September 1, 2019 By King
For this week’s Spotlight On feature we’re chatting to Emma Larkin, the creative behind Emma Larkin Design.
Emma creates bespoke headpieces and statement jewellery that make a massive sartorial impact.
The former design student launched her own brand in the hopes of making bold, bright and quirky accessories for people who love to make a creative style statement – and each piece is lovingly and expertly hand-crafted from her home studio in Galway.
1. Can you tell us about your career up to this point and how you got into design?
I would love to say that I always saw myself as a designer but that’s just not true. I took the year out after Leaving Cert and did an art portfolio course in Galway Technical Institute (GTI), which I couldn’t recommend enough. I found that having that extra year after Leaving Cert was really beneficial. I was delighted when I was accepted in to The National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin mainly because you didn’t have to specialise for the first semester (I am not the best decision maker). Throughout GTI and the first semester in NCAD, I was told by tutors that I was good at the “making side of things”. I ended up choosing Jewellery and Metalwork because there was a sculptural element to the course but also it was a design degree After I finished my degree, I had no intentions of continuing on with jewellery design as my plan was to move to Canada (original, I know).
But during our degree show I got chatting to a woman from The Art Jewellery Network about my work. She suggested that I apply for an internship with this particular jeweller in Estonia. I reassured her that I was moving to Canada and didn’t even know where Estonia was on the map. She told me to apply anyway, and I did. I ended up moving from Canada to Estonia a couple of months later. It was only then during my internship that I realised I didn’t want to spend x amount of hours making other peoples work when I could be making my own. So after that finished up, I moved back to Galway and started making my own collections.
2. How did you originally become interest in accessory design and millinery?
I can honestly say that doing that initial internship really sparked my interest for accessory design. It was great to get experience with someone who was using alternative materials within jewellery design. When I moved back to Galway I did a part-time internship with Galway based milliner, Emily Jean. I wanted to learn more skills in terms of making wearable pieces and hats seemed fitting. I found Emily’s internship more relate-able as it was in Galway and had that local designer element that Estonia didn’t have for me. Being in that creative environment for a couple of days a week really inspired me to try and give the jewellery making and design a go. It was from that point that I did my first flea market and made a separate Instagram account for my jewellery.
3. What is the most rewarding aspect of your creative process?
When we were in college we had successful designers, or design-type people, come in and give us lectures. They always talked about how their journey wasn’t always planned and the majority of the time I thought it was really interesting. I always felt though, whenever they were speaking, that it seemed like a lifetime away from when I would ever feel accomplished.
Being from Galway and having a support system here is definitely something I think I would have undervalued before. I think for me it has been important to be seen as a “local designer”. The most rewarding aspect for me is when I see my friends or someone that I don’t know casually wearing my jewellery not because they feel like they have to support me but because they genuinely like the pieces.
4. What are the pros and cons of having your own business?
One pro of having my own business has been making my own timetable. I feel like because it is not really a direct path to get to a certain point there are always mini milestones and that I am learning things as I go along. I also like that I can post what I want on social media without having to run it by anyone first (although I really should because I am terrible at spelling). It is also a great feeling seeing someone you don’t know waring the pieces that have made, not because they know me but because they have chosen them for themselves.
The cons of having my own business is that I find jewellery making and millinery can be quite solitary. I am lucky that I do have quite creative friends so when I do have an idea about something they are always there to give their advice on it. I think in the future, I would love to work from a shared studio space with other creative people and not have to think about every aspect of the business by myself.
5. Where do you find the inspiration for your creative work?
I feel that from the beginning on my artistic career, colour has always been the main inspiration for my work. I can see similarities between previous work that I did in college and the work that I am doing now. I was also lucky to find a material (silicone) that picked up colour really well and had a fun element too. I think that silicone is a great material for jewellery making as it is super lightweight. I love big earrings but its the worst when you can feel them dragging down your earlobes and that is what I am trying to avoid with my work. One of the places I have my pieces stocked is in Omdiva in Dublin. I always admired their Instagram account and how they always kept heir content so interesting. I really try to keep my Instagram account interesting and the photography a bit different because at the end of the day there’s only so many times you can say “New earrings – available now. Link in bio”.
6. Do you have any advice for hopeful creatives?
I feel like this first year in business has been a really big learning curve and you definitely learn things as you go along. I think what has really helped me is talking to people who are in similar fields of work and also hearing things like what mistakes they have learned from. I also think a big thing that I wish I had known was to not rush in to things. For example I was given an opportunity to sell my pieces in a shop very early on in my career and it fell through. I was upset at the time but I think this was a blessing in disguise because if it had worked out it would have been too rushed.
I then did a Start Your Own Business Course with Local Enterprise Ireland which I found extremely helpful in terms of the actual logistics of running a business and would recommend that to anyone in any line of work. I think don’t put too much pressure on yourself and more often that not, if you make something you like, other like-minded people are probably going to like it too.
7. What is the future for Emma Larkin Design?
I think over the next few months my plan is to make a collection of headpieces that will be available from Spring next year. I was able to make a few pieces this Summer and one of them was shortlisted at the Galway Races on the Friday meet. I would love to say that I just through the hat together but a lot of time and effort went in to it so it was great to have it noticed. I would love to have the pieces then displayed in boutiques around Ireland so hoping that works out in 2020. So do get on to me if you need a headpiece of any sort!
8. How would you describe your personal style, and how does that translate within your work?
I have always would have been drawn to colour and I feel that really shows in my work and my style. I think one of the nicest compliments is when someone says that my jewellery really suits my style or personality. I would say that I don’t often take things too seriously and that is what I am also trying to portray in my work. I just want to make fun pieces that look nice and don’t hurt your ears.