Hollie Paxton is a bright 2010 graduate from Central Saint Martins’ BA Jewellery Design and  from Royal College of Art’s MA Jewellery and Metal Program. We spoke about how majoring in one specific subject can give you confidence and legitimacy. Her process revolves around highlighting the ephemeral and often overlooked aspects of daily life, by aiming to build a link between the wearer, the viewer, the maker and the object, within a very social contemporary context. Hollie, without doubt, represents what is called ‘contemporary jewellery’. 

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Are there one/two or several different approaches of Jewellery Design at CSM and then at the RCA?

When doing a BA you are fed an enormous amount of knowledge: technical skills to design. Like a sponge, you try to absorb all the information whist trying to establish your personal style or voice; it’s like going through jewellery adolescence!

In comparison, when starting an MA you often have a grounding, with some jewellery skills and techniques under your belt and a rough idea of your style. The teaching therefore shifts to help you focus on the direction and growth of your work rather than particular skills (although this is still essential), looking further into concept development and analysis.

What has such a focused education given you?

CSM was both focused and intense! I remember many all-nighters, staying up to complete grueling assignments: making 31 pieces in five days or preparing a design pitch for a fancy competition. I think this period intensity and scrutiny prepared me to work really hard and not be too scared of a challenge, however daunting it can seem at first.

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“Like a sponge, you try to absorb all the information whist trying to establish your personal style or voice.”

Would you advise going on a MA after a BA? Or is working straight away a good alternative?

This is a very personal and tricky decision. For some of my peers particularly interested in designing for a label, it was beneficial for them to go straight into industry, and work their way up. For those wanting to expand their portfolio, having two years of time to experiment within an MA setup allows you to try new directions and increase your portfolio, and this can be invaluable. This is not to say you can’t do this without an MA, I have seen many determined jewellers go on to build an exciting body of work and become successful.

Looking back to your BA at CSM, is there anything you learned after graduating that you would have rather known before?

Contacts that I gained throughout my BA have proved invaluable to my career. I have been working with a costume designer I met at LCF for the past seven years, producing jewellery for film and TV. I wish I had realised how lucky I was to be surrounded by so many talented people, working in so many disciplines. I think if I could go back I would take the opportunity to collaborate much more than I did.

How is it to manage your own label, creativity and business?

It’s a tricky yet exciting process. As I have chosen to set up my own practice I’m often juggling many creative and moneymaking activities, from making engagement rings, weird helmets for adverts, stocking galleries with my work, exhibiting in various countries and teaching. It’s incredibly varied! Eventually I aim to spend more time in the studio experimenting and developing new projects, but at the moment I’m enjoying my hectic and diverse weeks.

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“I wish I had realised how lucky I was to be surrounded by so many talented people, working in so many disciplines.”

What is next for you?

I have several projects on the go, I’m currently working on two new collections, a children’s jewellery book, and I’m aiming to do a residency next year. I’m also in the early stages of planning an exhibition with some RCA graduates in the New Year!

Do you have any advice to wannabe jeweller?

I would say print the Incomplete Manifesto for Growth by Bruce Naus and stick it on your wall.

  1. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth.
  2. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question
  3. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
  4. Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
  5. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
  6. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things.
  7. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
  8. Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.

Words by Colombe d’Humieres

All images courtesy of Hollie Paxton

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