BEHIND THE BRAND: JILL URWINJuly 29, 2014
Fresh to drop online this week is a unique collection of handmade jewellery from of East London designer, Jill Urwin. Using specially sourced crystals from all corners of the globe, Jill’s designs go beyond the realms of beautiful aesthetic – each piece possessing a unique spiritual quality.
To find more about these one-off gems, we headed down to Jill’s home studio for tea, biscuits, and a bit of a chat.
UO: Hey Jill – tell us why jewellery does it for you…
JILL: I’ve always loved making things, stemming from when I used to make extravagant fancy dress outfits for my friends and myself. It’s the whole building process that I love – using my hands to create things. I later found an interest in jewellery design and started to take silversmith courses in the evening, as well as a variety of other design courses too.
In my first pieces I used shark’s teeth – I’d been travelling around the Philippines and collected a load from diving trips. I wanted to wear them but at the same time experiment with the design. I guess I first started to design jewellery so I could simply wear these items myself.
UO: What’s the inspiration behind your designs?
J: My inspiration is formed from a few different areas. First of all there is the spiritual aspect – all of my designs have a story, whether it ties in with nature or the particular powers associated with the crystals I use. I also have a scientific influence. My uncle, who’s a chemist, used to grow Bismuth in his lab – from an early age the form and symmetry of crystals used to amaze me.
One of the most important elements of my design is adapting materials into a contemporary style. I experiment with silver and leather to add an almost industrial aesthetic to my work, as well adding details such as magnetic fastenings to give these pieces a real modern edge. I wanted to step away from the typical ways you see crystals or natural components used in jewellery, much like the types you see in new age shops, and develop a truly unique style.
UO: What makes your UO collection so unique?
J: A lot of my work is bespoke to the buyer – selecting a crystal and its qualities is a very personal thing. You might want something that repels negativity, boosts productivity or even bring fortune; each one has its own individual power. For the UO collection I took a variety of different crystals to the buyers and we worked together to find the ones most fitting to the Urban Outfitters crowd.
Also, each piece is handmade – from personally selecting each crystal to building the silver around the various forms they come in – it’s all done by me. You also have to send it off for a hallmark as well as adding the finishing touches like polishing and filing them. It takes a long time – but each design has it’s own unique character.
UO: Where do you travel to find your materials?
J: Most of the crystals I source from India, Brazil or America. I take trips to these countries myself so I can personally choose which ones to work with. The first necklace I designed was with a Smokey Quartz crystal – I bought it from a little shop in LA. This particular crystal is good for organization and creativity – I wanted to carry it around with me and still wear it to this day.
UO: Crystals are amongst the oldest things that survive on our planet – is there any particular ones that stand out with an interesting story?
J: There’s one in particular called the Lemurian Seed Crystal – from the fabled city of Lemurian, an ancient land lost undersea. It’s said that the Lemurian people buried these crystals underground before they died, and now they’re being discovered in the ocean where the land was said to be. It’s a bit of myth, as the city has never actually been found or officially documented, but no one can explain why these crystals look like they’ve been hand carved, or how nature could have formed the crystals in such a way. I’ve never used it, but this certainly shows you how old and how much history crystals have.