Magnolia Restrepo not only has an amazing name, she also has the most amazing story (and makes the most glorious jewellery).
I met Magnolia at Art & in York, where I was dazzled by her fabulous jewellery – in particular her peppercorn rings.
The detail in her jewellery definitely stands out from the crowd, and when you find out her story, you can understand why: brought up in Colombia, moved to England for love (via Peru) and she learned to make jewellery after getting involved in the family business in Colombia, where people are mostly self taught.
Find out how she believes in self-care to perform at her best and how she’s found that countries with monarchies have a tradition in fine jewellery….
How would you describe your jewellery?
Intricate, with a delicate and naturalistic feeling.
What materials do you use?
I use gold, silver, precious and semi-precious gemstones.
Where do you create your jewellery?
I have a workshop which I share with another fellow jeweller and an upholsterer in Far Headingley, Leeds. The workshop is a characterful old stone building that used to be a small school back in the 1800’s. It’s beautiful! But very cold in winter.
How did you start creating jewellery?
My oldest brother was a genius. He learned to make jewellery by himself, and quickly realised that he had a lot of potential labour available in his six brothers and sisters, so he started to teach us. I was 13 when I started to make pieces with silver wire.
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
I find it difficult to choose, I like to think all my collections are constantly evolving, and every piece is my favourite until I start a new one.
You have the most gorgeous and memorable name! Where does it originate from?
Thank you! My parents are nature lovers and they love Magnolia trees with their amazing variety of flowers, fragrance and wood. Colombia is the second most diverse country in the world, after China, in the number of species of Magnolia trees. However, this isn’t well known and many are in danger of extinction as the forests are lost.
You learned to make jewellery in Colombia, that sounds amazing! Was it very different from how jewellers work over here in England?
It is different. In Colombia the jewellery is made in a more artisanal way. When I started there were no jewellery schools, so everyone learned through making and from other jewellers. Here in the UK you have a very strong and long history of fine jewellery making, I think that’s the case of most of the countries that have had a monarchy anyway.
How did you end up in Yorkshire?
The classic story of falling in love with a foreigner, Oliver and I met in Peru in Spanish, and I ended up speaking English in Yorkshire.
Would you ever go back to live in Colombia?
Who knows! Wherever life gives me I will be there. I’m open to opportunities and to follow the flow of what the circumstances are showing me.
What’s your work inspired by?
Definitely nature. I particularly like its textures and colours. I did a degree in ecology and the most important thing I learnt was to observe carefully and to be patient.
Who else inspires you?
The people that surround me. To me there’s nothing more pleasing than to get engaged in a conversation with someone, where the conversation flows and together we discover the meaning of our emotions and our circumstances. This stimulates my energy levels and in that moment creativity just comes naturally.
You use the most beautiful gemstones in your work! How do you choose them?
I’m really not sure. If I like the shape, the colour and I can afford it, I get it.
Do you come from a creative family?
I come from a philosophical, intellectual, hippy, spiritual and workaholic family.
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
I don’t have the tendency to be proud about things. If I keep learning, adapting, transforming and changing until the end of my story, I will be satisfied.
What’s your favourite part of being a Jewellery Designer?
I love fire, I could spend my whole life fusing and soldering pieces of silver and gold.
What’s your proudest moment of being a Jewellery Designer?
Every single time that someone buys my work and wears it.
Do you work directly with customers? Or sell your work to galleries?
I do both but I love to work directly with customers.
What’s your design process?
My approach is very simple: thinking + raw materials + bench = a unique and attractive piece.
How important is jewellery design to you?
I’m not very good at drawing, so usually if I have an idea I go straight into my raw materials and make it.
What do you love about jewellery?
What I love most is the ability to be transformed and adapted that gold and silver have, as well as the incredible longevity of some gems. You could make something today that will last as many years as the quality will permit. But equally, people’s tastes are constantly changing, and the same materials are open to being transformed anew again and again. And sometimes, it can be simply that the piece just needs a proper clean to make all the difference!
Where do you feel most inspired?
At the bench, but I constantly need contact with nature and a good chat with my beloved friends.
How do you juggle all the different aspects of the job?
Well, as a microbusiness you just know that you need to be multifaceted, so I try to adapt and organise myself according to where it’s needed. I’ve discovered I’m more efficient when I’ve done exercise and meditation, eaten well and am properly rested, so I always make sure that those needs are included in part of my everyday life. I usually start my routine early, before six in the morning, in order to be at the bench by half-past-eight.
A jeweller has to be very multi-skilled – i.e. web designer, photographer, tea maker etc! How do you find that?
Most of the time I find that frustrating. I feel most efficient at the bench, but the rest can be a challenge. I’ve learned to take all my photos and edit them too, but it takes aaaaages. Well everything that I do with a computer takes ages!.
What are your aspirations for your business?