We think of ourselves as a nation of fashion designers, but jewellery is an area where we are hugely strong.
The Crafts Council 2011 initiative, the International Year of Craft, did a huge amount of good, raising the awareness of Irish talent in this oft-overlooked area.
Internationally, designers such as Slim Barrett, Merle O’Grady and more recently, Joanne Hynes, have tremendous reputations. Strong, independent design centres such as the Designyard, Leitrim Design House and Michelle O’Connell Jewellery in Kilkenny, are all great supporters of Irish jewellery, along with indie fashion boutiques such as Emporium Kalu in Naas, Wish in Skibbereen and the Kilkenny group.
I first met Christina Brosnan in the late Nineties when I did an item for Off The Rails on avant-garde Irish jewellery design. In the Noughties she took a break from jewellery, pursuing artistic collaborations and interior design (she designed the private-members club at The Point, now the O2). Last year, inspired by Showcase, the Irish-design trade fair at the RDS, she decided to relaunch her label.
Christina’s is deceptively simple work, yet it has a kind of tribal edginess that is dramatic when worn. The styling on our pages today is starkly modern, but I’ve seen her pieces worn with less vampy fashions and become a seamless part of the wearer’s persona.
“I am really passionate about unusual shapes and forms. I also like a bit of brain teasing in the pieces,” Christina explained of her Contour and Osseous ranges. “A huge influence was the Dinka tribe from Sudan. They use a huge amount of adornment on their bodies. So I am using a lot of bone in the pieces as well as silver and rolled gold,” she says. “There was a throwback to our own ancestry — the torc and gold.”
Christina is from Ennistymon and her mother was a tremendous influence on her creativity. “She was always spinning, crocheting, dyeing. She did very fine crocheting; Irish lace, in fact,” she says.
“People would come to our house with crafts to share, too. I remember a woman who did Native American beading. So it was all around me. It all started with a first bead. I was helping a nun clear out cupboards in school and there were loads of abacus in the cupboard and they were going to throw them out. At the time my mum was crocheting lots of lampshades, so she used them. Later, I found Victorian beads and they were great because they really fired the imagination. So I started at age nine and I have never stopped.” For which I am very glad.