Q&A with Laura Nelson

Portrait of Laura Nelson. All other images in this post are of her jewellery collections, photographed by her studio.

Born out of a fascination with textures (especially the crinkliness of tin foil!), Laura Nelson has built her award winning jewellery studio combining her product designer roots and lover of sparkly things. All her pieces are designed and handmade in her South London studio. 

How do you describe your work?

I design contemporary jewellery inspired by the overlooked textures all around us. I hand-make everything in South East London using recycled precious metals and experimental techniques. Each collection is broken down into ranges based on their inspiration. Complimentary to this, I work closely with clients to design and make bespoke jewellery such as wedding bands.


When did you first starting making jewellery?
I really started making in 2013 after doing a two day course in Delft sand-casting at Flux Jewellery School in Camberwell. I went along with a bangle that I had created using thermoplastic and tin foil at home, as tin foil has been fascination of mine since I was a kid! I just love the way it can transform from 2D to 3D in so many ways. My plan was to use the two days at Flux to get the bracelet cast in metal to pick up the textural quality of tin foil - so that is what I did! This was the first prototype for the Contrast Bangle. Since then I bought more and more tools to make pieces at home and went from there.


Who are your design heroes/heroines?
I tend not to look too look much at other jewellery designers or judge work solely on aesthetics. Before starting my jewellery brand, I worked in product development and exhibition design - I think this has helped to shape my approach to jewellery design and enforced my love of making manufacturing. I love the work of David Mellor - The Round Building in The Peak District near Sheffield is such as great place to visit! His cutlery pieces are made in batches, and there is such an emphasis on process - for example, there are 35 steps to make a fork! I just love how he seems to chose appropriate materials for each collection. The Provençal Black Cutlery set is my fave!


Which has been the project you've been the most proud of?
I think I am most proud of my recent project The T.I.Y KIT, which I created once lockdown began. I realised people would be confined to their home, some completely alone, others with more time on their hands, and some who wanted to learn something new. So I thought about how I could take the techniques I use to create jewellery and share these skills so people could craft jewellery from their sofa. I worked out all of the essential items needed to design and craft a pendant out of precious metal, and sourced living-room safe versions of them. I shrunk these down so they were small and light enough to fit into a parcel that can be posted through a letterbox. The  T.I.Y KIT does not require any prior jewellery making skills and encourages people to turn textures in their house into silver/gold pendants. It’s super simple and safe, as easy as making a shape out of play doh. You simply make the ‘master’ using the polymer clay and the tools provided, bake it in your oven, sand it and send it back to me. I cast your master in solid recycled silver or gold, polish it up and send it back to you. It makes me happy that this kit has encouraged creativity during a very unsettling time.


And following on from that, how has the COVID 19 pandemic affected your work in other ways?
I am often face to face with people at craft shows/markets/events, so COVID-19 has definitely impacted this. It has slowed down bespoke projects as meetings have been cancelled/postponed or are now on Zoom. However, it has also made me appreciate the support of people even more, I feel very lucky to have a network of supportive customers, friends and fellow makers, it creates a lovely sense of community. It also stops me becoming insular in my studio surrounded by metal filings and thinking I am best mates with Lauren Laverne - I listen to a lot of radio! 


What are your aims for the future?
I would like to host workshops that focus on using texture as a starting point to create a ring made from precious metal. This was a project I started before COVID-19 hit - I am looking forward to getting back to it!


Do you have any other creative pursuits?
I occasionally do freelance product development and prop making work, which I really enjoy as I'm obsessed with making. In my studio building there are a few fashion designers and a pattern cutter, so I have been around textiles more than ever! However, I have no clue about fabric or garment construction what-so-ever, so I am going to embark on a simple bag making course soon.
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