Tag Archive | plants

Through the Loupe with…Karen Elizabeth Donovan

For March’s edition of “through the Loupe”  we’re joined by Karen Donovan, award-winning jeweller we discovered through New Designers and are so delighted to be able to showcase Karen’s beautiful and unusual jewellery.  With stunning detail Karen has recently created some jewellery with fantastic volume and a great use of colour, we’re really excited to see what else the future holds for this talented lady and hope you will follow her journey with us!

 

 

Tell us a bit about the jewellery you design:

 

I try to design jewellery that speaks to my experiences in life.  I moved to Scotland to do my postgraduate degree because I fell in love with Britain when I was younger.  My experiences here, including the people, the landscape and my interactions with the history formed a conversation that I could answer with my jewellery.  I have found the plants of Scotland to be completely different to those at home, and incredibly potent to the people here.  Once I had focused on these plants, namely Heather, the jewellery became easier to design.  I love stories, so when trying to find forms for my jewellery to take I looked into the social history of plants and the history of Britain’s jewels.  I think that stories are universally connecting – everyone loves a story.

  
[That’s really interesting because one of the reasons I love this necklace, above, is that it reminds me of the story of sleeping beauty and the forest that sprang up around her whilst she slept, I can just imagine the Prince cutting through the tangle of interwoven foliage when I look at it! Lovely]
 
How did you get into jewellery designing?
I took a class. I had been collecting earrings for ages, so when I saw a class on offer over the summer at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, I decided to try making jewellery, and it stuck.
 
Have you found it difficult to start your own business?  Was there anywhere you went for help?
I have thankfully found excellent guidance through the University of Edinburgh’s Launch.ed programme.  I work with a business advisor who finds excellent opportunities for me and I can ask anything pertaining to my business. I have also found some great opportunities and workshops with Creative Scotland and the Cultural Enterprise Office.
 
Do you make your own jewellery?
I make all of my designs by hand. I am currently an Artist in Residence at Edinburgh College of Art, which is a great opportunity to get some teaching experience under my belt and it comes with access to the extensive facilities in the department. Like many creatives though, my bench is an absolute mess no matter where it is.
[That’s fantastic news, as someone who is completely daunted by the thought of having to teach anyone anything it’s really inspiring that you’re taking the opportunity to pass on to a new collection of future creatives, but it must make you extremely busy!]
  
 
Who are your influences?
 
William Morris has always influenced me in some way. Whether through his writings or his designs, his life forms a large part of my philosophy toward designing and creating. My advisor at Skidmore College, David Peterson, has influenced me greatly and I often ask myself what would David say about this?
But my most important influence is my parents.  Through my upbringing I have been taught to appreciate art but also to be well-rounded and rational, and I could never have gotten to where I am without their support.
[That’s a really nice thing to say – I am sure your parents are very proud of what you have achieved.]
 
What inspires you?
 
Stories. Books. Like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, I read too much. But I think that experience lends a kind of significance to everyday scenes. Classical music is essential for that as well. There is nothing like a bit of Beethoven to make a situation seem more important. But hopefully what really comes out in my jewellery is that Scotland is incredibly inspirational. Take a good book and a few great classical recordings out to the Scottish islands and I am a very happy, inspired lady.
[I’m a massive reader too – I don’t think it’s possible to read too much!  Not a massive classical music fan though…maybe that’s why I’m not very creative!]
 
What sort of jewellery do you like to wear?
 
Rings. I find them strangely empowering.
 
What’s your favourite gemstone?
 
Citrine.
 
What are your aspirations for the future?
To continue to love what I do.
[Very wise words.]
 
Where did you train and how did you find the training process?
 
I did my Bachelor’s at Skidmore College in New York and my Master’s at Edinburgh College of Art. I enjoyed the diversity in the teaching between the two programmes. They provided different aspects to my training. I have tried as
much as possible during my education to get as much experience from as many teachers as possible in as many studios as I could, abroad and at home. I think that the most important part to any training process is that you put
your all in and take away as much as you can. Students should be as responsible or more than their teachers for their own learning.
 
Tell us about your connection with New Designers
 
New Designers was simply what everyone did after their degree at ECA. I never really thought about not going. Now that I have experienced it I value the platform it has created in my field, there is nothing I know of quite like it in the United States. It was a great chance to meet my peers across the UK as well as galleries and companies and people who could represent me and push me forward. I was presented with the New Designers’ Goldsmiths’ Company Jewellery award in 2014 which has helped my confidence and has pushed me into the business more thoroughly than I could have achieved without it. The main prize was a week’s work experience with Paul York at the Goldsmiths’ Centre which I did back in September. I was lucky to get to work with Paul, he is incredibly knowledgeable at what he
does and I learned so much from him.
 
What do you like to do when you’re not doing this?
 
Read, drink tea, go for walks in the rain, sing, play and listen to music, and most of all I love to solve puzzles of all kinds.
 
White gold or yellow gold…or something else?
 
Titanium. It is wonderful to work with in every way. Its combination of properties creates a very challenging and unique material. I am not one to turn down a challenge, particularly when beautiful things come out of it. Although as far as gold goes: yellow gold. It has an unparalleled warmth, and is absolutely amazing to work with, there is nothing quite like gold.
 
[I’m so glad you said Titanium!  It really does add something extra special to see jewellery in this unusual metal, I think it adds something different in particular because of its weight, what you get when you pick it up is different from what you perhaps expected.]

 

K Donavan chain 1

 

 

STOP PRESS:  We’ve just found out that Karen is adding even more to her collection of awards!  We’re delighted to hear that Karen has recently been awarded the Goldsmiths Craft & Design Council Gold Award Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers Award 2015!  Also a Commendation in the Precious Metals, Gold, Platinum and Palladium category – what great news and many many congratulations to Karen on very well deserved recognition.

 

Thank you to Karen for coming through the loupe with us – you can find Karen on lots of social media outlets including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter (and don’t forget to join us on all of those too!)

 

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