A conversation with Sue Gregor: A new design, from leaf to contemporary jewellery.
Sue Gregor’s vibrant collection of contemporary jewellery is instantly identifiable. She’s been making acrylic jewellery with wild flower designs since 2005 from her workshop in Bristol. Her distinctive style, exciting colour combinations and incredible attention to detail show a pure celebration of the natural world that inspires her work.
Sue uses glass quality acrylic and has developed her own method of dying and embossing the plastic with wonderful colours. She calls this method ‘Fossilized Plastic’ as it enables her to capture the very fine details of the flowers and leaves, so they then appear to be like fossils. She describes the process as creating a memory of each individual flower or leaf.
Recently Sue had a photo shoot for some of her new designs made using Conifer leaves. We asked Sue to tell us a bit about the journey from the initial idea to the finished jewellery and photographs…I use technologies and hand processes in my work. I design my shapes using vector files in illustrator and then work out how I will place and colour the leaves on the acrylic shapes. I do a number of test strips for the colours. After the surfaces have been embossed I peel off the leaves to reveal the design (this is an exciting moment!) and I polish each piece individually. They’re then reheated to shape before any assembly, and then have a thorough quality control check and final polish. I love the way the highlights really glow when light shines through them.
On a walk I noticed the Conifer leaves and thought I would love to work with them. I love their structure – all those fine leaves coming off a central stem. They remind me a bit of Palm leaves. I started to play with colours and design the pattern. I had been looking at screen printed designs and decided to introduce something of that feel to my design. First I collected and pressed the leaves and then each individual Conifer leaf was used to emboss the surface of the acrylic, using my own unique heat fusion process.
After a visit to the V&A I started to work on the design for a chain necklace. I was inspired by Art Deco Bakelite necklaces from the 1920’s. I wanted to marry this with contemporary surface design to create a new fusion.
After a number of experiments and tests I created the Conifer Chain Necklace.
I then needed some photographs of the finished pieces. I had an exciting day photographing the collection with Eyebox Studios.
Our Model was Opor Kunkiatngamdee I wanted to use her as I think she has such amazing cheek bones that start above her eyes and she has a really strong look. I wanted images showing a strong woman who was not passive. Opor is stunning and such a lovely person too, she was perfect for the feel I wanted. Our makeup artist was Alex Fia who did an amazing job on the natural makeup look.
Kim and Paul at Eyebox are brilliant to work with. They took my ideas and added their inspirations to them. They are very talented and I’m really pleased with the end results.
Thank you so much to Sue for letting us see behind the scenes of her work and her incredible talent. The story of how these simple leaves have sparked her ideas, along with such intriguing making processes, is extraordinary. The finished photographs are stunning and they really capture the playful light and striking colours that Sue’s so well known for.