1. 3 words to describe yourself
‘Whimmy’ – not really a word but describes my tendency to do things on a whim. A friend of mine actually describes my huge collection of unnecessary possessions as my ‘Whimorabilia’
‘Kooky’ – well most people say ‘weird’ actually but I prefer ‘kooky’.
‘Creative’ – I have always loved to create things with my hands – I get a crazy joy from taking a bunch of materials and turning them into something useful or just pretty to look at.
‘Palaverous’, a new word I learnt, which means wordy. I’ve gone and used four words to describe myself now so I guess that says it all.
2. You say you are inspired by all things geometric, galactic and geological. If you had to pick one which would be your strongest influence and why?
For Owlish Grey, I think I am most inspired by geometry – I just find myself drawn to minimal shapes with clean lines.
Really though, the scientific inspiration isn’t exactly limited to these three things. I have an old and very big ‘Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Science’ that I love to flick through – this is great for ideas and chucks out new areas of science for me to look into and maybe create something from. It is such a great book – plus, my name is Gemma Hutchinson so it really feels like a big book just for me.
3. What’s your favourite stone, shape and constellation?
Stone – Quartz. “Pretty standard stone” I hear you think. It does make up a huge chunk of the earth’s crust and is possibly not the most exciting choice from someone that loves rocks. But I have a good reason for loving this stone so much…
Someone once asked me “What’s the most special thing you have ever held in your hands?” – this is a brilliant question that I now ask all the time because I love the variety of answers I get in response to it. Most people have to have a think about this a while but I knew my answer instantly and replied “Lightning!”. Obviously I need to explain. When I was a kid my parents took me to Matlock Bath, which is close to where I live in Nottingham. We visited a stone quarry and then went into the gemstone shop. This was the day I decided I wanted to be a geologist (archaeologist and palaeontologist came later with the advent of Time Team and JurassicPark). I was fascinated by all the shiny colourful stones and was umm-ing and ahh-ing about which to have when the shop keeper came over to help me. I remember him to be an old man, but I was a kid so he was probably just the age I am now really. He gave me two dusty white stones that were pretty lack-lustre compared to everything else in the shop. He then dimmed the lights and told me to bang the two stones together – voila, LIGHTNING! Well, probably just a few sparks but to my imaginative child eyes there was an actual rod of lightning between my two small hands. Obviously, these were my take-home stones and quartz remains my favourite today, particularly the rutilated kind.
Shape – Circle. The circle has a mocking kind of character about it – who can draw a perfect one?! I certainly can’t. The circle literally lives in its own little bubble of mockery – I like him, he’s cool.
Constellation – Draco, the Dragon. Because it’s a dragon! I don’t think I need to say anymore but Draco does also look down on Hercules!
4. Many don’t see science and art as particularly compatible; people are “good” at one or the other. What do you think?
But what about Leonardo Da Vinci?! Okay, so his talents were considered to be superhuman, possibly not the best example. But most of my friends are scientists and almost all of them have artistic talents outside of their dayjob; a few have their own bands and my friend Mark is a brilliant scientist, currently building a giant world atlas out of computer parts in his spare time!
Science itself has so much to offer for artistic inspiration too, hence Owlish Grey. Anyone that chooses the path of science is simply seeking truths about the fascinating world that we live in – this craving for knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean losing an appreciation for things just because they are beautiful to look at.
5. Each of your letter charms comes with a rock fact – which rock would you pick to describe yourself and which for Owlish Grey?
For me – Quartz, just because I am a sparky kind of person.
For Owlish Grey, it would have to be Howlite! This is a white rock veined with a lovely grey colour, but I didn’t pick it for the colour. I chose Howlite because it tends to grow in irregular nodules to eventually resemble a cauliflower. I feel like my little business is quite unpredictable, even to me, as to what will be the next thing I do. I don’t think there will ever really be any eventual shape, cauliflower or otherwise, as I hope to always have this waterfall of ideas to play with and to keep developing my product range.
6. What are the best and worst aspects of the design process for you?
The best is the ideas bit. It is so exciting when an idea first springs into my head and I get to swill it around and think up all the possibilities. I have so many scraps of paper that just look like the scribblings and doodles of a mad man. They are always scraps too as I never have these ideas whilst I am sat at a desk with a nice tidy book to hand.
When I decided to turn my creative pursuits into a business I initially felt restricted on what I could do on the design front. I felt like I had put myself into the jewellery bucket and now must stay there. I found this really limiting and a bit of a killer to my creative spark so I just scrapped it. It may not be the normal thing to do but I am happy having my jewellery mixed in with prints, cards, home accessories, things for kids… all sorts really. I don’t think this make a Jack of all trades as I am still very picky where quality is concerned. Sometimes I will try my hand at a new skill and just find that I cannot do it to a standard I am happy with, no matter how hard I try – in fact, I probably have almost as many bad ideas as I do good ones.
7. There seems to be a hidden/secret message theme to a lot of your work – is this a fair comment?
Absolutely fair. I developed these mainly for Valentine’s day. I’m not really a soppy sort myself and if someone was to give me something to say they loved me then it had better not be a big fluffy bear holding a heart saying “I LOVE YOU”. A secret message though, containing a really personal message for my eyes only – that might just sway me. I thought this might just be me though and was literally baffled at the popularity of my morse moons and sound wave cards. I’d love to be able to share the mixture of funny, sad and sometimes deeply personal messages I’ve received – especially the sound recordings, with crazy women laughing, babies babbling, men gushing, kids singing… the list goes on.
8. Tell us about your amazing self-designed gift box.
This came as a result of my terrible best friend, procrastination. I was supposed to be working on my thesis but instead found myself cutting and sticking bits of paper, trying to turn it into some kind of shape. I’m not great at maths (probably shouldn’t admit this as a scientist) so this was a long 6-hour process of trial and error – the lid drove me crazy. This was one of the rare occasions where I felt that the end result was better than the creative process itself. Despite spending so much time on it, I had actually planned only to use it to store all the little things accumulating on my desk. But, I loved the box so much I actually started Owlish Grey just so I could have an excuse to send it out to people.
9. Can you tell us more about your love of the periodic table?
The periodic table is just incredible in its simplicity. I remember the day I was introduced to it in science class and feeling amazed that our planet had been boiled down to these core elements, all organised in a tidy little table. It really is quite a remarkable thing.
10. What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2013?
One thing I really want to work on is a science range for kids. I am lucky to have a 6-year old nephew that has all the interests I did when I was his age. He loves science and is already planning the ‘Archeology Dig’ he is going to be doing with his grandparents in the summer. I got him an ant farm this Christmas and solar system mobile the year before but it took me forever to find these – I really don’t think there are enough toys for kids that like to learn. I’ve started with the spring experiments test tube kit for easter – there’s some chocolate in there to keep them happy but mainly it is about the learning activities designed to teach kids about the spring season in a fun way.
I am also saving for a laser cutter as I would like to expand my range to use sound waves in personalised jewellery and wall art.
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Deborah Anne Corr says
I loved reading this interview Gemma, and I am envious of your creative space. All my space is overloaded with football boots and laundry.
Its interesting to speculate on the question that was asked about the interest in science and art. My friends tend to have interest in both fields of study. I think we are moving towards a greater collaboration between the two than has been practised since the advent of modern scientific development. A good thing too, they have so much to offer one another. Einstein thought so didn’t he!!
I definitely agree that the two fields collaborate more. To me they have always been different expressions of mankind’s natural creativity.