PITCH sat down last week with jewellery designer Holly Ryan, whose latest collection Zephyr will be launched at Blonde Venus in the next couple of weeks.
"The name Zephyr has a long history in my family – it was my parents’ dog’s name – and it is a name that really resonates with me because it means cool, soft, westerly breeze. I find that to be very calming. A large part of my work is about finding balance in design, and zephyr and the ‘calming breeze’ is all about that."
‘The vision behind the collection is minimal futurism, so basically I’m inspired by the divide between architecture and nature, and I’m always trying to focus on dualism, contradictions and things that complement one another.’
Ryan, who studied fashion at QUT and graduated in 2010, didn’t begin with her sights set on following her parents into their careers of silversmithing. Instead, the change came naturally after stores picked up on the whimsical designs her mother had made to accompany her graduate collection.
‘I’d never learned anything about silversmithing. I’d designed a few pieces – stud earrings and bolo ties – which were made by my mum to go with the squirrel and acorn prints in the collection.’
During her time working as a studio intern at Sarah Phillips in Sydney, Ryan’s mother continued to fill orders for the jewellery line in Brisbane. However, Holly soon became disillusioned with working under another designer and the lack of creative control.
‘I realised that there was this product out there that had my name on it, and it was becoming unfair to mum to put it all on her. It wasn’t fulfilling in the sense that I had any creative output. I wanted to be involved in the artistic process and making something that I had envisioned myself.’
Ryan finally decided to make the move back home to the Sunshine Coast, enlisting her parents’ expertise to learn the silver trade.
‘Through that I built up my first collection, which was all about patience. Balance is something I’m always trying to get through with what I do. Every piece was the first time I had done it, so I was so proud that I could do it myself. It was a new world to me, but it’s so satisfying. Maybe on some level there was a rebellion, to not want to do jewellery because my parents did it, but I find it so much more enjoyable than making clothes – it’s more of a trade, something artisanal.’
‘I come from a family of total greenies, so I’m always looking to work as ethically and sustainably as I can. With silver, you can melt everything down and use it again for new designs, and it’s not trend driven the way clothing can be – people are still buying the designs that I made while I was still studying.’
‘Something else I love about jewellery is the way that it can have a life or a history – you could pick up a ring at an op-shop and know it has other stories, and it’s romantic. It’s a keepsake, it’s something that you can pass on and it’s something that lasts. I love to wear items that are gifts from someone else, because they all remind you of that person.’
‘Some of the symbols and elements I use often hold different meanings for different people – the idea that something is protective, or warding off evil spirits. There definitely is a power to jewellery and gemstones.’
‘I’ve used only Australian fire opals in the latest collection – they have the most beautiful array of colours. I’m very passionate about keeping it a very Australian label, I don’t source anything from outside, because I don’t think there’s enough of a focus on supporting local industries. That’s why I’ve stayed in Brisbane too, because I don’t see that culture celebrated here when everyone just packs up and moves down south so quickly. If a few of us could stick around, we could create something really wonderful and long-lasting. Living in West End, I have that small-town community spirit – everyone lives so close to one another!’
Ryan names it-girls Alexa Chung and Chloe Sevigny among her style inspirations, but is also influenced by art, counting Frank Stella, Art Deco, the Bauhaus and the Russian Constructivist movement in the early part of the 20th century as muses.
‘Some of the Constructivist women are really inspiring to me. I would love to see Popova or Stepanova in some of my designs! I’m inspired by all things geometric, symmetry and clean lines. That ethos of creating form over function is so important – you’ll always see triangles and spheres as recurring symbols, and that’s a direct influence of these modernist movements.’
‘Over the next few years, I’m just looking to expand the brand in Australia and New Zealand. I really want to take everything slowly and steadily, because theres so much room for error and I don’t want to rush into things too quickly. Once you do that you can’t budge. In saying that, if I wanted to I could pack up my tools and jump on a bus tomorrow!’