After a decade in the jewellery business Australian jeweller Holly Ryan recently opened her first showroom in Sydney. The designer chats with us about the importance of sustainability to her jewellery design, and finding inspiration in nature and modern art.
Australian jeweller Holly Ryan understood the importance of sustainability and preserving the natural environment from childhood. Today, she has applied the values instilled in her by her parents to her eponymous jewellery brand, for which her team of skilled artisans create fine jewellery, handcrafted locally, individual and unique each time.
Founded on principles of simplicity, sustainability and wearability, each jewellery piece is carefully considered from concept, the sourcing of material, through to production. Working with ethically sourced and recycled metals and precious stones, Holly fuses inspiration from modern architecture, art and design with a love of nature to create timeless wearable pieces that have minimum environmental impact and that you will treasure forever. She steers clear of trends and seasonal must-haves, and works instead to her own rhythm to deliver beautifully crafted pieces, including minimalist hoops, Picasso-inspired pendants and earrings, delicate necklaces drawing on modern sculpture, and strands of gleaming, irregular freshwater pearls that have a wabi sabi quality to them.
The studio also has a bespoke service so clients can personalise their pieces, and to encourage circularity they offer repairs and re-plating to help extend the lifecycle of your jewellery. And if you no longer love your piece —or you want to try something new—you can return it for recycling in exchange for store credit. "Jewellery is incredible, because the raw materials can be melted down and then repurposed into something new," Holly explains. The brand is run as a zero-waste operation, and offcuts, shaving and scraps of metal are saved and upcycled into new pieces.
Given the influence of modern art on her design process— and the sculptural quality of her pieces— perhaps it's unsurprising to learn that Holly is also a sculptor herself, represented by Woolloomooloo-based gallery, Jerico Contemporary. Her minimalist sculptures adorn the bright new showroom, sitting beside lush, green plants and framed black and white photos, and create a playful aesthetic dialogue with the jewellery on display.
Having founded her brand a decade ago as a 21 year old, the shop opening marks a milestone in the designer's career and life, and true to her sustainable principles, she has incorporated vintage pieces and recycled materials into the studio design, to create a space as understated, considered and refined as her jewellery. After all, as the designer points out, you have to "practice what you preach."
"I take constant inspiration from the raw beauty of the natural world."
You’ve just opened your new Sydney showroom after ten years of being in the jewellery biz. Why now? How are you finding it so far?
Ten years is a big milestone and this felt like the perfect time to finally open the Sydney studio that I have always dreamed of. This space is such an effortless reflection of the brand, so it already feels like home.
You’ve taken a sustainable approach to the studio design, reflecting the ethos of your brand. Can you tell me a little about the design of the studio?
Sustainability is really important to us as a brand, so it made sense for those values to extend into the Holly Ryan space as well. All our jewellery workbenches and packing stations were custom-made and were created sustainably using recycled timbers. A lot of the furniture was sourced secondhand to minimise waste – like Mart Stam chairs from Curated Spaces and a 1960s lounge suite that I had re-upholstered in a cream boucle fabric.
You were acutely aware of the importance of sustainability from a young age. How did your parents instil these values in you?
My parents always taught me to live as sustainably as possible and, as silversmiths, this was a natural part of the way they worked as well. So it has always been an intuitive part of the way I operate.
You incorporate sustainable, recycled and ethical materials in your jewellery. How do you source materials? What’s your process?
I have worked hard to find specific suppliers that deal in recycled metals and have also forged a relationship with a fair trade partner in India, who helps me to source stones ethically. So I always start with responsible materials when making a piece of jewellery.
"Buy less, but choose well, make it last."
You also prioritise circularity through your design and process. Can you talk about your Recycling Initiative?
Jewellery is incredible, because the raw materials can be melted down and then repurposed into something new. I believe that jewellery should be cherished and worn, so if you no longer wear a particular piece, then we invite you to return it through our Recycling Initiative, in exchange for a new piece that you will wear with love.
How would you describe your jewellery design aesthetic? What are some of the things that inform your work?
I would describe my aesthetic as organic minimalism. I am always very inspired by artists like Pablo Picasso and Barbara Hepworth, but also take constant inspiration from the raw beauty of the natural world. My designs are usually always either art or nature driven.
You’re also a sculptor. Who have been some of your influences and inspirations, and what is it you love about their work?
I am so inspired by artists like Pablo Picasso, Barbara Hepworth, and Jean Arp. There is something so intuitive about their work, which is what I strive for in my own sculpture practice.
Do you have any helpful tips for readers trying to live more sustainably?
For one, please practice what you preach. There is so much greenwashing in the industry right now, which makes things so overly confusing to consumers. But if you just simplify things, then it can have such a major cumulative impact. In the wise words of Vivienne Westwood: buy less, but choose well, make it last.
What’s the one piece of jewellery you can’t live without?
There are so many, but I feel naked without my Keshi Pearl Hoops on. They are so me!