Ellanor Aquitaine is a 20-year-old creative entrepreneur from Plymouth, who has just launched her own jewellery business. She chatted to us about her unique creations, inspiration and her plans for the future.
“Signature arthyan jewellery is carefully handcrafted with lightweight resin, real vibrant flowers collected by hand from the wild Cornish beaches and English rose gardens before being encased in resin, and finished with a touch of gemstones,” she told ArtsCulture.
“The jewellery I make is totally unique and combines the traditional with the contemporary in the most beautiful way possible.”
ArtsCulture: Why do you do what you do?
Ellanor Aquitaine: I’ve always been drawn to creative pursuits! It’s in my body and my soul to express my love and inspiration creatively. I love being an artist, a poet, and a writer – but art through jewellery is something that people can feel and wear, which feels particularly special. I really wanted to make something that was totally different and not currently available anywhere – to make my mark.
AC: How do you work?
Ellanor Aquitaine: I work from home, sat in-front of a large window where I can see the beautiful garden and flowers as I create.
The first part of the process is gathering flowers, which is done in springtime – I visit beaches, gardens, countryside and moorlands up and down the country to gather wildflowers.
Next, I have to actually create the jewellery – designing takes the most time but once the jewellery is complete with gemstones, it’s an incredibly rewarding process.
AC: What’s your background?
Ellanor Aquitaine: After a traumatic experience in my early teens, in the next few years I came to a realisation about how I wanted to live my life, and how I needed to show everyone – and most of all myself – how well I would succeed.
From that realisation, I actually went straight to being self-employed as an artist. I’ve always known that this was the way for me – I love being in control of the creative process, but the marketing, business and web-design process interests me too.
Before launching arthyan, I was actually selling encaustic art, which was featured on the front-page of my local arts magazine, Made in Plymouth.
AC: Explain what you do in 100 words.
Ellanor Aquitaine: Totally unique in concept, arthyan makes gorgeous one-of-a-kind jewellery from the jewels of the earth: real flowers and beautiful natural gemstones.
Natural gemstones such as opal, pearl, garnet, jade, rose quartz and peridot adorn our jewellery, invoking a glamorous ode to the past and creating an unsurpassable regal elegance. The colours of the precious stones echo and compliment the beauty of flowers captured in bloom, making a perfect harmony.
AC: How has your practice changed over time?
Ellanor Aquitaine: I actually spent a year in a developmental phase before beginning to finalise my designs and make the jewellery prior to launching www.arthyan.com to sell.
In the first year I was experimenting with the resin in order to work out what I can do and the limitations of the material.
My deepening relationship with my partner, who is Indian, also inspired me to incorporate my two most loved jewellery styles: art nouveau and traditional Indian into my own collections.
AC: What work do you most enjoying doing?
Ellanor Aquitaine: The whole process is enjoyable in different ways. Nothing beats amble wandering in the English countryside collecting flowers, but every-time a new piece takes shape and comes together I’m filled with wander and self belief through my own creation.
AC: What themes do you pursue?
Ellanor Aquitaine: My first Spring/Summer arthyan collection is very much about elegant femininity. Every piece is highly graceful in the way that it moves with the body. I’d say there is the combination of softness from the flowers and gentle colours of the gemstones, combined with the fierce self-confidence of the large pieces. They are statement pieces, and I really like the statement they make – I can be soft and still be brave.
Obviously nature in all it’s forms inspires the collections. The swaying of leaves and trees in spring mimics the way the gemstones sway from the jhumka (bell-dome earrings). In the shape of the earrings, I’m reminded of flowers which hang from branches – this drew me to photograph the jewellery the way I did.
Likewise, the chandbali is a traditional Indian design and is reminiscent of the crescent moon, highly symbolic.
AC: What has been a seminal experience?
Ellanor Aquitaine: As I mentioned, in my pre-teens I had a traumatic experience which uprooted my thoughts about the world as a whole, and changed the course of my life dramatically from that moment. It was one of the worst times of my life, but I believe that equilibrium is inevitable and from the worst time of my life, my belief, self confidence, and drive have blossomed.
Further, every day I ever had as a young child walking the coast-paths of South West England, gathering flowers, rolling down hills, and visiting the gardens of Europe has heightened my appreciation for the natural world. Although not the same epiphany inducing moment as the one mentioned above, slow-building influences are just as important.
AC: What art do you most identify with?
Ellanor Aquitaine: I identify with the creation of art in the first place. However, I always felt an appreciation for the Pre-Raphaelites, both through their paintings and their philosophy.
They identified strongly with ‘mimesis’, meaning to express and represent beauty and truth. The opposite is ‘diegesis’, which is also a Greek word, meaning narrative. Although I understand the place and importance of both, I think I associate with the first through my own work.
For my jewellery making specify, I love the shape and form of the art nouveau period, and particularly René Lalique.
