Interview : Emer O'Neill, Beachy jewellery maker


"Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create...but women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves." Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Emer O'Neill, jewellery maker and visual artist, from Co. Waterford, is a very creative lady. Here she talks about her sea-inspired jewellery, and blossoming business. From her latest seascape collection.

 Q. How did you get into jewellery making?

Emer :  I am a self taught jewellery designer and actually stumbled upon the practice by chance! I had completed my degree in Fine Art in 2004 having always been creatively inclined. But after college I gradually fell out of the habit of living a creative life as jobs, marriage and kids took over, as well as a lack of confidence and faith in my abilities. Could I really make a living from being creative?! Ten years later I felt I was missing a part of me so tried my hand at lots of different crafts in a bid to reignite that spark. I bought some tools and beads and 'played around' with jewellery making and I loved it! It was an 'aha!' moment. I was building a style that couldn't be bought in the shops and that excited me. Then combined with my love of beachcombing, my range of Boho Style Seaglass Jewellery was born!

Q. The sea is a big influence on your jewellery. Did it just come naturally to you to have this as inspiration?

Emer : For as long as I can remember I have felt drawn to the sea. The sights, the smells and the sounds invigorate me and soothe me. As a child we always went to stay by the beach on our school holidays and most weekends. I had always wanted to live by the sea and then three years ago my wish came true. I could never live away from it now. It's the power of the sea that really has me hooked, and that's what I want to pass on to my customers. I use seaglass that has been tumbled out in the fierce ocean and then washed ashore by gentle lapping waves at the water's edge. Each piece I create is designed as a talisman for the wearer to call on the power of the sea, be it the strength of crashing waves or the calm of still water. I love that my work is inspired by the sea, taken from the sea and created right by the sea. I believe that that adds to the energy of each piece.

Q. Do you work quickly or take your time?

Emer : These days I tend to work relatively quickly and intuitively. Sometimes I begin with a design in mind, but as I work I see a different piece emerging and it takes a different direction. The process can be quite organic.

Q. If you like other jewellers ...who would they be?

Emer :  I love the work of other designers who are also heavily influenced by nature and bohemian style such as Lost Forest, Ruby Robin Boutique and Chupi. There is something magical about taking something simple and often overlooked, like a tiny flower, a leaf or a feather, and then presenting it in such a beautiful manner. The person who receives a piece like that is instantly connected to nature and childhood memories of discovery. It is a special and wonderful thing. 

Q. Any advice for fledgling jewellery makers? 

Emer :  My advice for new designers would be to create pieces that they would wear themselves or, at least, pieces that they would make for a loved one or their ideal customer. Don't just make something because that style is popular this season. You need to feel strongly about each design, because when you truly put your heart and soul into something, it shows.

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