Female Reflections. An Introduction!

Posted by Nicole Duranton Sigl on

Hey Folks,

Whoa, I got to say, June is just flying by, isn’t it? Between getting my first vaccination [YAYYYYYY!], market days, making, and my fun-loving children now being off school for their summer holidays, it’s full-on… kind of like always, ha! So no news there. I do plan, or rather hope, to take some time off during the summer though, probably in August. I’ll keep you posted on the details but maybe bear this in mind, in case you need me for any commission work that is time sensitive. Until then, it’s business as usual, except that I may have to keep little heads and hands busy somehow while I am in my workshop. I suspect there will be nightshifts… The joys of being a working Mama! Hope every parent in the same boat is finding ways to make it work for their families and little moments of time for themselves, too. Rest for carers is essential, so don’t forget to plan something lovely for yourself, too. 

Anyway, as per my last journal post, this second [gasp] June post marks the start of a new series on here titled Female Reflections. In irregular intervals, I plan to interview inspiring women whose voices I would like to amplify and whose stories I would like to give another platform. The aim is simply to share with you the joy that meeting these characters has brought me. Perhaps, like me, you also experience a lot of friendly curiosity around your favourite makers, shakers, movers, artists, and people in general. If so, then this is for you. Keep reading more about their process, typical day, background, and inspiration or motivation.

For simplicity’s sake and to give you an idea of what these interview-type posts will look like, I’ll start with myself, hopefully answering some of the FAQs that people put to me when we meet. If you have more or different questions for myself as well as future guests on my website, please feel free to get in touch, and I will try to incorporate this as appropriate.

So here goes…

1. Obviously, you are here because you somehow know or have heard of me. However, for those who are new to my work, here is how I would describe the jewellery I create:

NDS Jewellery was born from a desire to make the things that I would want to wear and treasure, things that turn heads (or raise eyebrows) because they are one of a kind rather than the same, "keeping up with the Joneses" type of jewellery. Hence I slowly and lovingly hand-make bold, daring pieces for people who know (and speak!) their own mind, unafraid to simply like what they like, no apologies made for standing out instead of blending in. At the same time, I want my creations to be wearable, now and in the future. For that reason, I only use solid metals, no plating or fake-ness of any kind. My work is made to last you a lifetime, independent from fashion fads, but always of value, both material and sentimental. My jewellery is multilayered in terms of the narrative it carries: there are always an element of serendipity as well as plenty of inspiration, but also research and painstaking work involved.

2. Based on this description, the core values of NDS Jewellery are as follows:

The core values of NDS Jewellery are rooted in how I try to live my life generally speaking: with determination, honesty, and daring to be different. It’s about freedom, independence and empowerment to be yourself and do your thing, without causing harm but also without letting anyone else dictate how you have to think, feel or look. And speaking about values, I am committed to giving my clients true value for their hard-earned money. People pay for my craftsmanship, not some warped, self-serving “branding” or meaningless “content”. I guess I like to keep things simple and straightforward: always the real deal.

3. I often get asked how do my creations actually come into being? What is my personal design and making process, from idea to finished item?

From original spark to fully-formed idea, design, and making of a piece, it can take hours, days, or even months. On the one hand, there are practical matters to consider: sourcing of materials, new skills that potentially need to be acquired first, or different tools that need to be bought. Then, of course, time is always of the essence and (almost per rule) mostly seems to be against me in terms of how much I have to do in comparatively little time. A very familiar frustration is that each day only has 24 hours! On the other hand, sometimes it takes several ideas or “sparks” to sit alongside each other in my mind for a while before they form the actual, tangible project that I will act and work on. While I usually don’t do collections, there are often “phases” I would go through, inspired by what I see or read or listen to, my surroundings (travels!), or the people I connect with and admire. So, for a while my jewellery might be inspired by and go in one more specific direction, until I feel I have made what I wanted to get out of my system, so to speak. Then I naturally move on to whatever preoccupies me next… This can be a complex and intricately woven fabric of many different interests and ideas, or a very simple process from A to Z in a linear, timely manner. I confess that it’s very rarely the latter, although commissions help to somewhat focus my attention momentarily. However, I still infuse everything that’s on my mind into everything that I make, so at different times I would approach a project differently, depending on what ideas float around my brain. That may sound a little chaotic or random but since I make everything myself, from start to finish, it always comes together nicely in the end. I carefully consider each project individually, rather than making it about something that it’s not. In a way, it’s also about knowing when to stop. That precise moment when I instinctively feel that I can’t or shouldn’t work any more on a piece. Only then I can let go and consider it finished; that’s when the story is told from my perspective. Yes, this can take time but, luckily, I am quite organised and keep meticulous track of every step along the way. My endless shelves of sketch- and notebooks are testimony to that. “Hold that thought” is how I would describe my style of working. You never know when or where a puzzle piece falls into place! 

4. What would a “typical day” in my maker’s life look like, if indeed there is such a thing as a typical day? Am I working as a jewellery artist full-time? Which other jobs, if any?

