Words by Síomha Connolly
September 2nd, 2016
Fiona Mulholland is founder and creator of Mulholland Jewellery, a brand defined by contemporary craftsmanship and cutting-edge design. With a passion for designing jewellery since she was just 15, Fiona has been creating ever since. Her talents don’t stop at jewellery making though, Fiona has created installations, sculptures and other pieces of art work over her twenty years in the creative sector. We chatted to Fiona to find out about her typical working day, her creative inspirations, and why a nomadic lifestyle suits her.
On her work…
Primarily, I see myself as a maker and I am a contemporary jeweller and sculptor. I’ve been working in the creative sector for over 20 years now. I have realised several large scale public artworks, as well as participating in over forty group and solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally. In 2014, I returned to my roots in jewellery design and have been successful in several high profile processes including being selected for ‘Create’ – Irish designers’, hosted by Brown Thomas. In January 2015, I was selected for the ‘Creative Island’ at Showcase (Ireland’s Creative Expo) and won a ‘highly commended award’ from the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland. Recent awards include; ‘Irish Accessory Designer of the Year’ at the The Irish Fashion Industry Awards held during Kerry Fashion Week, a Future Makers ‘Spotlight Award’ from the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland and was the ‘Established Jewellery Category Winner’ at the RDS Crafts Awards this summer.
Typically, my day starts with a strong coffee and is not the average 9-5, more like 10-8 and is often 7 days a week. Although, I’m a slow starter in the morning, I prefer to work into the evenings and no two days are the same. As I make all the work myself, there are never enough hours in the day but I am happiest lost in those hours, making beautiful things. My work is so varied whether it be for a client, a commission, exhibition work or even a fashion show and I always find it challenging.
On making her way…
I discovered at the tender age of 15, as a teenager in the ’80s that by making coffin lid earrings I could express my punk ideals through the creative process – in this instance metalwork. I studied jewellery and metalwork at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and graduated in 1993. It was during this time that I set up my first studio in the garden shed of my parents’ house. From these humble surroundings I put together my first body of work for exhibition and became firmly hooked on the adrenaline of creativity. I’ve been making work for exhibition and to commission ever since.
On creative inspirations…
Generally, I am inspired by my environment and what is going on around me on different levels both aesthetically and conceptually. Although, I’m from Dublin, I have been living in the North West for 5 years and find the beauty of the landscape, the space and slower pace of life has helped fuel my creative work in several very positive ways.
I also find inspiration by experimenting and drawing through materials and my work has evolved over the years. The ethos behind my jewellery collections now lie in exploring the relationship between contemporary craftsmanship and cutting edge design.
Inspired by colour, light and pure form, my work is a simultaneously sophisticated and funky fusion of innovative design thinking, new technology mixed with traditional making techniques. Combining precious metals with layers of coloured Plexiglas to create modular units that fully exploit the luminosity of the material and recently described by the journalist, Manchán Magan as “… like a futuristic, mongrel diamond …”
Designs can be combined or interchanged allowing for endless design possibilities.
On career advice…
Feel the fear and do it anyway! The strategy I have used over the years has simply been to keep developing and keep pushing – to apply to various open submission exhibitions, funding award opportunities and relevant commissions. My experience is that once a successful event has been staged, further opportunities are likely to arise, one event generally leading to another. So far, it has been an exciting journey with lots of rewarding, diverse experiences and one I aim to continue for many more years, with a certain amount of dogged determination.
On challenges faced…
In common with many creative people, the reality for me has been that I often had to subsidise my work through part-time jobs. I have always aimed to get work directly related to my practice and for several years I worked as an Associate Lecturer in Fine and Applied Art at the University of Ulster in Belfast. Over the years, this put constraints on the time and energy I had available for creating artworks. In 2010, in the midst of our economic recession, I made the difficult decision to leave my post to concentrate full time on my creative work. This has been very challenging but hugely rewarding as it has ultimately brought me back full circle to my jewellery background with a view to establishing a sustainable business which allows me to use my creative skills in a constructive and commercially viable way.
On her most treasured pieces…
I have a veritable archive of jewellery pieces from the last thirty years and have a connection to each of them in one way or another – It would be great to have the opportunity to showcase them at some point and that might make an interesting future project.
On her favourite creation…
That’s a difficult question to answer because I have made so many pieces over the years and one learns something new from each making experience but there are certain works that I am certainly proud of including the largest piece I have realised to-date which is a 5 metre high memorial sculpture in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Co. Dublin. Made up of 64 life-size bronze lifejackets, it articulates the fragility of life and acts as a signifier of our mortality.
I am mainly interested in artwork that can communicate on several levels and in terms of a jewellery piece, the ‘Wedding Ring Cover’ remains a favourite in its simplicity of form but subtle yet bold message. By making a ‘cover’ for the wedding band, one can completely subvert its meaning. I also made it mid-1990s, when divorce had not yet been legalised in Ireland. And of course, working with so much colour in my current work always brightens the mood.
On travel destinations…
Anywhere the sun casts long shadows and is warm! Following a week long hiking trip through the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco last year, I really loved the richness of the culture of North Africa. In addition to the two days we spent in Marrakech, it is a vibrant country that is drenched in light, colour and pattern. The Berber people, landscape, saturated colours, the pride in craft and its inherent ties with design evident in almost every nook and cranny of their buildings both interior and exterior. For my creative mind, the place was mysterious, magical and a feast for all the senses.
On travel essentials…
A set of jewellery hand-tools for making work when I am on the move. Also, my laptop and phone which means one can be almost anywhere but still connected and doing stuff.
On dream homes…
I live a somewhat nomadic lifestyle due to the nature of my work and generally travel regularly throughout Ireland which keeps things fresh and interesting. I actually love where I am living now in the North West of Ireland but like everybody else, I find the weather challenging at times. Ideally, I would love to live six months in a warmer climate where one could work outdoors and the rest of the time near the sea in Ireland.
(giveaway for members only – become a member below)
We are giving members a chance to win one of Fiona’s beautiful jewellery designs, the ‘Spectrum’ necklace worth €140. This long chain features multi-coloured perspex cubes on a long 38″ inch chain. A perfect statement piece to brighten up any outfit.
This giveaway is for maven46 MEMBERS ONLY (i.e subscribers to our mailing list). However, it’s not too late to join the maven46 community, see below.
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