Meet the Maker: Elby Brown Jewellery
Laura Brown from Elby Brown Jewellery is a jeweller who lives off grid in Cornwall, making exquisite pieces that combine imagination, storytelling, precious metals and fine craftsmanship from her studio among the birch trees. Laura talks to fellow Folksy seller Alison Chopra from Sakarma Handmade about her working process, the landscape, animals and tales that inspire her and what it’s like to live without an iron and take your bath outside heated by fire…
Shop Elby Brown Jewellery on Folksy – https://folksy.com/shops/elbyjewellery
My goals are to live simply and laugh loudly and as often as humanly possible.
Hi Laura, I really love your jewellery and the fact it’s not just beautiful but invites you in to create your own story. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and background.
I have ambled down a few career paths and never really settled into any apart from youth work. I’d be the one in the office who would offer to take notes in meetings and then doodle all over the paper. I’ve been making jewellery since 2012, mainly self taught, until last year when I got stuck and went for mentoring from a brilliant jeweller who helped me develop my skills and things I had missed out on.
We don’t have mains electricity or water, instead relying on solar power and rainwater for our water supply. It sounds idyllic to some and horrifies others.
I live in what some might consider an unconventional lifestyle but is my normal. We don’t have mains electricity or water, instead relying on solar power and rainwater for our water supply. We have an outdoor bath over a fire (I can’t recommend this enough if you have a garden) and a compost loo, although we do have a shower inside too. It sounds idyllic to some and horrifies others.
The truth is that some bits of life are simpler – there’s not enough power to do any ironing, for example (yippee) – and some are more complex. My workshop is powered by solar too. My goals are to live simply and laugh loudly and as often as humanly possible.
Telling stories is a part of getting to know the world and our place in it.
Your jewellery is full of imagination and storytelling. Where does this come from? Have you always been a storyteller?
I do love words. An only child until I was 10, I was a reader and I would write stories too. I was particularly fond of making pop-up books (hand me a stick of glue and some scissors and I probably still would be). I think, in one way or another, we are always telling, sharing or listening to stories of ourselves and others. It’s a part of getting to know the world and our place in it.
I am at my absolute happiest when I have sunlight (or rain) on my face and am surrounded by wild green spaces or water.
What’s the story behind the name Elby Brown?
It’s actually one of procrastination. Two long years at least. When I decided to rebrand my business from Them Silver Seas, I had several (hundred) very repetitive conversations with friends (sorry!) on how to change my name, what to change it to and what impact it might have. To begin with, it was just my initials, LB, but I wanted it to be softer looking and sounding and rounded. Then it became Elby, but that felt a bit short. So it became Elby Brown. Part me, part storytelling, a character. I think I’ll properly grow into it when my hair turns grey (all over).
I did live in a city for a bit and loved the vibrancy but always felt enclosed.
Your work is inspired by nature. Does this come from your immediate surroundings or just a love of nature.
It is a natural inclination; it’s what comes out when I am creative. If I were to make jewellery with a more industrial feel, I would be trying to be something I am not. I did live in a city for a bit and loved the vibrancy but always felt enclosed. I love people but I do need a lot of time by myself – more than most I would say. I am at my absolute happiest when I have sunlight (or rain) on my face and am surrounded by wild green spaces or water.
One of my recent favourite pieces, my birch tree ring, popped into my head almost fully formed. It’s lovely when that happens but rare.
What is your design process?
It can go all sorts of ways. One of my recent favourite pieces, my birch tree ring, popped into my head almost fully formed. It’s lovely when that happens but rare. Usually it goes:
1) Inspiration – usually too many ideas at once, slightly scrambled. I write them all down, lists form and then unpick one to make solid.
2) The feeling, the story, materials, colours. I sketch most out at least once. I write notes as I go or immediately after. I can remember all sorts of things: what colour sock I might have been wearing last Thursday and which book you said was good last year, but never, ever measurements, metal thickness, stone size or how I went about forming a piece. Hence the recipe book.
Do you have a favourite item to make and material to work with?
I love enamelling, though it drives me bonkers as it can be so temperamental. I think that’s is a part of it – that learning curve, wanting to master this thing that is unpredictable to some extent.
Craft is about an emotional connection from the maker to the customer. You leave a little of yourself in making a thing, a sense of time place, where you were, where you were going.
What does craft mean to you?
For me, craft is about an emotional connection from the maker to the customer. You leave a little of yourself in making a thing, a sense of time place, where you were, where you were going. An object made with love is a direct line from one human heart to another. It isn’t an impulse buy, a throwaway thing. It’s a process of consideration on both parts. I don’t think you buy a handmade craft piece because you like it. You buy a piece because you love it.
Why did you decide to rebrand from Them Silver Seas to Elby Brown Jewellery?
I felt like it wasn’t me any more. My old name suggested I made sea glass jewellery or only sea-themed jewellery and maybe that I worked only in silver – plus I always had to say it two or three times, as people thought they had misheard it.
I’d be the one in the office who would offer to take notes in meetings and then doodle all over the paper.
What challenges have arisen from rebranding?
There were four main challenges I can think of. Probably the hardest was around my most loyal customers. I didn’t want them to feel that I was changing without a thought for them. I hope I explained it well enough. It seems that people have stuck with me, so I am very grateful for that. Another worry was that others might think I was the new kid on the block, when actually I’ve been around for quite a while. I didn’t expect to feel that but I did.
Then, getting the word out. I worried that people would be looking for my work and not be able to find me. I do think there was a bit of fall out from that for a while. Practically, admin was a bit tricky for a bit too… lots of things to change.My one piece of advice is if you are going to rebrand, do it quickly, press the button (that’s the easiest bit) and don’t procrastinate for as long as I did – it’s not worth the headache.
Little by little, I’m creating, slowly and carefully, taking time, trying to do it right.
What’s next for your Elby Brown?
I’m building and expanding collections, updating and refining my work. I am more patient these days. I want everything I make to be as good as it can be. Little by little, I’m creating, slowly and carefully, taking time, trying to do it right.