Whether you’re designing a meal, a tower block, or a ring, your inspiration has to come from somewhere and finding the source of this inspiration is really interesting. Take this little vine ring, for example. All the way back in 1978 Polly was making beautiful pieces in 18ct gold with heavenly and precious gems. Our parents were living in Italy then on their smallholding which included a vineyard, and when Mum was pruning the vines she broke off a dry and perfectly wrapped tendril and popped it on her finger like a ring. Polly copied this little tendril in 22ct gold and gave it to Mum, and a design was born. Since then, this vine motif has appeared often in her designs and has become her signature, really. Over the years it has appeared in pendants, brooches, bangles and earrings and as with most designs it grows and evolves to become something else each time, but always starting at the same point – a vine tendril.
I look at other jewellers’ work all the time and find it interesting how completely recognisable a jeweller’s style becomes. There’s no knowing where they got their inspiration, of course, but they develop a style all their own, and no matter how much or how little they change their designs – and some hardly change them at all, preferring a variation on a theme rather than a new design each time – their style is what sets them apart. Polly’s work is easily recognised for being strong, organic, and 22ct gold, for instance, and full of different designs.
But whatever the constant is in a jeweller’s work, I never cease to be amazed by how different everyone’s work is! Is there literally no end to design inspiration? How can more than 100 jewellers all gather in the same hall (at Goldsmiths’ Fair for example), and every one of them be making and selling something different? In the enormously wide world of jewellery some makers have obviously got their inspiration from other jewellers and their work is remarkably similar – is this a form of jewellery plagiarism I wonder, or is imitation indeed the highest form of flattery? – but in general each jeweller has a different take on how a stone should be set or how a piece of metal should be worked. If you gave three jewellers three identical stones and the same amount of metal all the finshed pieces would be completely different, certainly, but I bet you could tell who made which just by the style. Probably one of the most exciting things for a jeweller is to have a client say they were approached and asked by a complete stranger, “Is that a Polly Gasston you’re wearing?”
So style and inspiration are the chicken and egg of jewellery; I think everyone already has their style built in, as it were, and then they’re inspired by something and they create a piece – in their style. Which is why, I suppose, you can put 100 jewellers in the same room and no two will be the same, because your style is yours and yours alone, and no amount of inspiration is going to change that.