Grainne Morton makes unique, handmade jewellery using collections of antique found objects and semi precious stones. Inspired by Georgian and Victorian styles, Grainne's pieces are reimagined for contemporary wear.
Born and raised in Northern Ireland by creative and antique-loving parents, Grainne was immersed in and surrounded by the traditional crafts, folklore, music and fairy tales of the country. Her individuality, and the expression of that - primarily through clothes, style and the considered presentation of [her]self - is engrained in the jewellery she makes. Each piece, carefully choreographed, the arranging and re-arranging of little objects, and precious things, moved and re-placed until they establish a relationship to each other. And tell a story to the viewer.
Moving to Edinburgh, Scotland, in the late eighties to study at Edinburgh College of Art was the jump off point for Grainne to become an avid collector of antiques and ephemera. Her collections became her inspiration, and her inspiration became her work. This use of unexpected, and delightfully juxtaposed, materials is where it all started, and over 20 years later, is now firmly her trademark.
It's an evocative, tiny world of possibilities that Grainne creates within her pieces, and her compositions, that's so alluring.You may be drawn to a particular precious gem, to the mythology of the 'all seeing eye' or the symbolism of an open palm, a moon, a lady-bird, a tiny piece of coral or perhaps a simple button. Grainne may be telling her story, but the true story begins when the jewellery ends up with the wearer, and you imprint your story and your interpretation in to the heirloom.
All of Grainne's jewellery is painstakingly crafted by hand. Each and every object Grainne places in to her compositions are delicately set in 18ct gold plated silver... each casing measured carefully for a snug fit, soldered, pierced and polished, before placing in the tiny object, and rubbing the metal over to secure. Many of the objects used in Grainne’s pieces are antique (Georgina and Victorian), and vintage. Breathing new life into old ‘forgotten treasures’ adds an additional layer of beauty to Grainne’s work, which is sold throughout the world.
My home at school was the art department and I had a strong desire to go to art college and to specialise in fashion. I loved clothes and had a real passion for style. However, the early stages of the course focused exclusively on design and lacked any making element. So, when I tried jewellery as part of my first year foundation, I connected immediately to it, because of the hand skills/ making element, and the small-scale, almost miniature nature of the work.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your jewellery?
I’d describe it as unique and eclectic, with a story that is born out the use of different elements and colours sitting together.
Where do you source the objects that make up your pieces?
I source the objects at antique fairs and markets and also from a range of suppliers from around the world.
Is there anything you’re drawn to in particular?
I like things that are unobvious. Something that is new in that it may have never been used in a piece of jewellery before, or for a very long time. I like unusual shapes and materials, and objects that have depth of colour/texture. I love finding items that are old, as I feel this emphasises the time taken to create something and adds to my ethos that artisanal making produces an unrivalled depth of quality.
Can you tell us about the other materials you use?
I’ve always used buttons in my work; mother of pearl buttons to begin with. However, the market became somewhat saturated with the incorporation of buttons in various design objects. So, although I still use buttons, I’ve pushed back in time to source rarer and older buttons from Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras. Mixing these more intricate buttons with precious and semi-precious stones enables me to produce something fresh and ‘one of a kind’ which I think is truly exciting.
Your pieces are unique - where do you draw inspiration from?
My inspiration stems from my time at art college in the early 90s. I didn’t want to make jewellery from all metal, or metal and stones, which is very much the traditional way. I wanted to use colour and more unusual materials, which I began by framing in miniature compartments, mainly in the form of brooches. My work evolved over time and I began to explore taking the items out of their compartments and setting in a range forms, moving to earrings and necklaces. I’m also inspired by Georgian and Victorian jewellery, in particular the chandelier earring shape. It’s such a bold and colourful shape and looks beautiful in old paintings. I wanted to bring this style back, but in more contemporary way.
You’re an avid collector, what have been your favourite finds?
I love this blue enamel eye brooch which I’ve only ever been able to find one of, and this sacred heart brooch. It’s so dramatic, sentimental and delicate, with its tiny metallic thread. I’ve used both these pieces in necklaces.
Is there a feeling you hope to evoke from the wearer?
I want my wearers to feel that my jewellery completes and accentuates their look/outfit. I want them to feel special! I also hope that they enjoy the feeling of making a personal connection with the piece and the elements within it. For example, feeling that some of the items can be their ‘lucky charms’, or that they gain a level of assurance or protection from some objects, like and eye watching over them.