Creating a New Collection: The work of Robin Wells.
CREATING A NEW COLLECTION……a conversation with designer-maker Robin Wells into what inspired her current collection.
As a jeweller and avid collector of contemporary jewellery, I am always fascinated by the process different artists adopt when they embark on creating a new body of work. In what will become an ongoing feature at EA, we commence our first interview with one of the original artists to belong to the EA collective, Robin Wells.
Robin is one of Australia’s leading contemporary jewellers. Based in Perth, Western Australia, she has been creating her own unique brand of jewels for over 25 years.
Robin’s newest body of work ‘State of the Landscape’ continues to explore our impact on the natural environment. Here we delve briefly into the process that influences and inspires a new collection.
EA. Your work is heavily influenced by the natural world. When embarking on designing for a new collection, do you undertake research field trips or is it more an organic process drawn from memories?
RW. The inspiration is heavily bound with the current daily experience. Working in my studio I’m constantly hearing and seeing the endangered black cockatoos fly overhead. It’s a daily reminder that they’re searching for a dwindling food source as more land is cleared at the fringes of this city. When opportunity arises to head out to the bush, I’m photographing and picking up bits and pieces to surround myself with when I’m back in the studio.
EA. How do you arrive at a new theme?
RW. It’s a weird thing, coming up with a new theme. It somehow just arrives in my head. With the newest collection I just felt compelled to make jewellery featuring these quirky magnificent black cockatoos. They worked their way in to my pieces.
I seem to always be thinking of the next thing I’d like to create. Wondering about the sort of person that might wear the jewellery that I want to make. When I’m busy making, I’ll find that something else lying on my bench will catch my eye and spark a new idea. I get distracted very easily! A field trip is always great if I’m looking for inspiration too.
EA. Do you rely on hand drawn sketches or are you using CAD programs?
RW. I always have my visual diary at hand and am constantly drawing. My work is organic in nature without precision and my drawings are rough sketches to get an idea down.
I create templates to emboss the markings on metal and these are firstly hand drawn then fleshed out in Adobe Illustrator.
EA. Many jewellers rely on the process of creating samples from non-precious metals to refine their designs. Is this something you do?
RW. No, I like to make directly with the metal and sometimes it changes and evolves as I make. I do make master samples to create a mold so I can cast multiples. I don’t usually cast an entire piece but will use repeated cast elements within the piece.
EA. The oxidisation of silver features strongly in your work, what draws you to this particular finish?
RW. I don’t really like polished metal surfaces and just love the matte black metal effect of heavily oxidised silver. I’m a big fan of antique Jet jewellery, so maybe that’s part of the attraction also. I love the subtlety of the embossing when the surface is oxidised and it gives the impression of a fossilised record.
EA. Do you ever feel that you need to follow trends when creating a collection?
RW. I’m not good at following trends! I hope the sort of work that I create appeals to people that don’t like to follow trends either.
Trends come and go and I’d like to think that these pieces will become collectable and family heirlooms like the antique Jet jewellery I love.
EA. What was the biggest risk you ever took with a design?
RW. Usually the risk taking will be when I’m making pieces for an exhibition, making something that I want to create that I know is a bit over the top and probably won’t sell, but feel compelled to make it anyway.
EA. What is your favourite piece in this collection?
RW. The long pendant of the embossed cockatoo with the branch coming out of one of it’s wings.
EA. Do you create a new collection annually or when you feel it is ‘time’?
RW. I think I get bored quite easily and like to keep moving on with new designs. There might be three or four new collections of work a year. They are generally continuations of each other though and thematically similar or use a common thread of imagery or component. I like to go back and revisit older collections also as sometimes they weren’t developed as fully as I would have liked.
EA. How do you judge if a collection has been successful?
RW. Ultimately if it sells well and has a great response from people. Things are sometimes not as cut and dried as that though. A collection may be very successful in one gallery or location, but not in another venue.
I know myself if I’m deeply satisfied with a body of work, so for me that is also a measure of it’s success.