Frankly, The Folksy Magazine

New Designer – Roisin Connolly

by Emily. Average Reading Time: about 5 minutes.


Folksy is about discovering, supporting and celebrating new talent so I’ve been digging around to bring you some of the freshest faces on the ‘making’ block! First up is a young jewellery maker from St. Andrews who caught our eye at this years New Designers.

Roisin Connolly is a 22 year old jeweller who recently graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone (2007-2011) with a 2:1 BDes (Hons) in Jewellery and Metal Design.

Using photographs from her own travels, Roisin creates beautiful etchings on her silver, thus creating a “visual diary of work”. Her miniature landscapes often only come into view when you really take the time to look at the piece but that is what makes her work so magical, like delicate patterns that suddenly come to life.

The Tay Rail Bridge - boxed ring

How did you get into Jewellery making?

I knew Art School was the place for me since I was small and I had watched my mum complete her degree from Duncan of Jordanstone in Printmaking. My mum used to bring me in with her every now and again (on my school holidays) and I would sit in the corner and watch her work away, mesmerised and knowing I would come here as soon I finished school. However, truthfully I had always thought Illustration or Stop Motion Animation was for me. It was only in late 2007 halfway though my first ‘general course’ year at D of J that I realised Jewellery was my calling. On going on a tour of all of the departments I instantly fell in love with the jewellery workshop. The processes, the tools and of course working with fire added that little danger, I was hooked. In June 2011, at age 21, I graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone with a BDes(Hons) in Jewellery and Metal Design with no regrets, ready to become a jeweller in the real world.

My Edinburgh Street in St. Andrews - brooch

Tell me about the inspiration for your collection?

My collection ‘diary of a young traveller’ is inspired by my love for photography and the idea that picture is like a visual diary; it can recall a multitude of memories. A great deal of my work contains etchings of photographs that I have taken from my own personal travels around the world; from Munich, to France to my summer in Kenya but of course I also photograph places close to home such as Edinburgh and St.Andrews. I think some people forget how beautiful the places they are living in are, because they are just used to their surroundings. My little visual diaries of work are there to create little keepsakes of places forgotten. I work closely with silver (my current favourite material) and by using a photopolymer film and certain acids I can etch photographic imagery onto metal and from there go on to make tactile and exciting new jewellery.

It’s a fascinating process, can you talk us through it?

In a dark room I coat the metal with a special light sensitive photopolymer film by using rollers and a dash of water to help the film stick o the metal. It must be a right fit no air bubbles, then leave it to dry in the dark room….a few hours later I return…

By now I will have printed out a black and white image of the photo I want to use onto a clear sheet of acetate, the better the contrast between light and dark the clearer the etch and exposure will be (many hours spent on Photoshop editing and preparing photos). This acetate is then placed onto the metal and the metal placed into a light box,for merely a few seconds. The black of the image will act as a barrier when turning on the lightbox, and exposing the work.

Using warm water with soda crystals you place this newly exposed image in and rinse, the photopolymer film which was not exposed to light (due to the barrier of the black of the image) will wash away leaving a negative of the picture.

I then leave the new metal to dry in daylight for a good few hours and then place in a strong acid and watch the magic work.

Patience is a virtue with this process and it can be a bit unpredictable as it is still quite basic. You need to practice timings of the exposure, focus on the contrast of your image AND how deep you want your etch to be, there are always so many variables to consider. However the unpredictability of it is still a wonderful thing, every new piece is a surprise

I don’t think of myself as a photographer, I just like taking pictures.

The Rail Bridge - hinged brooch

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

In 10 years time? Wow, seems so far in the future right now… but I would like to see myself in a position where I can set up a small studio/shop somewhere in lovely Scotland. I want it to be a space where I can sell a small collection, of not only jewellery, but great work from a whole host of local talent. I am always excited by the idea of collaboration so I want to make this space a perfect place to create collaborative work with new artists, photographers, printmakers, sculptors and much more. At 22 it seems so hard to gauge what the next ten years will hold but I’m excited by the prospect.

Diary Of Travel - box necklace

Upcoming Exhibitions:

According to McGee, York- 11th November to 29th January 2012

New Faces, Leith Gallery, Edinburgh- 27th January to 25th February 2012

…I’m also in talks with a couple of gallery/shops that are looking to sell some of my work and there is the prospect of collaborative projects in the pipeline for 2012/13.

You can buy Roisin’s work from her very sweet Folksy shop Little Designer Maker which she admits allows her to indulge in her “kitsch side”. Her blog showcases much of her project work and you can follow her on Twitter @roisinmtc.