- Polly Wales
“I’ve always been a great lover of texture and colour, so the things that really make my heart whoop combine those elements with a healthy dose of humour. Textiles and embroidery make me so happy and in many ways I think our pieces have similar qualities to beadwork and embroidery."
POLLY WALES STUDIED FINE ART SCULPTURE BEFORE FOLLOWING HER PASSION FOR JEWELLERY AND RETRAINING AT THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART GRADUATING IN 2006. SHE HAS BROUGHT TOGETHER HER SKILLS AS A SCULPTOR, HER LOVE OF TRADITIONAL CASTING AND CARVING TECHNIQUES AND HER CRAFTSMANSHIP TO CREATE ONE OF A KIND PIECES OF JEWELLERY. WE ASKED POLLY SOME QUESTIONS TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HER LIFE, INSPIRATIONS AND CREATIVE PROCESS.
1. What is your first jewellery memory?
My grandmother was a big jewellery lover and a lover of big jewellery. I always remember her giving me a firm pat on the leg and the pain as her rings rebounded off my kneecap. Playing in her jewellery box was always such a delight and a little glimpse into an adult elegant world that I could only ever imagine inhabiting.
2. What's the first piece that you designed?
The confetti ring, it was part of my research project during my masters at the Royal College of Art. At that point they were silver with Swarovski crystals cast into them. It took a few years before I was able to refine them into gold and sapphires, but they have always been one of my best selling and most iconic pieces, in any of their iterations and 13 years on we still can’t keep them in stock.
3. What is your favorite stone? Why?
Sapphires and diamonds are the stones that work best for our Cast not Set technique. I love the spectrum of colours that Sapphires allow me, through them I can truly capture the rainbow in our work. I’ve slowly fallen in love with diamonds over the years, the cool perfect flawless ones left me feeling a little cold, but as I’ve learnt more about them I’ve fallen in love with their cousins and sisters – the old miners cuts where you can see the hand cut facets, salt and pepper diamonds where all the inclusions and colours give the stones so much character and the buttery warmth of champagne an cognac diamonds give me so much joy.
4. Do you have a piece of jewellery that you wear all year-round?
I have a Spinning disc necklace that I haven’t taken off for years, I’ve added two little gold carved figures that James my partner made for me to represent our daughters. The spinning discs feel like a talisman, they have a beautiful weight and feel to them. I also wear a plain gold skull ring almost every day, it’s one of the very first ones that James made, so its still really roughly carved inside and I love being able to see the marks of how it was made, it feels really raw and honest. I go through phases with my jewellery where I pile more and more on until I have to have a few weeks stripped back and bare before it starts its slow creep back onto my body again.
5. Who are your favorite jewellery designers?
Oh god! How long can this list be?! It’s going to need to be long. There are so many great designers, with truly unique voices around at the moment. Ones with integrity and talent and it fills my heart to be around them. I’m a huge fan of Nak Armstrong, I get fluttery when I see his work. The way he marries colours and cuts of stones and the very subtle engineering that goes on to create the movement in his pieces. I think makes him such a clever and creative designer. The romance and fantasy of Vibes jewellery, it’s like going into a magical fairyland. I love the vernacular and Foundrae's work, she has put together a voice and vision that is so clear and concise and desirable, its brilliant. You cant put together a list like this without adding Fernando, I love the elegance and sexiness of his beautiful hand carved stones. Alice Ciccolini’s beautiful enamel is so lovely and the work the amazing engraver Castro Smith…Should I stop? I could go on…
6. What are your greatest design influences?
I’ve always been a great lover of texture and colour, so the things that really make my heart whoop combine those elements with a healthy dose of humour. I love Grayson Perry, The Haas Brothers, and vintage and antique treasures. Textiles and embroidery make me so happy and in many ways I think our pieces have similar qualities to beadwork and embroidery.
7. If you weren’t a jewellery designer, what would you do?
That’s a tough one! I’ve been at the bench for all my adult life and it really feels like the only option that really marries my love of craftsmanship, colour and texture. But, if you really pushed me I think being a Florist or perfumer would make me pretty happy for very similar reasons.
8. What do you currently listen to in your studio?
I have a lot of hours at the bench, so there’s a lot of listening time music and audiobooks mainly. My friends are in a band that are brilliant and doing really well right now, called Snapped Ankles. Obviously I think everyone should give them a listen along with Fontaines DC and Viagra Boys, if you’re not already, which you probably are. Desert Island Discs reminds me of home and my mum doing the housework on the weekends, so that’s always there and I’ve just discovered Soho Radio on SoundCloud, they have some really great eclectic shows. Other than that I love a good Scandinavian murder, they can make 8 hours at the bench fly by!
9. What is your dream travel destination?
The gem palace in Jaipur and Jodpur would be very high on my list. People seem astonished that I haven’t been already and frankly I’m astonished I haven’t already been as well!