthday present to herself was a new piano!
Judi: I'm now in South London, in the home that Toby and Suzanne share. What was it like, when you actually received the ring?
Suzanne: When I first opened my birthday present, I thought: wow, this is such a beautiful ring! It fits perfectly, it's all of the colours that I love - how thoughtful, and pretty. But only afterwards did I realise, that next to the box with the ring, was also a big envelope, and that's when Toby explained to me that the ring was very special and it contained a lot of secret memories- happy memories, condensed into the ring, which was just such a wonderful surprise. I was so, so touched, it was just absolutely beautiful. Then I opened the envelope, and saw all these wonderful photos of things that meant so much to me, of very happy times. I was absolutely delighted – It was such a thoughtful and romantic thing to do.
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