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Vanilla 'Inker' Hannah Grace Ryan on the programme for aspiring jewellers

Six months ago Glasgow jewellery studio Vanilla Ink welcomed a fresh batch of aspiring jewellers into their supportive incubator ‘pod’ to nurture their fresh talent.

To mark the end of the tailored programme, focused on the development of confidence and business skills, the group launched their debut collections at Gesso Exhibition Space on 17September for the ‘Genesis’ exhibition, open until Sunday 25 September.

We found out more about the Vanilla Ink incubator programme and the exhibition from one of this year’s ‘inkers’, Hannah Grace Ryan…

Hannah Grace Ryan in the studio

What was your background previous to joining Vanilla Ink?

I graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2014, and since then I have been focusing on setting myself up as an independent jewellery designer and maker. Straight after graduating, I took up residence in an Edinburgh-based workshop and gallery, which gave me the opportunity to continue making straight after degree show and begin to build a professional body of work. During this time I tried to take part in as many shows and exhibitions as possible, as a way of keeping myself motivated and give my practice some structure. I then went on to exhibit at New Designers: One Year On, and take part in the Goldsmiths' Centre 'Getting Started' course, which were fantastic opportunities for learning, networking and fully immersing myself in the industry. After moving my studio back to Glasgow, however, I started to feel a little isolated and lacking in direction, so Vanilla Ink came along at the right time to set me back on track!

Hannah Grace Ryan's stand at New Designers One Year On

How would you describe your work?

My work has now become synonymous with an ancient goldsmithing technique called Granulation. I spent most of my final year at Art School experimenting with how far you could push this technique, and how combining it with modern technologies could completely change the scale or intricacy of the work. I now employ a method that combines everything from wax carving and 3D printing to traditional granulation, and play around with the size, shape and density of the granules to achieve my signature look. I'm informed by my love of history, and my work is inspired by the wonderful stories I discover when researching historical objects or artworks. My most recent collection, 'The Hoard', consists of heavily granulated silver rings, chokers and brooches that are all designed to look like the relics of formerly treasured objects.

What has your experience been of the Vanilla Ink programme?

I've loved my experience of the Vanilla Ink programme! Kate has designed the course to cover everything an aspiring jeweller could possibly need to know to get a head start in the industry. The course itinerary included workshops on marketing and branding, advice on curating and managing a photo-shoot, and how to pitch your business to industry professionals. Not only this, but the Meet The Makers events gave me the opportunity to speak with some amazing independent Scottish brands, designers and entrepreneurs. There is something uniquely comforting about hearing an established business owner talk you through all the mistakes, blunders and disasters they've encountered along the way! The mentorship programme put me in touch with a local designer who supported me throughout - not to mention cracked the whip when I needed extra encouragement - and the end of session exhibition, 'Genesis', has been such a fun experience to be involved in.

Detail from a garnet and oxidised silver choker, 2015

What would you say to other emerging jewellers thinking about applying for the programme?

It's hard work! But, as is with most things in life, you get as much out of it as you are willing to put in. The workshops can be intense, but they're invaluable when it comes to creating your business plan, and Kate is always setting you tasks to do in-between sessions. I think you have to be dedicated and self-motivated to take part in the programme, but that doesn't mean you have to have it all figured out when you apply. The purpose of Kate and Vanilla Ink is to help you piece together, bit by bit, what you want from your practice and how you see yourself progressing in the months to come. I think the course is perfect for jewellers who are starting out, as well as for those who just need that little confidence boost to move to the next step.

Can you tell us a bit about the pieces you’ve created for the Genesis exhibition?

During my time at Vanilla Ink I have been working on a new series of cocktail rings, with the aim of having them finished for the Genesis exhibition. They're a lot chunkier and polished than my previous work, and each features a large statement stone setting which is then encrusted with granulation. I have designed a collection of more wearable rings that feature the same stone settings and granulated details, however for the exhibition I liked the idea of playing with scale to create something extravagant. I love designing beautiful pieces that my customers can wear every day, but I think it's equally important to have some show-stoppers included in your collections.

A recently completely white gold and black diamond engagement ring commission

What do you have planned next?

My next goal is to redesign my website and launch it as a fully eCommerce compatible shop front. This will involve organising my first professional photoshoot and redesigning my branding and packaging, which are all things that Vanilla Ink has helped me plan for. I have a few craft fairs planned for over Christmas, and I’m working on some exciting bespoke commissions. As well as this, I founded a Glasgow-based design group called The Garnet Collective last year, and we're just finishing a two month long showcase of our work in The Lighthouse, so I'm keen to start planning our next exhibition. The Vanilla Ink programme has helped me work out how I see the collective fitting in around my own practice, and Kate has been really supportive of my side-projects.

The Genesis exhibition runs until Sunday 25 September at Gesso Gallery Space.

The next round of Vanilla Ink will be October 2016. Please sign up to their newsletter to be the first to know when applications open.

Find out more about Hannah's work on her website, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram and check out her design collective at www.thegarnetcollective.co.uk

This article was published on 23 Sep 2016