Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

1. You seem to have a variety of styles in your designs - some quirky, some classic - how do you describe your own work?

I would describe my handmade jewellery as “quirky, wearable art”. I suppose my style could be described as unconventional - I like to take ordinary, everyday things and render them beautiful in metal form - very often with a sprinkle of good humour.

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

2. Your designs often feature items from everyday life - what are your main sources of inspiration as a jewellery designer?

I find inspiration all around me - beauty is everywhere if we take a closer look. Design inspiration can also come when I least expect it - for example I was looking at a clothes peg on the line one day and admiring its symmetrical form. I thought ‘Why not turn that into a piece of jewellery?’ and thus my Fine Peg Pendant (above) was born. My work also draws on personal experience, on human relationships and on my thoughts on what makes people happy.

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

3. What is the process involved in your work?

When I decide on a new design, I initially sketch out a few different variations of how the piece could be made. If it’s a three dimensional piece such as my Buckets of Love pendant (above), I will carefully hand carve the piece from a block of jewellers’ wax and then cast it in silver or gold. Other pieces are made by piercing a design out of a piece of sheet metal and assembling the different parts together. Sometimes jewellery designers are like engineers - there is a lot of mathematical variables and figuring out to be done before the final design is executed.

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

4. What have been the most positive turning points for your career so far?

Being asked to design a nautical themed wedding ring for a US celebrity and being featured here on the Design Ireland website.

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

5. What do you find most challenging about running a small creative business?

I find organising my time a big challenge as, when you work for yourself, you have a lot of hats to wear. Although I’d prefer to spend most of my time designing, I’m constantly pulled in different directions to handle marketing or finance for example, so time-management is vital.

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

6. Do you have a mentor?

I participated in the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s Building a Craft and Design Enterprise (BCDE) training programme which involved being mentored in various areas such as business, branding, finance, sales and web design. The BCDE course was invaluable. The course trainers being experts in their fields imparted a wealth of knowledge and advice which really gave me a fresh approach to running my business. As a sole trader sometimes you can't see the wood from the trees in certain areas of your business so having a mentor on board challenges you to look at your overall business from a different perspective and learn from your mistakes.

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

7. What is your favourite piece of work at the moment?

My Full Moon Rising Pendant (above). This piece was inspired by a challenging mountain climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro a few years ago. I wear it daily as my motivation to keep going and never give up.

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

8. What do you love about doing what you do?

Creating jewellery has a touch of magic to it. The process of bringing a design to life that only ever existed in your imagination is a very rewarding one. And it’s even more rewarding when someone buys a piece you’ve made by hand.

Whilst choosing this career path has been very challenging at times, and has brought plenty of lows as well as highs, the passion to create is the driving force and is a very powerful one at that.

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

9. Are there any other people in your design field (or otherwise) that you particularly admire?

I am in awe of goldsmith Nigel O'Reilly work. His technical precision coupled with master craftsmanship results in works of art that manage to bring the beauty of a natural gemstone to its optimum level.

Photo of Irish Jewellery: 10 questions with designer Yvonne Kelly

10. If budget and time were no obstacle, what would you create?

I’d create a statement necklace with a Paraíba tourmaline - a rare and very expensive gemstone originating in Brazil with a stunning blueish green colour. And I’d then guard it very, very carefully indeed!