So, meeting new people and making new friends is so important when in the creative industry. A few weeks ago at Nottingham Fashion week I was lucky enough to bump into the lovely Christina Bentley, a local jewellery designer and freelance graphics designer. We hit it off immediately when I asked to take a picture of her for my street style post, she told me how she makes hand made jewellery. Following this I checked out the TirNaNog Instagram and fell in love with the beautiful rings, if you know me personally you’ll know I’m a little bit obsessed with rings.
Wanting to know more, I asked to interview her about her brand! So in a little coffee shop in Notts town centre she shared her wisdom. We sat down and Christina had bought some of the rings with her, giving me the chance to have a proper nose. They were beautifully made and strikingly sophisticated, I recommend to anyone that you have to have a TirNaNog ring!
How did you get into making jewellery?
“I actually bumped into a friend at a festival, he’s a DJ, he had this really nice necklace on and I was saying ‘oh I really like it!’… it caught my eye. It was really unusual, he told me he made it. And I was like ‘what?!’. I wasn’t expecting that, Id never really considered jewellery making before. He said he just did a course, it helped him with writer’s block (he’s a producer with his music), it was a good outlet for him. I also think, as I used to work in events and as a creative person its nice to have something tangible at the end of it.”
Where does the name come from?
“Basically its an old Irish tale. Translated, or roughly translated in means land of eternal youth or land of the young. My mum, when I was a baby, named our house TirNaNog. So it was our little home together.”
So your mum’s Irish?
“Yer! So it was really nice and I’ve always just really liked the name. And obviously we moved and I now live in bumblebee house. We always have unusual named houses (and) I wanted to do something with that name, so I chose it! My mum was like ohh I didn’t realise you even remembered that! Difficult having to name it, because it started off as a hobby. And like my friend, just something to do creatively in my spare time.”
Do you do the jewellery full time now?
“I’m a freelance graphic designer and this is kind of like a hobby but I had so many friends and friends of friends getting in touch saying they wanted to buy them! Because I did graphic design I have to brand everything! I was thinking more about the packaging and the website design, and all of that, before thinking about what I’m actually going to make. I had my logo before I’d even finished my course! Everything’s got to be on point!”
So you designed everything, including the logo?
“Yes! And the website is just through Etsy. I kind of put off doing things through Etsy for a while, lots of people on my course had set up an Etsy shop. And I didn’t know if I wanted to? I think the problem with Etsy, as great as it is, is that you are a needle in a hay stack. There a million guys and girls out there making jewellery, like mine. You know? And its difficult to get your self out there. I try and push the website more-so than my Etsy shop. Because when your on Etsy you’ve got ‘you might also like’ these 200 hundred other jewellery designers. Which is great but it kind of takes away from your own brand. I like having all my branding there together, all clean and isolated. So its got its pros and cons. Its easy and obviously it takes care of loads of issues with just having a shop, having that inter face. It would be really difficult to build that from scratch.”
Ok so what inspires your work? Is there any particular artists or other jewellery designers that you look to for inspiration?
“I try and not look at other jewellery designers. Just because, and it’s the same with any design work I do. If I’m doing my graphic design and someone asked for a logo I wont look at other logos, i’ll look at plants. Or if I’m designing a video for someone, I wont look at videos, I look at packaging or something. I try and get inspiration from different mediums because otherwise you just fill your head with other people’s ideas!”
I love that!
“I really like brutalist architecture. I love what people normally call a hideous concrete car park! I try keep it all very liner, very structural. And I’ve decided to not do any stone setting, I want it just to be silver. It just is what it is. But I am starting to work with copper, just because I quite like the two colours together. Its actually a lot cheaper, so if I want to work out a design I do it in copper then do it in the silver. The amount of silver I wreck, I would then have to melt it down and start again. Its really expensive.”
How long does it take to make your average piece?
“Its different for all of them. I think I’m getting quicker if I know what I’m going to make from start to finish. So if I know what its going to look like at the end I can get it done within the day.”
So sometimes you just go with it and you don’t know what your making?
