Category Archives: Sources of inspiration

‘Thou she be but little, she is fierce’

I’ve been visiting Stratford Upon Avon and the surrounding area regularly for quite a few years now and although the main purpose of our visits are most often Shakespeare-related, we realised this week that we have never really done anything ‘touristy’ in town.

It’s ironic to think that with such a love of Shakespeare and the theatre, we hadn’t actually explored Shakespeare’s houses for example; well I had, but it was in 1983 I think, so it probably doesn’t count. In fact, over the past year, I’ve been up to Stratford even more frequently for my research and I have spent many hours in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Library and Archive and The Shakespeare Institute, but I still haven’t ventured any further…

Two of the very talented actors in the garden of Shakespeare's Birthplace performing a scene from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in a less than summery, chilly wind.

Two of the very talented actors in the garden of Shakespeare’s Birthplace performing a scene from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in a less than summery, chilly wind.

So, this week as we drove up from Hertfordshire for a few days we decided it was about time we did. We did the Stratford Town Walk, visited the Church where Shakespeare was christened and buried, took in some non-RSC theatre, visited the Birthplace and, well obviously we went to the RST to see the unmissable ‘Death of a Salesman’, but that was planned a while ago.

The Stratford Town Walk was fascinating and extremely enlightening. John, our guide was very knowledgeable and had some great little anecdotes. I was surprised to discover that many councils around the UK, and indeed many countries, have donated lampposts to the town. In all my wanderings, I’d never noticed the lamppost outside The Swan Theatre that was donated by Israel and features an owl, Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof (an interesting trio if ever there was one!). I hadn’t realised that the town still occasionally flooded, or that a frog’s spittle could cure a sore throat, and I had no idea that Shakespeare’s grave was actually cursed.

The lamppost donated by Israel

The lamppost donated by Israel

A visit to the Birthplace, was equally educational – seeing Homer Simpson doing Macbeth was disturbing, viewing the First Folio was interesting and treading the floors of Shakespeare’s first home was actually more exciting than I had expected. Even better was the discovery of new inspiration for my designs so watch this space…

The First Folio in Shakespeare's Birthplace

The First Folio in Shakespeare’s Birthplace

I could go on, but I’ll come back to this in a later post. Until then, I’ll just say thank you to John from Stratford Town Walks for his handy tip on how to remember the titles of all of Shakespeare’s plays and wish you a very Happy Easter!

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The thing that did it for me

I began looking at how Shakespeare could inform my jewellery designs when I was in the third year of my City & Guilds.  Up until that point I had felt a bit lost – I had no real problems making a piece of jewellery, in fact I was loving it; I just struggled with inspiration. Most of the jewellers I have met use nature or architecture for inspiration and this really works for many successful designers.  It just wasn’t doing it for me.

I’m not saying I don’t find architecture or nature inspiring, I do. I just don’t feel a burning desire to make jewellery from it. I was blown away by the architecture in Dubai, I completely adored the buildings in Italy – the Duomo in Milan literally took my breath away – and I’m quite partial to the odd bunch of peonies. But inspiration for my next jewellery collection? Nope.

So that got me thinking. I needed something to inspire me and take me through my third year and beyond. I needed to find that theme or focus that would help me to find my own personal language.

Then it hit me. Why did I have to confine my source of inspiration to objects, why not find inspiration in what I love? Why not start with concepts, ideas, words, feelings? I love the theatre and I particularly love going to see Shakespeare’s plays, so why couldn’t this be my starting point?

As I sit writing this, I’m on my way up to Stratford Upon Avon to spend three days in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Library and Archive, the Shakespeare Institute and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I’ll be drawing inspiration from my surroundings, from a trip to the Theatre and from the many, many books, photographs, production records and studies of Shakespeare’s plays in performance.

When I get home, the hard work begins…turning this inspiration into jewellery. I can’t wait!

Photo taken by me

The Duomo, Milan. Both photos taken by me in August 2013