There are “ideal” days but also “other” days… “typical” not so much, I reckon. Having said that, there is a certain timeframe available to me during the weekdays and I try to make the most of it. Apart from being a jewellery artist, I am also many other things, most importantly (according to my primary school aged children) a mother. So once my little clan is off to school, I am freed up to go to my workshop and work until lunchtime. Then I have a quick little lunch date with my home office husband before I either go back up to the workshop or into my study for some of my other work (ie. [life] admin jobs, writing, art…) until it’s hometime. Then it’s time for some tea, the afternoon invariably belongs to my family. During the week I also do all the cooking and baking, two of my favourite things. To me, these are not chores at all but rather another outlet for my creativity. The evenings, once the children are off to bed, belong to the grown-ups. During particularly busy times, for me that means more time in my workshop and/or study, getting everything done that was on my to-do lists (yes, I have several for each day). So much for the framework of a bog standard day in my place, throw in some walkies, sea swimming, yoga, errands and other miscellaneous chores/stuff and you’ll see how time passes very swiftly before I’m off to bed for never enough sleep. Because yes, I do love reading and movies also, not to mention whatever remains of my social life at this stage. My favourite tunes and, more recently, audiobooks or podcast are being listened to while I am in the workshop. My weekends start at 5am to do the Saturday and Sunday markets, but other days where I need to go places or meet people are also filled to the brim with everything else that requires me to leave the house, just to maximise my chunks of time working at home. I have gotten better at minding my time and keeping it almost selfishly to, well, myself. Not for leisure but, you guessed it, more work. If all of that seems exhausting… it is. But also fulfilling and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Except maybe with less than 50 hours of work a week, occasionally. The joys of being self-employed…

5. What is my background as a designer-maker? Did I set out making jewellery, always knowing this was what I wanted to do? What professional and/or personal background journey brought me to where I am now?

I once wrote a blog journal post on some of this but, to cut a long story short, my current work was not what I initially set out to do but rather the logical consequence of what I had always hoped for. From hospitality to academia to jewellery artist in a gazillion steps and via a myriad of seemingly random job choices that probably only ever made sense to myself! I have learned so much and will forever be grateful for my varied work experience. Work always seems to find me somehow, it’s not in my nature to do “nothing”. Some of the connecting elements are my love and appreciation for the arts, craft and design, my creativity, innate curiosity, and above all else my writing, something I have done throughout my life. It is through my writing that everything else keeps coming together, it is through my writing that things make sense for me. Writing is the one tool always available to me, when all else fails or everything collapses around me. It enables me to keep learning and improving all my other work, too. I am very conscious of and committed to my lifelong learning journey, a journey that I hope will continue until I draw my last breath. I always knew what I wanted to do, namely everything. So this is merely the beginning or, as general life expectancy would have it, about half way there. 

6. Where do I find inspiration for my work?

I can honestly say that inspiration, for me, is everywhere! Wandering through this wild world, taking an active interest in many different things, always keeping an open mind for new learning experiences and impressions of every kind… this is what keeps me going, I reckon. I try to not limit myself and make time as well as allowance for the random, spontaneous things that sometimes draw me in, even if only for a while. The expression “adding another string to your bow” really resonates with me ever since I first heard it, here in Cork, in the very beginning when I came to live here. While that sometimes feels like ancient history, I like the idea that my hands, mind, heart and soul play together and harmonise to their own tune… that my skillset is like a bespoke, homemade instrument! One that only I can play. 

7. What motivates me to keep making and creating?

Coming back to my daydreaming, vivid imagination, and sense of curiosity, I think it’s my inner child that actually keeps the "adult me" alive and well. Somehow, the older I get the younger I feel in spirit. I don’t really have to even motivate myself to make and create, it’s a burning necessity, a restless kind of energy that takes hold of me and off I go, to do stuff. It’s not always jewellery either, I write, draw, crochet, embroider, play music, cook, bake, forage, fix things (or try to)… A myriad of arts and crafts have been with me since my earliest childhood, and I am proud to come from a long line of very skilled craftswomen. Only now, as an adult, I see the connection between many of my interests and their origin in the art my family made throughout the decades, if not to say centuries, as far as I can trace it back anyway. Innate are the Transylvanian folk art, the Bavarian folklore, but also things I picked up along the way, a certain aesthetic picked up while spending time abroad, watching craftsmen in Turkey, Tunisia, Israel, Austria, the Czech Republic, Mexico, and many other places… All this is now firmly engrained in my memory and I nourish these multicultural influences in any way that I can. So you see, I must make and create, as I am driven by the beauty I find all around me, everywhere I go. 

8. Lastly, is there something that you always wanted to share, yet never got asked to? Any advice, words of wisdom or other bits that you feel your clients or even fellow makers should know about or could benefit from? Relating to work or life, as you see fit.

Always work hard, stay kind, respect yourself and speak your mind. Don’t assume, educate yourself, ask the questions. Don’t give up, don’t give in, and don’t forget to laugh. Take nothing for granted, don’t take yourself too serious, keep daydreaming. A very good friend of mine once told me to remember how it’s all “only a game”… so maybe just play on? And of course: listen to your mammies, the ones who know how to actually do stuff! :)

So there it is. As always, many thanks for reading. I hope this little re-introduction as a starter for Female Reflections was of interest or even helpful in some way or other. Join NDS Jewellery on social media for other odd ends of this and that, on Instagram, on Facebook, on Pinterest, or simply browse this website for mindfully made artisan jewellery as well as a good few reads. Otherwise, why not visit me at my market stalls in Skibbereen and Schull? If you join my email clan, you’ll always be in the know about any news, too. Have fun with it all, folks!

Big love, 

Nicole x