“Yer so a lot of them are happy accidents! I’m like ‘oh I didn’t mean for it to go like that but we’ll just style it out!’- that’s fine. I try a different ring every time. I like to see a result very quickly. I never start a ring and do a bit everyday. If I start it, I’ll finish it in the sitting. It frustrates me too much to leave it. Obviously the simpler bands where its just one piece, they don’t take as long as the ones made of four. It depends on how many times you have to solder it and the pieces you have to put together that will effect how long it takes. But the lengthy part isn’t actually making the ring its in polishing it up. It takes ages, and you have to file it down by using loads of different files and then sand paper it with loads of different sand papers and then polish it. It’s a painfully slow process.”
Well its great they look great amazing!
Which ring is your favourite?
“Hmmmm! I’m trying to not make them for me anymore. I have to start thinking about what other people want. Cause I just make them and I’m like “well I like it!” The one that I’m happiest with is probably this one: just because it’s the most ambitious one that I’ve tried so far. I like that you can wear it two ways.”
What advice would you give to young jewellery designers that want to start up there own business?
“Read the book ‘Make Your Own Luck’- by Kate Moross. Or ‘Girl Boss’- by Sophia Amoruso. Yes, that all you need, those two books will get you so far in life. She’s a graphic designer (Kate Moross) that I’ve loved for ever. You’ll be surprised by how many things that she’s done that you’ve probably seen. Her design work is really fun, very colourful. Very different to my style but her process and the way that she’s grounded herself; how she’s got her studio together and the way that she approaches her projects are brilliant. I went to one of her talks and she gave a lecture about how to be freelance in any industry you want to go into. So whether you are an illustrator or a jewelry designer or a photographer! Even if your freelance but wanted to join a studio or a collective it was some of the best advice that I’ve ever had and that I just didn’t get from university. So things like how to copyright my work and how to invoice people properly. And knowing when to say, ‘no I’m not going to do any more work for you for free’. Just simple tips like, don’t send them your work at print resolution until they’ve paid you, because otherwise they can print it and not pay you. The book goes through so many things like that.”
“You’ll be doing so much free work at the start but its about knowing when to stop and put your foot down ‘saying no I’m not going to do anymore for free’. So yer read that book, because there is nothing I could say that would give you any better advice than what she has in that book. It’s a beautifully put together book!”
And lastly what will you take on next, what are your goals for the next year?
“I think I would really like to, regarding my jewelry, shoot a really nice look book. I really want to tie up all the loose ends, I feel like I’ve vaguely got a brand identity together but its not as solid as I’d like it to be. A look book would nail that.”
“Hopefully get stocked in some places, maybe some boutiques and clothing stores. And I’d love to make some rings for… I’m trying to think of dream clients…”
Of course, who is your dream client? Or dream celebrity to wear your jewelry?
“Christine and the Queens! I found out about her last week. She’s incredible. She’s French, and all of her music is really beautiful. She wears tailored suits, and is very androgynous. Also her performances are really interesting. I saw her on Jools Holland, I watched the performance and I was like ‘I want to know everything about you!’”
I love it when you see someone like that!
“But turns out she’s massive in Europe and in America and places like that. And she had some really cool jewelry on, and I thought I would love to make her something. All her stuff is very minimal, she wears very muted colours, with a monochrome look about her. And maybe Alexa Chung!”
“But yes for now its just a hobby, I’m delighted you’ve enjoyed it and that you wanted to find out more. And I’d love to make you a ring for sure!”
After meeting with Christina I’m set on purchasing one of her beautiful rings! I was blown away with how friendly and passionate she was. Clearly talented with an eye for design I look forward to seeing what she does next. And a huge thank you to Christina for letting me pick her brains for the afternoon it was truly great.
Go check out the TriNaNog Insta page: @Tir_Na_Nog_
Have a look at the website: http://www.tirnanogjewellery.com
Thank you for reading
-The lanky giraffe x
PHOTO CREDIT: TIR NA NOG- Christina Bentley