If you were looking for one word that encapsulates the exquisite work of Nicola Bannerman, it would be ‘timeless’. Her handmade jewellery designs are original and elegant with a contemporary twist. Both her attention to detail and the quality of her work ensure that each piece she makes will last for years to come.
The inspiration for her sculptural jewellery is born from her love of the natural world and a strong sense of responsibility toward the preservation of the environment. Nicola purposefully shies away from making jewellery which is based on current fashions, meaning all of her pieces can be worn year after year and passed down for future generations to enjoy. All precious metals used in her jewellery are sourced from just one company, which has the world’s largest green refining capacity. Nicola actively recycles as much precious metal as she can.
Nicola generously took time out of her day to answer some questions about her business for us.
How did your business begin?
It all began when I was 16. I had a pair of wire earrings that I loved, except there was one aspect of the design that I didn’t like. I thought to myself that if I had made them, I would have made them slightly differently. It was an epiphany and I knew then that is what I wanted to do with my life. Jewellery seemed like the perfect way to combine my creativity with my love of science, math and technical things. Through a very supportive art teacher I learnt basic jewellery-making skills and sold my first collection at our school fete, I was just 17yrs old. After school I undertook a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts majoring in jewellery and object design. I started my business in Sydney when I was 22 years old.
Tell us about your creative process
My creative process is a result of constantly observing everything around me. I’m always thinking up new designs and collections! Inspiration can strike in the most unlikely places, not just in nature. Once I walked through a hardware store where I was stopped in my tracks, captured by a humble trowel that I thought would make the most fabulous earring shape! I spend a lot of time photographing all sorts of objects and frequently get strange looks from passers-by. Whether it’s wheel covers on cars or cracks in pavements, I just can’t help photographing things when I’m inspired by a shape.
How long does it take to design a new piece?
It can take many years for me to develop a new line of jewellery, as I never compromise on the design. I store all potential ideas in my mind and eventually I might draw on them for new design inspiration. If something isn’t quite right I will put the idea aside and return to it months or even years later. My work commands great attention to detail and all aspects of my design must be fully resolved before I’m satisfied enough to make the final piece. I have held onto my mother’s silver jam spoon for what feels like an eternity and finally (finally!) the shape is evolving into a new collection. The design process usually begins with sketching and model making, then experimenting with it in copper or aluminium. Once satisfied, I move onto manufacturing the piece in a precious metal.
What is your favourite part of running a small business?
Being in business is a way for me to express my creativity while keeping myself challenged with the technical aspects of constructing sculptural pieces of jewellery. I love the research and development phase, i.e: coming up with a concept and then exploring various technical solutions to achieving my idea. It’s very rewarding to be the sole creator. To bring something to life starting with a concept, then work through the design and construction phase, then manufacturing the piece and finally parting with it to a happy customer.
What do you love most about the Handmade Markets?
Being part of the Handmade market is fantastic because there’s always such a happy and friendly vibe with a real community spirit. With such a great variety of designers and makers across so many disciplines, it’s also really inspiring to see everyone’s work. I love seeing my regular customers as I have built up a strong following in Canberra and of course, I love returning to my home-town to visit my family. Give me any excuse to come back to Canberra and I’m there!
You can find Nicola at the Handmade Market often, with a huge selection of jewellery that make ideal gifts that can be enjoyed for years. Browse Nicola’s beautiful range of jewellery on her website and keep up to date with her latest designs by following her on Instagram and Facebook.
If you enjoyed reading Nicola’s story, be sure to check out our other Meet the Maker blog posts.