We are back with the second instalment of the Our Wardrobe series. Our product range is always growing so there will probably be a part 3 to look forward to at some point in the future. Today though we are heading back to look at new additions to the collection in 2017 through to this year.
People have been creating and wearing jewellery throughout history. 130,000 years ago, Neanderthals used bones, shells and stones to adorn their garments, and we still use those materials today too. Ancient Egyptians used their jewellery to advertise their power and wealth. Gold symbolised the sun and their primary deity was the sun god Ra, the association meant the material was highly valued. When most of us think of ancient Egypt, we probably picture of the beautiful solid gold sarcophagus cover of Tutankhamun, so gold has become synonymous with their culture. It is even speculated that the pyramids had gold capping pieces. OnlyWillow started adding mixed metals to the range in 2015, beginning with copper, yet began adding rose gold and yellow gold by 2018, especially if requested as part of a commission.
In the Ancient Greek and Roman cultures, they also used jewellery to emphasise their social status. Greek jewellery reflected the various gods by focusing on fine metalwork skills. In the Greek pantheon, Hephaestus is the Greek god of blacksmiths, metalworking, carpenters, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes.
Whereas the Romans focused more on the gemstones and glass jewel settings. Different stones had different meanings and benefits for the wearer. For example; amethyst, a popular purple semi-precious stone, was associated with the god of wine, Dionysus. It was believed that amethyst prevented overindulgence (amethystos means sober in Greek) and people would drink from goblets carved from the stone to lessen the effects of their alcohol. .
Across the Atlantic in Central and South America, cultures such as the Aztecs, used clay and wood to set precious stones to create mosaics. The jewellery often featured natural shapes, with birds and reptiles prominent. Very popular were little silver bells fashioned into flower shapes and hung from necklaces. Silver was abundant in their region so was used more commonly than gold.
One of the main commonalities every ancient culture had, on every continent, was that they used locally sourced precious materials in some way to adorn themselves and that is something we can still relate to today.
In a previous blog, Original Work, we talked about a course Olivia attended to learn a new skill that she then began to add to her range. She was now able to take simple line drawings or images of hand, foot and paw prints to create stamps and apply to various jewellery lines. These make great gifts and are generally commissions, as they are so personal.
The range of hand carved animal moulds grew to include some of (hu)man’s best furry friends. A few more travel related ideas appeared, using oxidisation effectively to add contrast. Origami shapes were also tried out. Origami is about precision and the shapes are quite sharp and rigid, which is not Olivia’s normal style, her work is generally more organic, but it’s good to push yourself out of a comfort zone and see what you can create.
Another design that appeared in 2017 was the wax seal pendant, with a variety of different focal themes. Like a true wax seal, each stamp is always unique and was inspired by using a wax and seal on the OnlyWillow packaging.
In 2014, OnlyWillow had a range of fabric charm bracelets, but since then the jewellery range had predominantly been based in silver. These vintage bead bracelets are reminiscent of those early products but with both a vintage and contemporary twist.
Everyone enjoys music, and these guitar pick shaped key rings brought out our inner rocker. They were popular gifts on the run up to Christmas that year, where Olivia started making her beautiful and personalised tree decorations, another great but simple way to mark momentous occasions.
2018 was a historic year for OnlyWillow. Olivia opened her first shop, at 9 Market Street, Kirkby Stephen in June of that year. With the expansion into new premises and a larger studio set up, Olivia had another year of prolific creativity. Adding even more lines to the expansive OnlyWillow range, that she could sell both online and now in her store.
In 2018, bracelets were a big thing. We saw the first OnlyWillow Spinner Bangle and Cuff Bangle. Personalised bangles and charms were commissioned as gifts too. Here you can see a very simple bangle containing 18 individual rings, which was commissioned for an 18th birthday gift. This is an elegant way to represent the occasion, on a simple piece that can be worn everyday.
Speaking of firsts, whilst expanding the jewellery range we didn’t forget about earrings, and designed the first drop styles. Layered circles and added pearl beads for a feminine touch.
In keyrings, we added new shapes that could be stamped with personalised messages or names, and a range of cut out detail discs too.
A selection of handwritten pins were also added to the collection. One of these was clearly inspired by some heavy and negative political issues occurring at the time, which unfortunately we are still experiencing. It’s a shame these things need to be said, but avoiding the conversation solves nothing. We are not in any position to debate politics but are able and willing to spread understanding and compassion, and hopefully if more people do the same, we will finally see some significant changes. #BlackLivesMatter
The extra space in the shop afforded Olivia the opportunity to invest in a new piece of equipment, called a Cricut. It meant OnlyWillow was now able to personalise a vast array of new products, from clothing to glassware, even balloons.
After the success of the handmade bunnies in 2016, Olivia continued to create more designs and add to the material menagerie. 2018 saw the introduction of Olivia’s favourite animal, the elephant and many more of our unique fluffy friends, found their forever homes.
