Award-winning artist jeweller Eleanor Symms’s highly original and very wearable work combines precious and non-precious materials, often ‘found’ and reclaimed plastics.
1. What is your favourite piece you've ever created?
This is a really hard question to answer- each piece is unique and I’m always excited by new finds of materials. I know where every piece I use has come from and the story behind it. It may be that a piece started as a lucky find while beach-combing or was discarded in the street.
2. What is your proudest achievement as an artist/maker?
I graduated from Edinburgh College of Art as a mature student, only 5 years ago, realising an ambition I’d had since I was at primary school to study art. Studying as an adult, with a number of other commitments, including a job, was very challenging, but so worth it!
3. How would you describe your style?
I respond to the materials I find or acquire, so each piece is unique.
4. What is your ultimate goal for your work?
I want to keep on working, exploring and developing. If I still have this mindset when I’m in my 80s, like some of the artists I admire, I’ll have done really well!
5. What kind of things inspire you?
I love ‘stuff’ and I’m fascinated by working with different types of materials, especially reclaimed plastics, which I find/scavenge for use in my work. Often, my starting point will be the shape, colour or texture of something I’ve found- sea-worn plastics from the beach or scraps of waste sheet materials, which would otherwise be discarded. I’m very curious, so lots of things attract and interest me. I’m really passionate about making works which are beautiful and intriguing, rather than purely decorative. I want my work to encourage people to stop, look and think about the nature of ‘preciousness’ and disposability.
6. What customer do you have in mind when you design?
My starting point is responding to the materials I use and I want my work to appeal to lots of different people.
7. Is the idea of creative collaboration important to you?
I often collaborate with other artists and designers, most recently with my husband, Edinburgh-based abstract painter, Alan Chapman, with whom I exhibited in our show, Salvage, at the Coburg Gallery this September.
8. What has been the greatest influence on your artistic career?
This is a hard question to answer, as I have lots of influences, including other artists and designers and also interests, such as the environment and reclaiming materials.
9. Which is more important in your work- the process or the product?
10. What is the most important lesson you've learned as an artist/maker?
To keep going!
Image: Eleanor Symms at work in studio, 45, Coburg House. Image credit- Martin Alan Smith Photography, 2017.