"An exploration of the relationship between craft and fashion" is the ethos underlying artistic jewellery label SOLLIS. After studying a BA in Jewellery Design at Middlesex University followed by a MA in Textiles at Goldsmiths College, British-born creative Eleanor Ford moved to Sydney in 2009 where she launched her label SOLLIS.
Brocade weaving features heavily in Ford's designs and each of her pieces have a tactile and touchable quality unlike any other jewellery brand.
Ford's love for travel and the many different destinations to which she has journeyed inspire her creations, which are produced by artisans in both Australia and India.
Editor, Michelle Larin, interviewed Ford about her bejewelled creations, new collection ZARI and upcoming plans for the SOLLIS brand.
Q: Eleanor, tell me about yourself.
A: I'm originally from a small town on east coast of England, however I went to University in London and resided there for 10 years, so I guess part of me is from London too!
I love the simple things in life: food, wine and good company. My greatest passion, apart from jewellery design, is cooking. I think in some ways they are one and the same. I simply love creating beautiful things!
Q: What motivated you to start-up SOLLIS?
A: When I moved to Sydney I was looking to do something new; even considering a complete career change! So I took some time off, but couldn't keep away from jewellery making for very long. Without the restraint of a specific design brief in mind, I started creating jewellery again. Soon after, my label SOLLIS was born.
Q: Why the name SOLLIS?
A: "Sollis" is my father's and brother's middle name. My parents had a thing about keeping traditional family names in circulation, so we all have unusual middle names - apart from my sister who somehow got given the name Jane!
Q: After university, but before founding SOLLIS you worked with numerous labels on different design projects, can you tell me about some of these?
A: I began my career as a very timid student working at the widely creative Erickson Beamon in London, which was an education all in itself! After completing my studies I worked as production manager for Kirt Holmes and then went on to design numerous collections for Swarovski in Paris. Since relocating to Sydney, I have also completed design projects for Gorman, Megan Park and Sophie Kyron. I love working for Gorman in particular as their clothing designs closely compliment my personal style.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a jewellery designer?
A: I guess, so but I didn’t always know it. As a child, I was very entrepreneurial. I made friendship bracelets and 'scrunchies' and sold them to my friends at school!
Q: What do you love most about designing jewellery?
A: I love the wild creativity that goes into and the endless possibilities that come out of a design.
Q: How do you conceptualise your jewellery designs?
A: My designs, although inspired by tribal jewellery, fabric and textiles, are really about the craft of jewellery making itself. Taking just a spark of an idea and a new technique, I will often design jewellery in a hands-on way. I prefer to allow a concept to develop through making the piece of jewellery itself.
Q: What types of materials are used in the creation of your jewellery and what is it about those materials that most appeals to you?
A: I use a lot of cord and beads, mixed with metal chains and chunky stones. I love that you can take something as simple as a bead and a length of thread and, depending on how you construct them, make a thousand different things!
Q: Tell me the story behind your current ZARI collection.
A: ZARI represents an indulgence in texture and ornamentation. Inspired by tribal jewellery and lavish interior furnishings, this collection is a kaleidoscope of patterns and materials. Wood and metal beads are woven with silky threads into gold and black nickel chains. Combined with chunky semi-precious stones and long brightly coloured tassels, my ZARI collection has an eclectic, almost decadent feel.
Q: What piece of jewellery do you think every girl should own?
A: Maybe a vintage statement piece? It has to be something you receive a compliment on each time you wear it!
Q: Describe your personal style.
A: Eclectic, but sometimes not in a good way! I tend to lack the ability to plan an outfit and generally buy clothes purely based on passion. As a result, I have a wardrobe full of beautiful clashing patterns and colours, but nothing goes together! I'm trying to rectify that these days, so all styling advice people can offer is openly and gratefully received!
Q: Are you influenced by any person's particular style?
A: Who I'm influenced by tends to vary. At the moment, I'm completely obsessed with American businesswoman, Iris Apfel's style - now that's a woman who can pull of some amazing statement jewellery!
Q: Where are you headed next with SOLLIS?
A: We now have some amazing stockists around Australia, including Camilla. Next stop - the world! For the upcoming season we will be looking to find some overseas stockists. I would also love to create some epic catwalk pieces - I am on the hunt for a possible collaboration with a clothing designer.
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