Ruth Tomlinson is a talented London-based designer, who creates beautiful and intricate pieces, by combining antique beads and pearls with diamonds, gold and silver. Although Ruth uses precious metals and gems, each piece is playful and inventive and her work always feels fresh and current. 2011 looks like a busy year, with upcoming partnerships with Astley Clarke and Anthropologie, as well as the launch of a high end diamond collection – no wonder Scarlett Johansson and Maggie Gyllenhall are among her many fans!
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I am working on expanding my diamond collection which uses natural, unearthed forms with old and new cut diamonds. It began as a collection of rings but is now growing to include a range of necklaces and earrings.
What attracted you to making jewellery?
I was attracted to the ideas of the sentiment, history and narratives we attach to objects. I am interested in the preciousness of materials and their implied desirability. I like to explore the tiny intricacies in the world around me and explore these minute details within my jewellery.
What has been your career path?
I began selling jewellery when I was 14, at local stores (including my dad’s pharmacy) in Morecombe, Lancashire. After school I went on to do an art foundation course, followed by my BA in Manchester and then my MA at the Royal College of Art. I started my business while I was studying and it has been growing steadily ever since.
What has been your proudest moment?
Having Dorothy Hogg (MBE) describe my work as ‘an influence on this generation of jewellers’.
What or who has been your biggest influence?
My upbringing by the sea, and the magic of the nature in the Lake District had a huge influence on me. I am influenced by the places I travel to and the discoveries I make exploring the world and all its wonders. I am also greatly influenced by the creativity and support of my family.
What or who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from a variety of sources, from Rococo prints and ceramics, to the Tudor portraits in the National Portrait Gallery. I also find inspiration in lifecycles and changes in nature, in transience from birth to decay. I am interested in archaeological finds, whether contemporary or historical, natural or industrial. I tend to respond to my immediate environment and am open to spontaneous finds and observations.
What is the last thing you saw that made you go wow?
The pure driven snow covering the park with the amazing light you get when the snow is surrounding you, and the icy chill you get on your cheeks.
What makes you happy?
The wide open ocean and the peace of nature make me happy. I also get a lot of enjoyment out of museums, in particular the jewellery room at the V&A, the British Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford which is full of curiosities from all over the world.
What's the best advice someone has ever given you?
‘Make jewellery if you want to make a living, not ceramics.’ From a ceramic artist I was working for when I was 20.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting out as a designer or maker?
Follow your heart and your passion and not the design world. Be a trend setter, not a follower.
I’ll be making a new collection of work for Collect, at the Saatchi Gallery next May. One of the pieces will be an encrusted vessel using a beautiful antique engraved shell I found at a flea market in Paris. I will also be creating a set of new work for Electrum Gallery.
You can see more of Ruth's work at the Dazzle exhibition at the National Theatre and the Electrum Gallery on South Molten Street, W1 – both until 8 January.