Thursday, 8 August 2013

Interview with Rachel Reilly for "Facets of Avalon"

I met Rachel earlier this year at the British Craft Trade Fair, where we both had a stand.  During the show it was clear that we had a few connections, both in our interests and the approach to our work.

It was the ethereal quality of her work that I admired and the gentle nature that Rachel presented to me and she in turn was intrigued by the techniques I employed in my book sculptures and jewellery pieces. After a few conversations we decided to barter our work. This is quite commonplace amongst artists at events and I highly recommend the practice as it offers an opportunity to mutually appreciate each other’s creativity. I exchanged a book sculpture for a selection of jewellery pieces. I have to say I was over the moon and couldn’t stop smiling as I chose jewellery from Rachel’s stand. It still makes me smile now when someone admires her jewellery when I wear it. 

If you are a follower of my Blog, Twitter or Facebook you will have seen that I have been a little too quiet for the past few months. I can only say that I have been in a state of flux as I have needed some silent moments to re-assess my practice. Within those moments I have been carefully calculating how to carry on presenting my online journal. One of the aspects I have particularly enjoyed is interviewing other artists. By asking certain questions it can unfold aspects of the artist and how they work. 

These are the questions I pitted to Rachel:- 

Phiona: Can you describe your journey to becoming a professional maker? 

Rachel: Slow and steady mainly! I have always been a fiddler, beading as a child, moving towards textile as an adult. As an undergraduate, (jewellery degree at Sir John Cass College, London) I took apart a broken television to discover small reels of coloured wire inside… and so my wire jewellery exploration began. That was twenty years ago. I will never forget the excitement I felt when I managed to machine knit more than three consecutive rows! 

My mother and I opened Facets of Avalon, Glastonbury the year after the birth of my second child. Until then I had been fitting my creativity around part time work. 

Phiona: Many, many artists reading this will identify with that, Rachel. 

Rachel: For the first time, my jewellery business was given some importance and time. 

Phiona: And that is a dream most of us have to turn our creative skills into a serious business. 

Rachel: Over the last fifteen years I have worked hard to balance the bread and butter stock lines with the more flamboyant and theatrical work. 

Model:  Chanty Yeung
Phiona: In some cases it is easier to play it safe and not push the boundaries with your designs. 

Rachel: I’m not a natural business risk taker, but over the years I have shown at events regularly. The Desire jewellery show in London, the Glastonbury Festival and most recently my first visit to the BCTF (the British Craft Trade Fair) which I have booked for next year, it was the friendliest event I have ever been involved with! 

I supply a number of UK galleries, and a few overseas too. 

Entering competitions has always worked well for me and it’s so easy to do! Emailing good images with an application form and waiting to see the response. I won first place in the US, Bead and Button wirework category a few years ago. 

Phiona: Really! Perhaps I need to try this. 

Rachel: I love what I do and get enormous satisfaction from the contact I have with my customers plus managing to eek out a living…. pretty good eh? 

Phiona: Most definitely. What are your main influences when conceiving a piece of work? 

Rachel: If the piece is a commission then obviously the customer has already influenced the making of it, to a point. 

Phiona: Yes, I remember our discussions when I was deciding on which jewellery I wanted, you were very accommodating. 

Rachel: With a completely new collection, I let the material almost talk to me, if I manage to listen, then it’s kind of magical! There is still a thrill from changing a 2-D piece of metal mesh, into something 3-D and sculptural. I tend to make organically… with a vague starting point which evolves into a finished piece as it’s worked upon. 

It’s still surprising me, which is why, I guess I’m still working with it! 

Phiona: Do you have any new plans, collections in the pipeline? 

Rachel: I’ve been exploring origami folding this year, which is in its infancy. But I hope to develop this further in the next few months. 

Phiona: I’d be interested to see the results.

Rachel: A very exciting Geisha styled photo shoot recently spurred me onto finishing a small collection. A very talented team of Jess Augard – photography, Jo Jo P – make up, and Chanty Yeung – model worked fantastically well together. 

Photographer - Jess Augard

Phiona: Wow! This collection has definitely pushed some boundaries, it’s phenomenal. 

Phiona: What would you say are your values and ethics when it comes to making? 

Rachel: a) To strive to produce the best work I possibly can b) Too enjoy the challenges along the way and to keep having fun in the making. c) The spirit of my enjoyment, I hope is seen in the work. d) To not get complacent and to keep seeking out new techniques, pushing the boundaries… 

Phiona: What tips do you have to get around creative block? 

Rachel: There is a world of inspiration out there, online or on the doorstep! Looking at other artist’s work, not to copy but to appreciate a different outlook, I find also very interesting. There is such a thing of being over visually stimulated however… 

A glass of wine and a good bouncing around of ideas with friends is good too! Some crazy sketching in the middle of the night….messy, spontaneous, not precious, just first workings, relaxed explorations… 

Make up by Jo Jo P
Phiona: Do you allow people to visit you at your studio? 

Rachel: Absolutely! The shop/gallery is my studio too….I have workshop space at one end of the shop floor. I’d go mental if I couldn’t make, whilst being in the shop! It’s nice to be able to do mini demos to interested visitors, knit colour samplers on the spot, to show customers thinking of commissioning. 

Blending the workshop and retail space keeps things vibrant. 

Phiona: How did you get into running workshops? 

Rachel: To date, I have given one, one-to-one workshop… it was lovely. It’s not where my heart is however, not right now anyway. I am a maker through and through! 

Phiona: Do you have an online presence that we can find more information about your work? 

Rachel: Yes, of course my own website is and the shop’s website is 

Phiona: Thank you so much for sparing the time for my questions, if I don’t see you before I will see you at BCTF where I have also booked a stand for 2014.

1 comment:

Ann Martin said...

I really enjoyed your interview with Rachel, Phiona. Her sculptured jewelry is exquisite! I've never seen anything like it.