Sitting in Hannah Livingston's brand new studio stirred something in me. And that was my desperate need to share this throw back to the 1940's studio with the rest of the world. Livingston has just returned to the jewellery world, with a new brand, Letters to Jinny and Vanilla Ink took the time to question her over her love of the past, her re-brand and what's in store for Letters to Jinny.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU, WHERE YOU STUDIED AND WHAT GOT YOU TO THE HERE AND NOW.
I grew up in an old Victorian school house in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by mountains and tall trees. I spent a lot of time alone when I was little, digging up old objects from the banks of the nearby river. I always loved the history of the place.
I graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone in 2009, and set up my own business 'Hannah Livingston Jewellery'. I did a residency with 4 other jewellers, who have since become some of my best friends. In 2011 I founded Black Box, a curious design boutique in Edinburgh, and ran it along with my good friend Sarah Brown. In Black Box, we stocked over 100 different independent designers, and it was a real learning curve in both the running of a business and the commercial jewellery market.
We took the difficult decision to close the shop after almost 4 years, and in February 2015 I took up a studio in Coburg House, in Leith Edinburgh. I rebranded my company, and began working towards a relaunch later in the year!
DESCRIBE YOUR WORK IN 5 WORDS
Secret, sentimental, playful, future heirlooms
WHAT INSPIRES YOU AND YOUR WORK?
I love people's history and the secrets lost in the passing of time. I've always been fascinated by being in places or holding objects that are old, way beyond my years. The fact that objects and places can transcend generations is amazing, and I love that in making jewellery, I am creating objects that could last for hundreds of years. I love finding mementos that someone, at some point in time, was there too, taking their time to leave a mark
I am inspired by Victorian and Edwardian furniture, the first half of the 20th Century, as well as period details and objects. I love the simple, unisex nature of Edwardian design, and it's a feel that I try to work towards. I always feel most inspired when I am surrounded by old objects and furniture, and have been collecting for years. There is no theme to my collections, other than I feel an ethereal connection to the objects in some way shape or form, imagining where they have been, who used them, and what they meant to their previous owners.
YOU'VE GIVEN YOURSELF THE CHANCE TO START AGAIN ('Letters to Jinny') WHAT ARE YOU WANTING TO DO DIFFERENTLY?
Well firstly, rebranding has made a huge difference to my motivation and drive - I can't recommend it highly enough! It has given me focus, aswell as context for my work which I think is an important thing to have when your work is of a sentimental nature. Something that people can connect to.
Having worked on the other side of the business (running a jewellery boutique stocking other peoples' work) I have learned a great deal in terms of commercialising collections, customers needs, etc. I know exactly how I want to run my business, and am not afraid to state what I want (which is a far cry from the bumbling chaos my business was when straight out of art school and into the big bad world...).
My work has never been seasonal, due to the very nature of it. However, I will be separating my work into definite collections, as well as controlling the number of designs in production.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE TOOL IN THE WORKSHOP?
When I was at artschool we had the pleasure of being taught stone-setting by mokume gane master Craig Stuart. One thing he said to me really stuck with me: Use your benchpeg as a tool, shape and cut it to your needs. My benchpeg probably looks pretty weird compared to convertional benchpegs, but every crevice and ridge serves a particular purpose, so much so that I find other peoples pegs incredibley difficult to use! So i'd say my lovely, gnarly benchpeg is probably my favourite!
I have some other tools which I was given by a wonderful man called Ian Hammond, who is a 3rd generation seal engraver. He gave me some beautiful engravers, all with well-worn handles that had been in his family business for over 100 years. I absolutely cherish them, but I am yet to learn how to use them properly.
YOU COLLECT 'THINGS' AND MEMORIES, DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE?
I absolutely love my 1940s german desk clock/calendar. The clock needs fixing, but I use the calendar every day. It has such a lovely weight to it, and transports me everytime I look at it. I also love my 1950s Adler typewiter, which we are currently attempting to restore ourselves. It's shape and colours are just beautiful, and you can even read words and lines on the old roller, typed many moons ago.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT IN THE LAND OF JEWELLERY WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?
I love scouring junk yards / antique shops / charity shops for old objects. I love collecting old photographs, and imagining the narratives behind the people in the images. I love driving around on my own and visiting old buildings such as churches, museums etc - anywhere where the is a people history.
I love getting lost in books, particularly WWII memoirs which I find tragically fascinating. There is something very magical about being transported to another time and place through words alone.
I also enjoy going hillwalking, cycling, climbing with my soon-to-be-husband, though it happens less often than we would like!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR JEWELLERY STYLE?
Antiquated, interactive and unisex. Sentimentalism is at the forefront of my jewellery, so my work is designed to play a role in peoples lives, where they can personalise and leave their mark.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR LETTERS TO JINNY?
Well I am currently working towards making up all of my existing designs ahead of a big sale at the start of May. I am also designing a new collection, inspired by my family's history in small North Yorkshire villages. From there I will then be looking to find new stockists and apply for fairs, and basically just get this show on the road!