The minute I saw Rebecca Wilson’s playful but grown up jewellery on Instagram, I was hooked.
Her jewellery somehow manages to be fun and elegant. Grown-up, yet childlike, all at the same time. The pastel tones are just gorgeous and the matte quality of the ceramics contrasts beautifully with the silver tones. It’s the perfect melting pot of contradictions!
I just love how she creates her work in her ‘Shedio’, and how she rekindled her love for her craft after having a family by pivoting in her career.
Here’s her story...
How would you describe your jewellery?
A customer once described my jewellery as ‘deliciously irreverent’ and I’ve used that as my tagline ever since. I design my tactile, pastel-hued jewellery to invoke a sense of nostalgia by engaging all of the senses.
I’m inspired by the faded palette of retro candies and lollipops. They seem now to be paler and smaller than in my childhood. Or is it just that the memory of sweet treats is more vivid than the confectioneries ever actually were? The soft matte surfaces of my gumball-like forms are sherbet-y to the touch. And their tactility triggers a child-like impulse to pop them in your mouth.
I like to think my work takes a playful look at the concept of luxury. It uses high end materials such as silver, gemstones and porcelain to interpret frivolous little treats like lollipops and marshmallows. This process of re-materialisation celebrates the little pleasures in life, and elevates the status of humble candies to little wearable art objects.
What materials do you use?
I trained originally as a ceramicist and have come to jewellery later in my career. I cast my forms from confectionery packaging, using a specialist form of porcelain called Parian. Parian is a self-glazing clay body renowned for its strength. Its unique whiteness and translucency means it takes on particularly vivid hues when stained with colour.
I wrap the cast Parian forms in silver bezel settings in a soft matt finish. Then I pair them with glittering candy-like gemstones in a collage of pleasurable extravagance.
It has a high silica content which makes it very strong and durable. It also has a very slight translucency, and this (coupled with it’s whiteness) means it transmits colour beautifully.
Where do you create your jewellery?
I have a very cosy little ‘Shedio’ at the bottom of my garden. It’s a purpose built multi-functional space with a ceramics setup at one end, and jewellery at the other. I have lots of modular storage and a peg board. This means I can re-shuffle the space as my work goes through waves of being clay-heavy or more jewellery focused.
I like working from home because it allows me the flexibility to adapt my working hours around family life. I’m also very lucky to be surrounded by a lovely little community of fellow ‘Shedio’ crafters. There are several on my street!
I thought after years of sharing studios at Coburg House I would be lonely. But I’m very lucky to have landed in a quiet little cul-de-sac populated with other makers and artists.
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
My favourites right now are my Tutti Frutti cocktail rings, with their massive candy-like gemstones. I love their extravagance and decadence. I design most of my work for everyday wear, but these are definitely something for a glitzy night on the town.
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
My oversized Mega Swizzel necklace was a real accomplishment in scaling up, and marked a turning point in my collection. I was invited to participate in an exhibition of BIG necklaces called ‘making a statement’, curated by fellow jewellers Donna Barry and Kaz Robertson.
I had some biggish pieces in my collection already, and toyed with just submitting one of those. But I decided to bite the bullet and push my making skills further with some more sculptural work. It’s a piece I’m really proud of, and it has moved my practice beyond jewellery and into the realm of sculptural wearables.
When they invited me to take part I had some bigg-ish necklaces that I could have submitted. But after a chance encounter with Donna in the supermarket, I decided to bite the bullet and go super-sized.
This piece is so big it’s almost unwearable, and is more of a sculptural statement. But it has spawned a range of slightly smaller but still oversized pieces that are very much designed for wearing.
What’s your design process?
I work in a way that’s much like collage, but with 3D objects. I start with a desk piled with ‘stuff’. Little bits of cast porcelain, coloured sweet wrappers, empty plastic packaging that could be used to make a mould from, gemstones, found objects.
I spend a long time moving things around, adding bits of silver, sketching arrangements as I go. Then ultimately I end up removing bits one by one, until only the very essence of what I’m trying to convey remains. Just the right combination of colours and shapes.
I mostly cast the ceramic components in plaster moulds I’ve made from plastic confectionery packaging (like the plastic inserts from chocolate and biscuit boxes). And have a vast library of moulds, and boxes upon boxes of plastic inserts waiting to be cast.
I record potential outcomes as I go along, continually reshuffling, adding more in. But ultimately then removing most of the clutter, and come back to a minimal, pared back, minimal outcome. Only the most important and harmonious elements remain. I suppose it’s a lot like cooking. If you throw in too many flavours, you drown out those that are most important to the dish.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the products and processes of the confectionery industry. By celebrating humble candies and elevating their status to precious jewellery I aim to celebrate the simple pleasures in life.
I take the full spectrum of sweet treats from fruit chews and lollies, to cakes and pastries piled with cream and icing. They’re distilled down to their simplest forms and matched with a sickly-sweet colour palette.
Pastel tones from the sticky opacity of fruity chews, marshmallows and foams are achieved through a combination of softly coloured porcelain and carefully matched gemstones. Nuggets of cast porcelain and oversized gems are wrapped up in silver bezel settings and arranged in a collaged pick ‘n’ mix of pleasurable extravagance.
What do you love about jewellery?
When I was working in ceramics everyone said, ‘Oh I love it, but I’ve got nowhere to put it.’ What I love about hand-crafted jewellery is that everyone has a place on their body to ‘put it’. Every piece is like a little artwork, that is proudly displayed and seen by many. It’s like art on the go. It isn’t confined to a shelf or a wall, and it makes its way out into the world.
I love that almost everyone owns and wears at least one piece of jewellery.
How did you start creating jewellery?
After I had my first child I became disheartened with the long drawn out process of ceramics, with its long drying times and multiple (and often fatal) breakages. Even small pieces would linger in an unfinished stage for about six weeks, and it always felt unproductive.
I took a term of evening jewellery classes with Jenny Deans and Jo Pudelko to get myself back into a positive frame of mind about making. The first thing I made was a tiny copper monkey. It took 20 minutes, and it was finished! I never used to think that I had the patience needed for making jewellery. But actually, I needed that short period of intense meditative making with (comparatively speaking) quick results.
After a decade working in ceramics and exhibiting internationally, coming back after a year away it felt like a good time to find something new to reinvigorate my creative practise. The fact I could start and finish something in one session made me feel productive again. The focused concentration you need turned out to be the perfect foil to the chaos of everyday family life.
How do you juggle all the different aspects of the job?
I try to separate out my admin days and my studio days. I find that half a day at either job ends up being unproductive. It can be a real problem when I’m sucked into answering emails, or writing applications for the first few hours of the day.
I always end up rushing at the end, and wishing I’d given myself a full day. I struggle to be creative, or to focus properly on making in the evenings. So I tend to make by day and do admin by night where I can. I only have three fairly short days to work each week, so am often catching up late at night!
What are your aspirations for your business?
I have a little card on the wall above my bench. It says ‘I just want to make nice things and get enough sleep’. I think that’s it in a nutshell.
I’ve spent the last 15 years juggling ‘real’ jobs and making part-time on the side. My greatest aspiration right now is to use my creativity to its full potential. And to make things for other people that make them happy.