Lovely Bones: Interview with SweetDelirium Jewellery

Many readers will be interested in the origins of your organic materials. Where and how do you source them?

The sourcing of organic supplies is often the first question I will be asked by a concerned customer before deciding to purchase, curious fans and fellow artists. It is also a very controversial choice of material to work with, so I have spent a lot of time making sure I am doing everything right and can confidently fight my corner when approached! All of my organic items are obtained ethically, in what I believe to be the purest sense. You will often come across a taxidermist or artist that defines ethical as ‘not hunted or killed for the sole purpose of art’, yet they will happily use animals that have been killed by pest control. I will not use these supplies in my work, as I still deem culling cruel practice. My items come from either local farmlands, or the Highlands of Scotland, where birds and rabbits are found in the countryside naturally dead, from conservation areas or animal sanctuaries. I really do struggle to convince people at times that certain items could ever be ethically sourced, but believe me, if I couldn’t source my supplies with 100% confidence in their ethical origins, they would not be in my work. I do also offer a replica resin version of the taxidermy items, hand made feather wings in place of the real preserved ones, and resin antlers, so even if you would not be comfortable wearing organic animal items, you can still have the designs.

What are your ethical concerns regarding production?
I do worry that due to the relatively fast rise into the public eye SweetDelirium has had over the last twelve months, others will be encouraged to ‘jump on the band wagon’ as it were, and incorporate animal skulls and so on into their work, or to set up new businesses using such items. This is no bad thing on a small scale, it is good to inspire, but a rise in demand for animal skulls, wings and the like, could in the future lead to less than ethical methods of obtaining them, especially as unethical = cheaper to buy in, therefore larger profit. I am not in this line of work for profit, I am doing this to show people how beautiful death can be if made into something ethereal and elegant, but as with all areas in the alternative industry, there will be people wanting a piece of the action, and maybe not sourcing carefully enough, or doing the work justice.

What is your artistic background?
I am an only child, and spent a lot of my time when I was young drawing, reading and writing stories. As a teenager I was mainly focused on being an author, and did manage to get a few poems published, but as I got older I was drawn much more strongly into the more creative side. I spent a short while at art college, but didn’t get on well with the surprisingly strict way of teaching. I moved into the tattoo industry in 2004, working as a Body Piercer, learning tattooing through an apprenticeship until the birth of my daughter in 2007. After that I found it too demanding to be a part time mum, part time tattoo artist, so after a couple more years piercing part time, moved into jewellery design.

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What inspires your work?
Pretty much everything inspires me in one way or another. I draw my ideas mainly from stories and books I enjoy, listening to music when sketching ideas, memories and favourite images. I like to make jewellery that I have always wanted to own, but could never find!
You have spoken about the saturation of the ‘alternative’ industry with the influx of large numbers of new models, photographers and designers. Do you believe that this is a positive thing? Yes and no. Yes in the respect that it is great to see more young people using their initiative to do something creative that they have a passion for and to make a go of it, I think it’s wonderful that people still follow their dreams, no matter the cost and sacrifice, and wish them only the best of luck. I try to work with as many new up and coming models, photographers and designers as I can, after all I was there this time last year, and some amazing people gave me the chance to show them what I could do, which I am so grateful for.
On the flip side, there are a lot of people coming into the industry for ‘the glory’. People see someone making themselves a success, and seem to think it’s such an easy thing to achieve, but chances are you will have to work yourself nearly into the ground to get noticed at all, because there are so many people doing the same thing as you! I work 16 -18 hours a day at this, seven days a week, while running a family. You have to be prepared to make sacrifices, suffer setbacks and to work very very hard.

How do you see your brand? Do you consider it to be ‘alternative’?
SweetDelirium is ‘alternative’ in the respect that you would never find my style of work on the High Street. I would actually be appalled if any large chain would ever consider selling real skull jewellery, taking us back to my point in a previous question, which would mean very unethical sourcing of the skulls, on a mass produced level. Ten years ago, there was a definite line between what we describe as ‘mainstream’, and ‘alternative’, and the people either side of it were easily identifiable as one thing or the other. Now, the line has nearly vanished, which is I think a great thing – why should we categorize people based on lifestyle and image? So I don’t tend to describe myself as an alternative artist in that respect. I would say I’m more of a specialist artist. What do you think has caused the recent trend of taxidermy jewellery?
Taxidermy jewellery has been around for a very long time. Most people trace it back to the Victorians, but you can go way back to Ancient Greece and Egypt and find examples, so the concept itself is nothing new. However, within the last 5 years or so, it has been creeping up in popularity. I will admit to being rather naive at first when starting – I was aware there were people making taxidermy jewellery, but I didn’t realize the effect bringing my own take on it would have. I have had a few troubles with seeing incredibly similar pieces of work to mine appear, and in the same vein, I have been contacted by designers I’ve never even seen before telling me I have stolen their work! This is also happening in latex, modelling and photography, due to the ‘over saturation’ I spoke about before. At first I found it upsetting, as it was never my intention to tread on toes, and it is heartbreaking seeing something I though was unique to me being sold somewhere else, but I have learned to understand there is only so much you can do with a skull, with a wing, with some bones, and similarities will crop up. The best thing to do is just keep your head down, and keep raising the bar by adjusting your work to keep it fresh and new. I am lucky enough to have a large following on Facebook, and a busy Etsy shop, so I need to keep on the ball!

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Do you feel that your work has had any influence on the new popularity of animal pieces in fashion and jewellery?
I have definitely had some effect on the rise of taxidermy jewellery. I get lots of emails asking advice into where to get skulls, how I make certain pieces and that kind of thing. Some requests are written politely and some are really cheeky! Just because someone has had success with a certain style, it shouldn’t stop you from doing the same, but do bear in mind it is a controversial area to work in, you will get negative comments, and you will get compared to other artists, it’s not a big enough industry to ever escape that I’m afraid.

Have you had a generally positive response to your work?
Overall I get lovely feedback and comments from both customers and newcomers to my work. There will always be a minority, whatever it is that you do, that will not like what you are doing, and a smaller minority of those will not hesitate to be rude about it! You need a thick skin to do this kind of work! Generally though, people understand what I am doing and trying to portray through my work.

Where do you see ‘SweetDelirium’ in five years?
In five years, I would like to have exhibited some larger pieces of my work, I would love to do some sculpture and installation pieces if I can ever find the time! I would like to have released a number of ranges that stand out as elegant and unique. I am happy with the level of traffic I have coming through the page and the site at the moment, much busier and I will need some assistants!

Can you tell us about any upcoming collaborations?
There are a lot of collaborations on the way this year! I keep things pretty closely guarded until they come out, but look out for some Ancient Goddesses, some Old Wives Tales and some Victorian Deviants, among many others!

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