Aoife Burke talks to Moycullen based jewellery designer Lynsey de Búrca about being inspired by the patterns of fishing nets and lobster pots in her native Kinvara, where she grew up, working with gemstones, wire and even steel and the support available for designers and other artists in the West.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you find yourself going down the jewellery making route after studying at NCAD?
I studied metal craft design in NCAD where I developed skills in working with precious and non-precious metals. My favourite part of the course was learning traditional jewellery making skills such as forging and casting. It was a great foundation to my journey as a jewellery designer. After graduation I spent 10 years working in the jewellery retail trade. This gave me a fantastic insight into the business and selling side of the jewellery industry. It was throughout this time I studied Gemmology in NUIG and also completed several business courses. I’m now 4 – 5 years in business creating contemporary handmade jewellery items.
Your signature is chain neck pieces; what drew you to this particular style?
I adore making chain neck pieces; the bigger, the bolder, the better! The love affair began in my graduate year of college – I began looking at my childhood surroundings for inspiration. I grew up beside a pier between Kinvara and Ballindereen. Hours would be spent beach combing, periwinkle picking and walking along the coastline. The pier was always scattered with fishing nets, ropes, lobster pots and chains. I always loved being around them, those little things from my childhood always stayed with me. I love the composition of fishing nets stacked high on a wall, the texture of a rusty chain and the patterns of fishing nets and lobster pots. I come back to this time and time again. Whenever I’m designing a new line I take loads of little trips back to the same pier; it always feeds my imagination.
While you work with silver wire and gemstones, you’ve also delved into more unusual mediums. What’s your favourite to work with, or does it depend on where your inspiration is coming from?
I predominantly work with silver wire and semi-precious gemstones but often I like to incorporate something a little different. In previous collections I have included beach pebbles and driftwood into my work. For my new collection Linkage I have incorporated a dark annealed steel wire. I wanted to experiment with a new medium and this steel wire worked so well against the silver wire. I adore how the dark steel contrasts with the light silver links. The steel wire has allowed me to create bigger, bolder pieces but without the cost of using a precious metal. It has been a steep learning curve however – steel has much different properties to silver – so in order to work with the metal I had to understand it first. Steel is a stronger metal therefore harder to manipulate, harder to join and harder to polish. But after several days of playing with the steel I finally got the hang of it! I will always love working with silver more however. It’s such a beautiful and versatile material to work with. My favourite technique is forging, which is hammering the metal on a stake or an anvil and creating a 3D form from a flat sheet of silver. It’s an addictive process and very therapeutic!
You’ve been announced as a finalist in The Jewellery Designer of the Year category of this year’s Fashion Innovation Awards. Congratulations! What does the nomination mean to you, particularly as an artist based in the West of Ireland?
I’m absolutely thrilled to be nominated as a finalist in the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards. The awards ceremony is such a great opportunity for designers to showcase their work. The night is really a key event in the Irish Fashion calendar. It’s a lovely way for designers to network, to meet other designers, to showcase their collections, market their line and get their names out there. I’m so proud to be representing Galway in the Jewellery Designer category – a lot of pressure for a Galway girl in this competition! The awards really allow designers to run away with their imaginations, to explore their creativity and to create pieces that are unique, eye-catching and really stand out on the catwalk. I have really enjoyed making the pieces for the Awards, it offers such creative freedom and really lets you express your love of making. My pieces for the awards are going to be big and bold and I can hardly wait to see them on the catwalk!
Do you think there’s enough support for designers like yourself based in the West of Ireland, generally?
Being a designer in the West of Ireland can have its challenges, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather live than Galway – it has everything to offer! I find that there is a lot of growing support for designers here in Galway. I have availed of many training programs with the Galway Local Enterprise Office and The Design and Crafts Council of Ireland. The LEO and DCCOI offer a fantastic array of speciality training programs, masterclasses, talks, grant aid and mentorships. They have both helped me enormously throughout the years. I’d recommend the LEO and the DCCOI as a first port of call for any young designer starting out in business. When you own your own business you have to look after every aspect of the business yourself, so any help you can get along the way, take it! Being a designer in Ireland is such an adventure – it can be hard on your own but it’s all worth it when you see someone wearing one of your very own creations!