5 minutes with…Cara Tonkin

5 minutes with…Cara Tonkin

In the second of our new series we catch up with Brighton based maker, Cara Tonkin. Grab a coffee and prepare to get inspired...

* What initially appealed to you about making jewellery and how did you learn your craft?

I have always been interested in all aspects of art and design. During my Art Foundation course I focused on 3-D Design because I loved working with different materials. When it came to using metal I was hooked. It is such a challenging and versatile material to work with, so combining that with my interest in fashion and adornments, jewellery design soon stood out as the perfect career for me.

I trained at Central St Martins where I achieved a First Class Honours degree in Jewellery Design. Being in London during my degree was amazing, there is so much to see and do and my course also did projects with companies such as Links of London and Swarovski which gave me insight into working in a commercial way. I felt that was an invaluable experience and helped prepare me for the big bad world outside of Art College.

* How would you describe your style now and how has it changed/progressed over the years?

My brand aesthetic is as elegant, glamorous and bold, but also classic and contemporary. I love to look at classic shapes and ideas and put a contemporary spin on them. My work is very tactile and playful, I love fabrics such as velvet and silk and take a lot of inspiration from clothing and textiles. I enjoy creating similarly tactile qualities in my work and believe that jewellery should feel alluring to touch as well as having visual appeal. Often the pieces are constructed using a number of repeated elements, which gives them their incredibly tactile quality. I enjoy combining contrasting metal tones to add a dynamic feel and I believe this can completely transforms a piece.

* Do you have a particular type of woman in mind when designing new pieces?

The people who wear my jewellery know their own minds and aren’t afraid to make a statement. They have an appreciation for unique and wearable contemporary jewellery, it is someone who appreciates interesting design and values craftsmanship.

* Is living and making in Brighton inspirational?

Brighton is a very inspiring city full of creative people and amazing shops, markets and galleries, there is a real buzz here which I really enjoy. I spent most of my teenage years going to car boots sales and trawling through antiques markets, which definitely informed my style and love of historical object and designs. 

* Where else do you find inspiration for work? We can see Art Deco and Art Nouveau elements in your work?

I am totally in love with Art Deco and Art Nouveau style, I love the darkly romantic symbolism and elegant glamour of it. The painters and graphic artists of the time such as Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha and Gustav Klimt have been very inspirational to me. I think the philosophy of Art Nouveau that art should be a way of life is brilliant, with everyday objects becoming works of art and simple things like advertising posters become hugely influential and expressive.

* Lots of your work features oxidised silver (which we love!) – is this a process you’re particularly fond of?

I enjoy combining contrasting metal tones to add a dynamic feel to the jewellery and I believe this can completely transforms a piece, so oxidizing works really well for achieving this. The combination of black oxidized silver and yellow gold is particularly striking.

* What are your favourite metals and stones to work with and why?

I really love the versatility of working with silver, you can work in a more expressive and experimental way with it then you can with gold because you don’t have such restrictions when it comes to expense and there are more options available with styles of chain etc. I really enjoy experimenting with different types of chain so that the chain becomes integral to the piece rather the just the thing you hang it on. I don’t have a favourite stone there are far to many beautiful ones to choose but I do really love indicolite tourmaline which is a beautiful rich teal colour and also the humble garnet. Looks amazing when mixed with oxidised silver and gold.

* What’s your favourite piece from your current collection?

It would have to be the showpiece, which is the Theda Cleo Collar. I love its movement and it feels great to wear. 

* What’s your studio like?

I recently moved from a shared studio to a larger place on my which took a little while to get used to but I am really enjoying it now, I have filled the place with plants and made it homely which is important to me as I spend so much time there! I always listen to music or podcasts to keep me company whilst I work! It’s one of the things I like most about my working environment, music is very important to me and can really lift my mood when I’m under pressure.

* If we were to come to Brighton, where would we find you other than your studio? 

I really enjoy going to see live music, which Brighton is excellent for, and spending time with friends, so often at the pub! There are two Picturehouse cinemas here which I go to a lot as well and tons of great restaurants. I’m a bit of a nature nerd and Brighton is surrounded by amazing places to go walking so I actually often escape the city for a bit of peace and quiet.

See our collection of Cara Tonkin Jewellery here

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