At The UNDONE we have strengthened our focus on curating an edit of hand made jewellery, of pieces you want to wear every day that are made with such care and attention to detail.
We've been big supporters of Australian jewellery brand Holly Ryan, and over the years we've worked on a few special exclusive pieces, with the newest series 'Lost Treasure' one of our favourites.
Going behind the scenes into their new Surry Hills design studio, we watched on as Holly and her team hand made these new pieces, showcasing the time, skill and craftmanship each Holly Ryan piece entails.
Celebrating 10 years of the brand this year, we chat to founder and jewellery designer Holly Ryan about how she learnt her craft from her parents, and how her strong beliefs in sustainability and have impacted how she runs her business.
This year marks 10 years of Holly Ryan jewellery, congratulations! What were the first pieces you created like and how has your brand evolved over the last decade?
Thank you! The first pieces I created were in my final year of university at QUT in Brisbane, studying Fashion design. I designed a range of simple iconographic stud earrings and pendant necklaces to complement my graduate clothing collection on the runway. This collection was named ‘Lush Life’ and it was very Noosa (where I’m from), so it still makes me blush when I see pictures of it haha.
What have been the biggest learning curves of running your own business?
Staying true to my instincts and nurturing my inner creative process has been fundamental to my survival in this industry. I have been making my jewellery by hand for ten years now, using high quality solid gold and sterling silver recycled metals. When I first started out, though, it wasn’t considered ‘cool’ to handmake jewellery. When I explained what I did to people, they immediately responded with ‘oh great, so which markets do you sell at?’ It was hard to educate consumers that handmade doesn’t necessarily mean ‘crafty’ and I really had to push the message that it can actually be considered ‘artisanal’.
You originally learnt your craft from your mother and she’s been part of the Holly Ryan team since inception. How do you think this way of learning has set your brand apart from others?
My parents studied silversmithing together in Mexico in a small town called Taxco, which is the silver capital of the world. Both Mum and Dad have always been really passionate about sustainability as well, so they instilled those values in me early on – which has informed my brand and the way that I make jewellery ever since.
Your original studio is based in the Sunshine Coast and you’re now based in your new Sydney studio, having worked in both locations what are the pros and cons of working and being creative in a smaller town versus a bigger city?
For me personally, a big pro of working on the Sunshine Coast was the proximity to nature. I feel very inspired by the raw beauty of nature and am at my most creative when I can be out doing hikes up the mountain and swimming in the ocean every day. But it is further away from where a lot of our business takes place. With that in mind, it has always been a dream of mine to open a Sydney studio, so setting up Holly Ryan HQ here this year has been a major milestone for myself and for the brand. The benefits of working in a bigger city include being closer to our amazing stockists and suppliers, as well as being able to expand the Holly Ryan team, by working with some incredibly creative women based here in Sydney.
You’re really passionate about sustainability and are quite unique being able to offer circularity to HR customers. Tell us more about this and the different ways you can include this in your processes.
Creating in a sustainable way has always been second nature to me. Because many of the materials we use (like gold and silver) never lose their value and can be melted down, there is endless opportunity for circularity there. Not only do we handmake everything to order, which reduces waste in production, we also melt down and repurpose much of what we already have – including scraps from around the studio, old designs that haven’t sold, and even our customers’ pre-loved pieces. Which is why we launched the HR Recycling Initiative, to invite people to exchange jewellery items that they no longer wear for a credit towards a new piece that they will cherish.
Who do you look to for information and inspiration on sustainability, particularly in fashion?
I am very inspired by the wonderful women within the industry here in Australia who are equally as passionate as I am about sustainability and who have aligned morals and perspectives when it comes to responsible fashion. These women include Rosie Dalton, Laura May, Clare Press, Kit Willow and Celeste Tesoriero.
We can tell you’re a hands on creative by how you work with your jewellery and also your sculptures. Are there any other creative areas you want to get your hands on?
I am currently studying bronze sculpting at school in Manly and have been dabbling with clay and ceramics also. I have been working on my next solo sculpture exhibition with Jerico Contemporary too, which will be a completely new direction for me, so I’m excited about that.
Tell us a little about the lost treasure designs we collaborated on and what the process is like to make these pieces. How long does it take to create and make each piece?
These pieces are a modern and minimalistic spin on our Hidden Treasure designs, created especially for The Undone woman and her effortlessly pared back aesthetic.
How do you look after your jewellery?
I believe that jewellery is made to be worn and the most sustainable thing we can do is to buy less but wear it more. So most of my jewellery never comes off. Being made from durable materials like solid gold, lots of my pieces even stay on when I’m swimming in the ocean. If I do take them off, then I keep them stored separately in our HR Boxes and polish them every now and then with our dedicated polishing cloths.
What are the pieces you never take off?
I feel naked without my Keshi Pearl Hoops on and my Initial Pendant or Art Deco Fob. My rings are also like an extension of myself – particularly my Wabi-Sabi Rings, HR Signet and the Wavee Ring with Diamonds – which is one of my newest pieces, but one of the ones that I have been dreaming up for years.