Jeweller – Claire Stratton on the importance of Hand Made

There is a natural, organic sensibility to Claire Stratton’s handmade jewellery, each piece is unique and designed to last, ‘I keep the business small and uncomplicated,’ she continues, ‘ everything goes through my hands.’

This interview from the site

That’s not my Age.

TNMA: What’s important to you when designing?

I like to be a bit surprised about the outcome, to sense that something has arrived that didn’t exist before, something a bit lively with its own energy. I think people need things that have been made by hand more than ever in a world being ever more mediated by technology and virtual realities. We instinctively understand things that have come through a manual process and are human in scale. Our grandparents were knitters, bakers, dress-makers, gardeners, boat builders and so much more. There is comfort to be found in reconnecting with these ‘making’ energies that are embedded in our DNA and yet which are being lost in so many ways.

TNMA: How does the creative process work?

I never really analyse my process too much, nor try too hard to create a particular outcome. I prefer not to think about it too much and just get on with the making by following my instincts. I like to include an element of chance. Inspiration comes from anywhere. I try to increase my relationship with the natural world but can equally revel in artifice and bling. Making stuff is slow – it takes time and cannot be rushed. It has its own rhythm that has to be adjusted to, respected. It bucks the trend of our ever more speedy lives…

TNMA: Women often report a surge in creativity during their 50s, have you found this?

I find this time in my life (mid- fifties), both demanding and fascinating. Oestrogen is sometimes called the ‘pleasing’ hormone; it keeps us compliant in some ways and serving of others. And obviously there is a place for this as kindness and nurturing are great qualities. But as oestrogen levels drop, if we are lucky and not over-burdened with caring roles, we may get a chance to reinvent ourselves, to check in on ourselves in new ways. We all have to wade through the negative image of menopause in our culture and it’s so easy to lose confidence. But I prefer to think about the flip side – it is a siren call, that we ignore at our peril – a call back to our own identity; which has so often been obscured in our adult roles in relationship, motherhood and responsibility. As our ability to procreate physically ends in such a clear hormonal signalling there is both new and old information that we must draw to ourselves, so we can re-route and re-wire our creativity in new ways.

TNMA: And how do you feel about getting older?

The great thing about getting older is that I care less about what other people think and am finding more clarity and more information about things that fascinate me. We are surrounded by so much fear on a daily basis. This is deeply unhelpful and I actively try to disconnect from this energy. I just see it as a program that keeps us small and ineffective.

TNMA: What’s your attitude towards clothes?

I have always loved clothes and refuse to take them too seriously. I have always designed clothes for myself in my head – not that most of them ever got made! My mum taught me to sew when I was young and there was often a sewing machine on our dining room table growing up. She had been a war child and very much of the making-do-and-getting-by generation. But sewing was always very much a creative act also. My mum’s sister used to work for Norman Hartnell before the war. She would make gorgeous dresses for both my mum and her dolls – all made from off-cuts of couture fabrics.

Then during the war, she made dresses out of old parachute silk, dyed to bring a bit of glamour to the CC41 Utility Wear of the day. I love these gestures towards extravagance and glamour amidst the necessities of frugality. In dark and troubling times, they were also having a lot of fun – dressing up and dancing, finding ways to lighten their days.

TNMA: What’s the most important advice you’ve ever been given?

When I was about 10 my best friend’s dad said to me “Don’t ever say ‘I don’t mind’ when given a choice.” This was a revelation to me. I immediately got it. I had been fully trained into the virtues of being non-demanding and acquiescent as child number four and a twin – and now I was being given permission to be myself, to make choices beyond the needs of the group. So simple and so empowering – and an early lesson in non-compliance.

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