Photography / Editorial / Print

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 10

"I am always trying to come up with new ways of wearing jewellery or pushing the boundaries between embellishment and fashion" says Rebecca Onyett, a young jewellery designer based in Kent. With a passion for the creative industry, she found herself drawn to jewellery, whilst studying for a 3D design course at Plymouth University. Onyett is fascinated by the "relationship between a person and the specific piece of jewellery that they choose to wear", in as much as it "creates a strange bond that only the wearer of the piece truly understands." A change of course and having taken evening classes in making silver pieces, led her to UCA for a dedicated jewellery course and she hasn't looked back.

Onyett's designs are bold and different. "I like to experiment with themes that intrigue and captivate but also offend and repulse. The darker, more sinister things in life that we know as a viewer we should shy away from but instead for some reason are drawn to".

The theme is recurrent throughout her collections and her interests in Jenny Saville, Francis Bacon and Egon Schiele echo a outlook for the more "darker themes in life". She tells us that "when I worked on my 3D course at Plymouth, I created furniture and household objects (fruit bowl) that were covered in spikes giving them a dangerous, edgy look. When I finally moved into jewellery my first project was inspired by celebrating the inside of the body by bringing it to the forefront and I looked at creating large scale ribcage necklaces, intestine scarfs and lung printed t-shirts". More recently, Onyett is still following this theme but also trying to create a more commercial collection that appeals to a wider audience.

The first piece of jewellery she ever designed was a brooch made of silver that was covered in acrylic dolls eyes. "I still have it now", she say "it is really creepy but when people ever see it they really love its weirdness. It would look great on someone's jacket as it looks like a monster staring at you." Away from the safety of university, the young designer has an appreciation for what the course has taught her, as it gave her the skills and a structure to her workflow.

Her most recent collection is entitled Skin Deep and "emphasises the desire for perfection and immortality by recasting over sections of the skin and adding unique embellishment to questions themes of disease and disfigurement." It seeks to question humanities perception and ideals that causes us to judge and determine what makes something beautiful or what makes it ugly. Using a method of "recasting parts of the body, the jewellery mimics over the surface of the skin, in sections that would not normally be embellished, creating unique jewellery embellishment for odd parts of the body."

Previous collections have included Seven Sins, a modern take on the theme, each piece symbolic of one of the Seven Cardinal Sins with each having a story to tell. The collection entitled All that Glistens is evocative of "cabinets of curiosities", taxidermy animals and insects, much collected and admired in the 18th century. Through the techniques of lost wax casting, Onyett recasts different parts of different birds, mammals and insects, transforming them and giving them a new life as jewellery. She tells us that "Taxidermy seeks to preserve life by celebrating death: it is a strange half-live, a suspension, an illusion. Insects on the other hand, through their lives, destroy this illusion: they feed on death, breaking down, demolishing, creating movement from a silent arrangement, forcing change and action." She brings these two themes together by making a series of bird and insect pieces that "explore the idea of decomposing, preserving, death and immortality."

On her work and how it has been received, there is a selfishness she says comes from "designing things that I like rather then what other people would like, but still my work does have some commercial feel about it and definitely fits within current trends." Extensive research and creating a story around each collection go into the work, that she admits "some people will love and others will not." The observer in her likes watching people see her work for the first time at exhibitions "they either have a real intrigued and surprised look or they instantly screw up their face and walk away. I guess it is like Marmite you either love it or hate it." There is strong fascination with life it seems and all that has to offer. Her favourite things to do are going to low-key gigs to see new bands, "I love festivals in the summer as it gives you a chance to really let loose for a long weekend, experience and meet new people from all walks of life."

Life is Onyett's biggest inspiration, "I am always thinking about new ideas and looking at what people are wearing around me. Inspiration could come from a tree, a paper, a documentary. It is that random and that's why I love it so much because its nature and just happens. You cannot push creativity or control it," adding "I love how right now the seasons are changing and there is an autumn crispness in the air. I just love finding new things that I have never seen before, it could be an unknown magazine left in a shop or someone selling work in Brick Lane that really catches my senses"

Jewellery, all over the world, is universally appreciated and Onyett tells us she "would love to see how all the different countries make jewellery or wear embellishments. That is one of my big plans for the future, to make some time to see the rest of the world."

Personal commissions give Onyett a direct and real personal link to the wearer, seen from her casts of peoples body parts that she says "creates jewel lery that is specifically a part of them. My dream would be to do this for a celebrity such as nipple covers for Rihanna, as i think they would look amazing on her with her very provocative way of dressing".

Of future plans, Onyetts tells us "For next summer I would love to do a bikini range that has jewels embellished onto it. I would also like to venture into men's jewellery and how it could be incorporated onto shirts, blazers and bow-ties." Onyett currently has her work exhibited in Diana Porter in Bristol and will have it in the Jewellery Emporium in Folkestone over Christmas and is "looking to set up my own online shop for the Christmas period and will exhibit/sell at any shows that come my way."

Interview by Nardip Singh
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