Jewellery. It’s gotta look good. We all know that. But what about the way it feels? Is that important to you?
For Lauren Taylor, it’s one of the most important things – and I wish you could feel her beautiful creations through the screen, because they are so lovely and soft!
Her pieces are all made by cotton, and inspired by Manchester’s roots in the industrial revolution. But they are also beautiful statement pieces in their own right.
Find out why Namibia is so important to her and how she came to incorporate handspinning into her work…
We need to get to know you! What’s your favourite pancake topping?
My favourite pancake topping is definitely the classic, lemon and sugar. No chocolate spread for me, thanks!
How would you describe your jewellery?
‘Everyday contemporary jewellery that makes you smile.’
Inspired by Manchester’s roots in the industrial revolution, I handspin cotton thread into rope, embedding time and skill into the very fibres of my jewellery. Believing that the ordinary and the humble should be celebrated, I challenge preconceptions of luxury.
Combining unconventional jewellery materials with traditional techniques to produce bold, statement pieces, with a strong contemporary feel.
Your jewellery is so lovely and tactile, how important is this to you?
It’s very important to me that folks pick up, feel (squeeze!) and try on my jewellery to appreciate its tactile qualities. Due to their size and the fact they are rope, people often think they are going to be heavy and rough to touch, but actually they are quite the opposite!
The cotton I use is mercerised, which increases its durability. But it also gives my finished pieces a lovely silky sheen, making the rich colours really pop!
What materials do you use?
Celebrating humble materials is something I feel passionately about. I believe non-traditional jewellery materials can be made precious when combined with a craft person’s skill and creative mindset.
My jewellery is made from 100% cotton, ethically sourced in the North West. Every piece of rope starts life as a ball of yarn, each strand of yarn is measured by hand and twisted into rope by me.
I buy aluminium tube from a local builders merchant. Which I then measure, pierce, file and polish by hand. The material combination, results in a collection of lightweight, tactile, statement pieces.
Where do you create your jewellery?
I make all my jewellery in my space at Marketplace Studios in Stockport (South Manchester) where I’ve been for the last 4 years. We’re supported by Manchester Metropolitan University and all licensees are Alumni from Manchester School of Art. I share my studio with milliner (and friend!) Emma Fozard, who makes fantastic hats and headpieces made from fabric and wood veneer.
There are so many benefits from sharing space and working within a community of artists and makers; having others to talk about ideas with and being able to share knowledge and experiences with is so valuable.
What’s your favourite country to visit and why?
One of my favourite places to visit is Namibia in South West Africa – I have family who live there, so it’s like a home away from home. The landscape, the food and the way of life is just so different to the hilly, leafy Cheshire countryside I’m used to.
I find lots of inspiration in the bold and colourful Namibian traditional dress and the tribal adornments worn by both men and women. I find it really fascinating and inspiring the way colour, pattern and adornments are traditionally used as a status symbol within these tribes and how they are impacting contemporary fashion and trends today.
Where did you learn how to create jewellery?
Following a jewellery summer school at the Goldsmiths Centre, I unearthed a passion for contemporary craft and handmade jewellery, and after graduating from Manchester School of Art in Three Dimensional Design, I continued my studies there, and completed a Jewellery Masters Degree in Design: Jewellery in 2015.
During this time, my main making was based in the metal workshop, where I created pieces inspired by every day, functional objects, celebrating the ordinary. I made rope rather than using chain, to help challenge the idea of conventional, luxury jewellery.
It was while I was on Hothouse with the Crafts Council in 2016, that I discovered the hand spun rope was integral to my design work and linked to my heritage in Manchester (Cottonopolis!). It gradually grew and grew until it became the star of the show! I am currently working on something new, which marries metal and cotton harmoniously – watch this space!
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
My favourite piece in my current collection is my biggest and most elaborate necklace; the 8 Strand Plait. It has a real feeling of extravagance and sits on the neckline almost collar-like. I love how such a bold, statement piece can be so wearable due to the materials I choose to work with – I wear mine almost every day!
What’s your favourite part of being a Jewellery Designer?
Creative freedom, lovely customers, being part of a wonderful, supportive and sharing community…there are so many reasons that I do what I do.
The idea that something I design and make can make a person feel fabulous, making them stand a little taller and perhaps be something they bring out to wear on special occasions is just so rewarding.
What’s your proudest moment of being a Jewellery Designer?
Life is so busy and time flies; my diary is full and my to do list is ever growing, making it very easy to let momentous occasions and achievements pass you by without real reflection.
There have been many occasions where I have had to literally stop, pinch myself and remind myself of my triumphs. From being selected to be part of Hothouse, to showing my jewellery at prestigious contemporary craft fairs both nationally and internationally, to facilitating workshops for various companies, to being invited to talk to local school and college students about my creative journey – I’m proud of it all!
What’s your design process?
It usually starts with a vague idea in my head, followed by ‘magpie-ing’ my way around day to day life; taking snaps of things that I like, noticing how textiles hang and drape. I especially love seeing rope in industry, being the useful and practical tool that it is.
Then I hit the studio and work out ideas in wool before let loose on lovely cotton. I don’t have a conventional sketchbook, but I do scribble down ideas and drawings in my notebook or diary so I don’t forget them.
I love when people spot and share photos they think I would appreciate – I use Pinterest to gather images together in groups until I start to see patterns forming. From colour, to scale, to composition, it’s like piecing together a wonderfully elaborate jigsaw!
What do you love about jewellery?
Jewellery is so much more than simply decoration, it is the perfect portable medium for self-expression; it is the carrier of art, our bodies being the perfect vehicle to expose the work to others.
It has the unique ability to speak on behalf of the jeweller and the wearer. Wearing a piece of contemporary jewellery can spark attention, conversation and debate. It’s important for me that my jewellery can be enjoyed on many levels; from people who are concerned about the sourcing of materials, to others who have personal health issues (my jewellery is hypoallergenic and lightweight), to those that simply love the look of it.
I design my jewellery to be worn with unconcealed wonder, being aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and engaging. As well as making jewellery myself, I am also a collector and am always on the search for something different to add to my jewellery drawer – I outgrew the box!
What are your aspirations for your business?
I’m still at the early stages of my jewellery journey, and I have another (full time!) job which supports my business. At times balancing the two can be quite a challenge, especially during the busy Autumn/Winter show period.
I take holidays from my day job to do exhibitions and to spend time in my studio, it certainly isn’t an easy vocation! I look forward to the day when I can drop a day or two, or (dare I say it) take the plunge and make the dream a reality, devoting all my time to my jewellery. One day!
Who’s the most important person in your life and why?
Similar to other makers, I have a superbly splendid team of helpers who surround me and my creative business. From my Mum (who is my best promoter), to Dad (who is excellent at directing me from ‘eager beaver creative’ to practical entrepreneur), to my partner, Si (who is so patient with me while I chase my jewellery dream), to lovely friends (who don’t hesitate when I ask for help to make jewellery stands, or to be a model for my photoshoots, or to come to me for a commission!)
I never take all the help I get for granted and I truly do appreciate how lucky I am to have the support I do… they’re all absolutely wonderful!
Where do you feel most inspired?
Old mills and factories, textile trade machinery, equipment that does its job perfectly and precisely. One of my favourite places is Quarry Bank Mill, a beautiful National Trust property right near where I live.
The industrial building, the machinery, the pure heritage of the place makes for so much ropespiration! I’m desperate to get my hands on some cotton spun at this mill and I would absolutely love to collaborate and create a collection for them one day.