Using antique cutlery was still a main source of design inspiration, Olivia also created some modern personalised children’s cutlery.
2018 also saw Olivia’s creative style begin to return to her early design ideas, and she was able to apply her increased experience and skills.
“I have been playing around with my original style, this is how I first started making jewellery and I really love it. It will be hard to say goodbye to this piece that’s for sure.
The general message ‘Be someone’ has a whole world of meanings… Be someone that makes someone else smile, be someone who makes a difference, be someone who stands out, be someone who stands up for what they believe in, be someone you like, be someone you believe in, be someone who is not like anybody else…” March 2018
Here, Olivia is using mixed materials, distressing the metal through soldering and oxidising to create a unique and organic piece. Combining these techniques with an evocative, heartfelt or thought provoking statement has become an iconic OnlyWillow design.
Finally for 2018, we saw one very special and incredibly beautiful commissioned item. Using precious stones for the first time, OnlyWillow created it’s first engagement ring, and subsequently the matching wedding band the following year. And yes I’m biased, I had to include it because it’s mine!
Some ‘key’ new lines from 2019 were keyrings… see what I did there? They are an easy way to combine thoughtful gifts or mementos with a well used everyday item. Never forget that special date again with the calendar keyring design, and we challenge anyone to not sing these song lyrics from the key and heart set every time they open their door.
In jewellery, OnlyWillow was commissioned to create a full matching set of earrings, necklace and bangle using semi precious stone details.
More dangly style earring designs appeared, including adapting moulded shapes into a drop instead of a stud. Geometric inspired shapes made for elegant yet versatile designs that could be worn for any occasion.
Ring styles also began to make bolder statements. Using a hammered texture and oxidising with bold shapes, mixing metals, proving that sometimes less is more.
It had been a while but more wax seal designs were added to the extensive necklace pendant range.
And more mixed metal lines, confidently combining silver, yellow and rose gold. Now, some may say it’s a fashion faux pas to mix your metals. But that was the 90’s! It is true that generally your complexion may suit one metal over another, but personal choice counts more. You want to mix? Then mix!
One final lesson from 2019, don’t give up. Don’t forget where you started and how far you’ve come. You may not be in a position to achieve something now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. Dream big, but take it one step at a time, keep going, you will get there.
Be Who You Are; “In 2010 I dreamt so hard of being a jewellery maker and for it to be my job. I couldn’t afford the silver, equipment or a studio space. I could, however, afford a sketchbook and a pen.. So I cracked on with designing products of my dreams. I found my sketchbook earlier this year and decided to grant the dreams of 2010 me, so yesterday, in my studio with all of my equipment I created the first one from the sketchbook… And I have to say 2010 me was a great jewellery designer… I’m in love with it.” Olivia, August 2019
So, here we are, we are only 6 months into this year and a serious portion of that for Olivia has been spent in self isolation. However, that hasn’t stopped her from creating, crafting, making, designing and going a bit woman warrior too.
At the beginning of the year, after seeing the devastating fires in Australia, Olivia launched the Koala Keyring, to raise funds for charity. They were so popular they sold out! Twice! Thank you to everyone who supported, we were able to raise £350.
“Koala Keyrings are back in stock for a limited time (until the end of February) then I will add up all the donations and send them on to Australia Red Cross and Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. Funds are still massively needed to help the people, emergency services and animals of Australia. Please consider spending £8.50, all the profits will be divided between these two charities. If you can’t afford £8.50 please share for others to hopefully purchase.” Jan 2020
These circle shaped slogan and charm key ring designs remain popular, and can be personalised with any quote.
The year continued, and as we all know it did not improve. We then entered national lockdown in late March, and it quickly became clear who the most vital members of our society. In recognition of the daily struggles and sacrifices of some of the bravest and most compassionate people in the country, OnlyWillow launched our key worker hero tokens.
So we have nearly completed our trip down OnlyWillow’s memory lane, revisiting old designs and admiring the impressive evolution of various products and designs. Before we finish, I wanted to show a clear comparison, showing how successful all the hardwork and progress Olivia has made over the years has been. The bangle on the left is one of the first bangle designs Olivia created, way back in 2014, where she began to experiment and hone her personal style and skills. The bangle on the right is from 2020 and you can easily see how Olivia as a designer and maker has developed in the past 6 years.
Finally, the most recent new line, the You Are My Sunshine flower shaped token, launched in our previous blog.. Check out Offers and Winning to see how you can nominate a lucky someone to receive one for free! The deadline is Wednesday June 10th.
Thank you to everyone who continues to support OnlyWillow. These are weird and uncertain times for a lot of people, we are wholly grateful to be able to continue creating beautiful products that can be cherished by so many.
If you have been inspired by any of the designs you’ve seen, please message us, whilst the website continues to be updated.
Stay Safe and Shop Local where you can.
Written by Siobhan Green.