Inside the design process

November 03, 2014

I learned an early lesson from my brother about design. When I was about 14, he set me a task making earrings. Afterwards, he asked 'Which ones would you buy?'

I said, 'Maybe that one?'

So he said, 'Ok, I'll pay you for that one, the others are awful! And remember... you are your first customer.'

It may have hurt, but it was a formative lesson in jewellery making. If I make something I don't like, chances are, the customer won't be impressed either. Since that moment, I have always aimed to reflect shapes from Nature. She is the real designer.

By following nature's lead I can use the patterns and shapes that our planet offers to everyone. You just have to be open to see them.

I like the symmetry and balance of natural forms. Observing nature, you can see balance all around you. I think we instinctively react to those shapes. They remind us of home.

When I'm designing I start with just a gem of an idea. My nests began with a wish to share how lovely the Oropendula bird's nest is. It lives in South America and its communcal nests hang high in the trees, decorating the branches with enormous woven teardrops. With the teardrop I had one of the perfect shapes for jewellery. The Oropendula bird had invented them and I could not resist making them into something special.

Photo by Charlesjsharp 

But to get from the gem of an idea to a finished plan is the long part. There’s an intuitive process working out which techniques and which methods will serve the design best. I take some steps forwards and some back again as I realise what works and what won’t work. Which wire thickness would give me the most beautiful nest, how should I work it to make the feel of the woven nest, what elements could I add to my form for a finished design. These were all things I had to learn along the way.

With Nesting, I got to where I wanted to be: a design that brought out the beauty of my subject and that can work as a ring, necklace, bracelet or earrings.

I often have disparate ideas. It's only after a lot of thought that I see how they can fit together. With my peppercorns I knew that I wanted something circular. I had some designs that needed something like that. It was the tiny fruits of the parlour palm that first intrigued me. Later I saw the peppercorns on my table and, suddenly, the two designs came together!.

I couldn't believe how something that we see every day can suddenly be appreciated anew. For the peppercorn range, the design process was more about getting the emphasis right. How could I capture those subtle shapes and amazing delicate texturew? It was the first time I'd made silver and gold peppercorns. As I sat and played with my grains of peppercorn, they came together in so many interesting ways

So each day I look out at nature's inspiration and I’ll think of another idea, but only a very few will ever come to fruition. For now, they’re in my heart, waiting.

I've come to think that because we all live in the same planet - we can’t escape, yet! - we are often inspired by the same ideas. The key to a finished design comes from working on that idea. Playing around with it you can make it your own, make it better, and make it different from other people's ideas... I'd never copy someone else's work but I do think that all of us need to pay copyright to our Earth and our Milky Way galaxy because they inspire all we do.

Magnolia Restrepo

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