Today Jewellery : Simple & Sustainable
Meet Séarlait – the creative clever-clogs behind Today, a sustainable jewellery brand characterised by beautifully simple design and a determination to reduce waste. In her recent interview with Harpy Mag, Séarlait talks about the beginnings of her jewellery-making journey, her desire to promote an inclusive artistic community, and tips on how to get started in the creative industry.
Why make jewellery? What was it about this medium that appealed to you?
“I wanted to try something new and decided to learn to make simple silver jewellery for myself (I can’t resist silver rings!). I enrolled on an evening course at Leeds Arts University, where I originally studied Furniture Design. Jewellery making is the opposite of what I was used to – furniture making and sculpture demanded working full time on commercial makes, so being able to create using very little space and equipment was a novelty. With only a handful of simple tools and a space no bigger than a piece of paper, I was able to create things that made me burst with pride and I could wear them every single day!
It was the simplicity of the process that initially appealed to me (egged on by the fact I was planning on going travelling in my converted campervan, and making jewellery on-the-go could be the source of some handy pocket money!) I came to jewellery in a roundabout way but I have discovered that it is the perfect medium to explore the concepts that have always inspired my creative work.
I have always been fascinated by objects and the meaning and importance that people ascribe to them. Objects obviously perform a function, but jewellery is more about aesthetic than practical use. When you wear a piece of jewellery, you are projecting an image of yourself into the world. I genuinely think that jewellery can start conversations, and connect people!”
Your style is distinctive in that all your creations are very simple - did it take you long to find your style? How did you decide on such beautifully minimalist designs? Owning two Today rings of my own, I’m probably biased!
“It’s always really special to know that other people get as much pleasure from wearing my designs as I do, and that we’re connected through a shared appreciation of simplicity.
When deciding upon my designs I ask myself: ‘Would I wear this everyday?’ First and foremost, I want to create designs that can be worn and treasured forever and I think that timeless style is synonymous with simple design and quality material.
In all of my creative work, I have tried to strip back extraneous detail. I am drawn to geometric shapes, circles, and lines. For me, unaffected and simple design has more of a universal appeal than anything fussy. I think that I already knew the kind of pieces I should make before I began. It was like the life-long silver jewellery admirer in me had been taking notes on what I would make given the chance.”
It is obvious that sustainability is very important to you and is embedded in your business - why?
“As a designer/maker I’m always torn between the need to make (making is my language!) and a loathing of excess. There’s almost a feeling of guilt that by making jewellery I’m adding to the already overwhelming amount of ‘stuff’ in the world. It’s really important to me to make sure that I’m offering people something that they can and will want to keep forever.
I think we are all becoming increasingly aware of how mindless consumerism damages the environment and also how destabilising it can be for us personally when our self-worth is so often tied up with buying things – either as distraction or validation. It is the responsibility of every business to reinforce the impact of impulsive spending and offer quality products to counteract binge buying. I think we should all aim to return to a time when we genuinely treasure our belongings.”
You mention on your website that you have 'always loved thinking about things, how they’re made, and how we connect with them'. Can you expand on this? Why do you think 'things' are so important to us? What meaning do you think we may invest in them and do we perhaps crave 'things' and objects too much?
“Gosh this is quite a tricky thing to articulate.
I have always been really intrigued by how things are made. I remember traveling on the bus to school as a little kid and trying to imagine how all the fixtures and fittings would have been made. Why did the seat handles have dimples? What order would things have needed to be assembled in? I would much rather spend the journey thinking than chatting!
This curiosity never really left me and following a creative path seemed the only natural choice for me as I grew older. Through my studies in furniture making I realised that I was projecting my desire to connect with people onto the things I was creating.
We all want to connect with people, it’s one of our most basic human desires and we connect with others through the things we surround ourselves with – they are the physical manifestation of what we like, what we value and who we are. Objects can help us feel like we belong, but I think that we do crave things too much. Perhaps our increasing technological advancement and digital presence has meant that we are losing genuine emotional connection and are trying to replace that with more stuff. I think that we should be trying to return to a time of ‘less’ and not ‘more’.”
Tell us more about your time in the van! What motivated you to travel and make jewellery at the same time? What difficulties did you encounter but also, what joys?
“Oh, my beloved van. I’d always wanted to build a campervan but I’ve only JUST realised that maybe it came from all that time spent on the school bus figuring out how things go together!
When I decided to go travelling I was working full time in an amazing creative job but craving a change. I have found that I need to change things up every now and again for my sanity! At the same time I had discovered my love of jewellery making and realised that the table in the van was pretty much all the space I needed to work from. It was a cliche ‘stars align’ situation where the path opened up for me to do something both scary and exciting, so I sold the dream to my boyfriend and away we went!
It was the best but most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It was obviously amazing seeing new places, but having absolutely no plan is both liberating and terrifying! There were also a ridiculous amount of breakdowns, and navigating foreign post offices to send orders is tricky when you have no language skills whatsoever! Despite being on the road constantly, there was actually very little time to make jewellery, but I made enough to get by and it was such a valuable experience, both personally and professionally.
Now that I’m doing more events and workshops I’ve realised that a car will make much more sense, so sadly I’m going to be selling the van. But I’m already looking forward to converting another in the future!”
What would be your top tip to someone that wants to start their own creative business?
“Do what makes you happy.
Follow the breadcrumbs to what sets you alight inside. Only you know what is right for you and it might not look right to someone else. Get to know yourself and keep asking ‘why’. Don’t be afraid to change path if you need to.”
What can you tell us about your workshops - how can people get involved and why do you enjoy them/think they are a positive thing to do?
“Oh my god, I cannot describe how much I love hosting my workshops. We have so much fun! I want to demystify silversmithing and show people that with some basic tools and a little guidance they can make something they never thought they could, that they can wear with pride.
The workshops are aimed at complete novices and everyone makes the same thing (the Dot Ring, pictured below) to make the experience stress-free. They’re super informal, fun and friendly and feedback so far is that people leave feeling elated, amazed and proud of themselves, which is the ultimate goal for me.
I’m by no means a jewellery making expert - in fact I have a DIY approach that I’m sure traditionally trained jewellers would be horrified by, but I want to encourage people to give making a go, free from pressure of doing it the ‘right’ way.
Also, it’s just really bloody lovely to sit around a table with people in real life and have a laugh, and I would urge anyone who even remotely feels compelled to join to DO IT. I promise it’s not scary, and if all else fails, there’s cake.”
Is there anything distinctive about the creative scene in Leeds and the surrounding area?
“The great thing about Leeds is that it’s big enough to have loads of creative things happening to get involved with, but small enough that there is still a really supportive creative community.
There’s a strong independent culture in the City and its surrounding areas, and a real collaborative attitude to championing creativity and enriching community.”
Lastly, do you have any exciting projects or collaborations in the pipeline?
“I’m in the very early stages of developing a collaborative workshop with Marrianne from Frances & Rose who is a crazy talented florist and stylist who I first met 10 years ago at Leeds Arts University. It’s quite surreal to both be business owners, but I am really excited to see what we can do together.
Myself and Katie Gillies (another Leeds Arts University graduate actually!) have been working on a collaborative necklace design for a while now; putting her gorgeous jesmonite off-cuts to use, but we’ve both been swept away by our own workshops at the minute. Hopefully we’ll make it happen soon!”
If you want to find out more about Today, or fancy nabbing some of this beautiful jewellery for yourself, then check out the website: https://www.madebytoday.com/
Images by Séarlait and Laura Adams.