Nicholas’ blog: designing for Christmas
Hi to all of you who take the time out of your busy day to read my blog.
With Christmas just around the corner, I am convinced this year has been shorter than others. Maybe it’s because we all do so much in our lives that life seems to be on fast forward. Everything seems to be wanted instantly, and the constant rush creates so much pressure. I think it’s sad that we have to organize ourselves in advance so that we can relax and enjoy the simple things in life. Reading that book we’ve had for ages, taking a long walk along the beach without a mobile phone, sitting and chatting with a friend who you haven’t seen for a while, and generally just chilling out so you eat when you’re hungry, sleep when your body says ‘sleep’, and unwind enough to reclaim some calm.
Maybe this can be my New Year’s resolution – and one that I keep!
Helen and I have just had a our first garage sale and we joined the Australia-wide Garage Sale Trail which was lots of fun. Before the sale, I moved a lot of things into my new ‘man cave’ – in my case it’s a spare room with a lovely view of the garden that now contains a desk with a computer, some of my favourite paintings and books, a lot of family memorabilia and some timber filing cabinets containing a lot of business history and sketches of jewellery.
As I looked through the many folders, I discovered photographs of all of the window displays I created for the jewellery stores I’ve had over the past years, in particular the gallery space on Greenhill Road, Glenside and the store at the Burnside Village.
The displays were so much fun to create and they certainly caught the attention of shoppers who often popped their head in the door to congratulate me on ‘another great window’. They always had a subtle message and a hidden piece of jewellery.
I have always wanted to write a book titled ‘Windows of the Soul’ which comments on the importance of attraction to things by way of visual mediums and how this can successfully be used to improve the prominence of a business. I have started and the first draft is sitting in my computer. Maybe completing the book can be another part of my New Year’s plan.
Also flicking through my designs, I am amazed and humbled by the devotion of clients who have trusted me with their commissions and I feel honoured to have been a part of the process and their lives. There have been so many magic moments and seeing the sketches brings it all back to me. From the small and delicate antique-inspired pieces of the seventies, to the bold and ‘out there’ work of the eighties – ‘the bigger the better’ we used to say. The nineties were a bit more subdued and we started to see a more diverse range of styles as clients requested designs to suit them rather than designs following the latest fashion. Of course there were those who wanted a change and the move to white metal was the strongest shift of that era. Helen and I travelled to Europe in 1998, and we saw very little yellow gold – it was all about platinum, white gold and silver.
The predominance of white metal has remained today, as well as a rebirth of pink gold. Pink or rose gold is a gold alloy containing copper and it was commonly used in antique jewellery pieces. We now enjoy using this alloy in modern jewellery.
Early in my career, in the mid 70s, I was commissioned to make a table centerpiece consisting of two sterling silver candelabra and a rose bowl. Requested by the Woodside Army Camp, the design had to incorporate the scotch thistle, so I chose to house the candles within the thistles and support them on textured arms, and they were then attached to a central tapered column resembling an upturned trumpet. The trumpet needed be represented as one was often played to welcome the guests to the grand dinners held at the barracks. What a challenge.
Helen and I were at this stage in a business partnership with Robert Dawson and his wife Dorothy on Unley Road, and I remember during construction there were pieces of the candelabra everywhere. If customers ventured into the workshop, we had to warn them not to walk too close to the large buckets of acid which contained parts of the candelabra during the process of quenching and cleaning. Robert and I worked on the commission for nearly two years and we used to joke that this was jewellery on a mammoth scale, destined to grace a dinner table not a dinner dress.
The Adelaide Advertiser decided to give us a front page article to celebrate our creation with a title ‘A Sterling Effort’. I often wonder if the pieces still exist today and if so are they regularly cleaned or are they stored in a vault and black – or were they melted down when silver reached its peak in the early 80s?
During the late 70s and 80s, more challenges for unusual pieces followed – a sterling silver cigarette case to hold Sobranie cigarettes, a solid gold ‘golliwog’ pendant, a pendant representing the erect male genitalia, which is definitely not your normal order – and I did have to work from a photograph the young lady gave me! Now back to the less intimate pieces – a range of hair ornaments incorporating precious crystals and gems, detailed body chains for around the waist, big heavy forged neck collars and many interesting gem stone rings which were attached to the wrist by way of chains. That was the adventurous 80s!
The 90s represented an exciting time for my designs, with lots of local commissions and my involvement in national and international jewellery design awards. The international competitions enabled my mind to run free and create ‘dream’ pieces without the restriction of budget.
As a result of winning awards locally and internationally, my connection with the De Beers marketing group based in Sydney led to them employing me to coordinate important displays in Sydney. I mentioned some of the events in my May blog (read here).
It was also around this time I created a “Million Dollar Hat’ for SA Racing, which was to be worn by a model to every race meeting in South Australia starting with Adelaide Cup and culminating with the Easter Oakbank Racing Carnival. It was the company’s concept for creating more interest in the SA racing carnival for that year.
The hat was constructed in grey voile and I wrapped it in white gold wires with over forty very large South Sea pearls scattered throughout. It also had a substantial pearl hat pin which proved to be useful as a spectator, who had had a little too much to drink, lurched at us at the Oakbank Members Stand and tried to grab the hat. The poor model, Amy Trott, escaped luckily with only a few hairs pulled and the hat intact. This photo is Amy and me at Oakbank Racecourse.
And now it’s 7 weeks to Xmas – OUCH! So much to do, and in our trade things are always a little mad at this time of the year. As you may have noticed, we have a stunning new Christmas Collection featuring a beautiful pendant and earrings.
They are very reasonably priced and I feel they have a wide appeal. I’ve already priced a bespoke version of the pendant with a row of diamonds accentuating the wonderful curve of an outer edge so that each time the pendant moves you get a sparkling flash. If you’re looking for something for that someone special, give the studio a call and we can give you a price. It has been mentioned that the pieces look a bit like fishes – funny about that, it was completely unintentional.
That’s all from me until December, keep well and please think about coming to see us for that special Christmas gift for your loved one.
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