AC: What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Ellanor Aquitaine: Any artist no matter in what medium must have honesty whilst seeing themselves and the world around them. What they decide to do with that reflects through their work, whether it then be as an impressionist or a realist.
The ability to be emotional is also invaluable; society often critiques those (and especially artists) who are too emotional, but without this ability to connect to our emotions we can’t harness the love, positivity and beauty – or the pain and depression, which are often integral to creation.
Awareness, vulnerability and sensitivity are often words which are considered negative, but through the form of an artist they are highly valuable.
AC: What role does the artist have in society?
Ellanor Aquitaine: Art and artists can play many roles in society. Art has the capability to uplift, to protest, to inspire other forms of art, to record history, to be a mouthpiece for the general (or the marginalised) populace, or even to advance society as a whole.
Different artists have different roles in society, but I do believe that sometimes we take the importance of artists for granted.
As for myself, I want to give pleasure first and foremost to the owners of my jewellery, and secondly I want to remind people of the beauty of nature around them, which we also take for granted. Thirdly, I want to introduce people to different forms of jewellery which they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.
AC: What is an artistic outlook on life?
Ellanor Aquitaine: For me, artistic outlook is all about emotion – about really seeing things. An artist should look at something with passion, whether that be the shining sun on the waves or the political climate, it should invoke a spark of something inside of them to create.
AC: Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Ellanor Aquitaine: Life can be lonely, but art is generally not so. Being an artist can be stigmatised – but there will always be those who are like-minded to you, or those who truly appreciate what you do.
Likewise, pursuing or starting a business can be lonely without a lot of support around you to keep you going – but that makes you capable and strong. The actual creation of art is a peaceful, restorative process, because you can channel any emotions into a physical piece and connect with your innermost self, which is never lonely.
Truthfully, there are still many occasions when I feel lonely, but art is often the way I counteract those feelings.
I can advise that you don’t let any work become all consuming. It’s good to spend time separate from your work, which can be particularly difficult when you work from home or don’t have set office schedules.
Collaboration, although I haven’t tried it, is often a great way to be social and draw out inspired creativity. Groups of those people who are pursuing similar things to you can likewise be stimulating whist offering social connection.
AC: What do you dislike about the art world?
Ellanor Aquitaine: I do dislike the way in which sometimes art at a higher level becomes a competition; not for talent, but for money (to enter competitions, to exhibit, etc), for who has the most social connections/best place in society, or who can make the most outrageous statement to draw attention.
Just like in other fields, it can be hard to advance without the necessary means of money, connections and shock-factor. This is a given but somehow the art world often feels too “pure” to be tarnished with these things. Other people may value and appreciate these parts of the field though – so I’ve learnt to just stay away and carve my own path.
AC: Should art be funded?
Ellanor Aquitaine: Voluntary funding has always been essential and beneficial to art even before the time of the Renaissance when artists where commissioned and given donations to further their pursuits.
It’s undebatable that this is positive –but the debate of public funding is less clear cut for some. I will say that I think it is essential that art, creativity and imagination continue to be part of our government-schools so we can raise children with these attributes.
In the changing society I’m sure these somewhat lesser valued skills will start to become more and more invaluable with time.
AC: What is your dream project?
Ellanor Aquitaine: Through the arthyan website we actually offer a custom jewellery design service, and I would love to one day create custom pieces for many people which I find influential.
I’m looking forward to my first custom commission of wedding jewellery – it’ll be a great feeling to have someone wearing my jewellery at their wedding.
Further, I would like to one day travel the world and create a collection for each country, based on their own native wildflowers.
AC: Favourite or most inspirational place (in Devon)?
Ellanor Aquitaine: That’s hard to say. I think North and South Devon are so intrinsically different.
Whilst the South of Devon is peaceful, calm, and bathed in sun with the idle boats passing by and harboured in the shores, the gentle lush greenness all around, meadows of wildflowers and quite sleepy villages, North Devon is rocked by the wildness of the Atlantic and feels more passionate and ferocious, more wild.
Personally, I love climbing to the heights of Dartmoor and looking back down towards Plymouth, glimpsing the sun shining on the sea from far away, the wind blowing through my hair, and utter calm.
I love resting in the warm sun with my feet in the gentle stream of the Plym; I love wandering through the fields with grasses as tall as me, and sweet scented wild flowers all around. Everywhere in Devon has one thing in common: serenity.
AC: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Ellanor Aquitaine: Khalil Gibran who wrote The Prophet has given some of the best advice I’ve ever read. Although the wisdom is endless, these quotes particularly speak to me.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink knot from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow”.
“Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”
He also has relevant advice about work;
“Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy. For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger. And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine. And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.”
Professionally, what’s your goal?
I want to develop arthyan into a big multinational business. I would like to dress influential people worldwide, develop a large fanbase, and be known as the woman and company who changed the face of not just resin and Indian jewellery, but the whole jewellery market as a whole.
AC: Ellanor Aquitaine, thank you!