Interview: Create jewellery designer Hayley Kruger
For eight years, jewellery designer Hayley Kruger has used her expertise and experience to inspire, motivate and encourage our participants to explore their creativity through jewellery design. She has shared her knowledge with a diverse range of children and adults during this time including young and adult carers, vulnerable women and frail older people. Since April, Hayley has been working with a group of adult carers in Newham, as part of Create’s multi-artform project creative:release. The carers, who all provide support for family members with long-term illnesses or disabilities, went with Hayley to visit the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “What is Luxury” exhibition, where they drew inspiration for their own jewellery designs. We recently sat down with Hayley, whose work has been exhibited at the V&A and featured in fashion magazines Vogue and Tatler, and asked her about her creative process, how she gets the most out of our participants, and the role the arts can play in society. How old were you when you first started making jewellery? Could you talk a bit about your relationship to jewellery making when you were growing up and how it made you feel? I have always been creative, from making clothes for my dolls to making clay beads from the soil that our house was built on, so I can’t remember the exact age, but I can remember doing this from about 10 years old. I was fortunate to have grown up in Southern Africa, so my influences in jewellery making come from the rich cultural jewellery that was worn and sold in the craft markets and on the beach front. I used to love these outings and still collect pieces made mostly by local women, which include woven grass bangles, vibrant seed beads collars and pendants, and brightly coloured wires being woven into rings, bowls and clothing panels.
What does jewellery making mean to you? Is there a therapeutic element? Being a jewellery maker is part of my identity. From the first time I worked with silver and tools, I felt an elemental connection to the craft and the materials. There is very much a sense of being “in the moment” and escapism when you are creating jewellery. In moments when life is a bit chaotic, it is necessary to schedule in some making time, which is important for personal growth and as a form of meditation.
As a designer, where do you draw your inspiration from? As mentioned previously, growing up in such a vibrant region as Southern Africa, the colours, culture and nature have subliminally been inspiring. I have lived in London for 20 years now, however, and the vibe, bustle, buildings old and new and of course the dynamic people who inhabit it are endless sources of inspiration.
For people who haven’t seen your work, could you describe your jewellery and the aesthetic of the types of things you like to make? My designs have evolved rather a lot over the years. My most striking collections consisted of bold, statement costume jewellery made using vibrant suede and were designed to be worn by confident and sassy women making their own path in the world. I have now gone back to traditional jewellery making and work mostly on bespoke commission pieces in gold, silver and precious stones. I find this far more rewarding as it is less “fashion” orientated and more sentimental.
Why do you think engagement in the arts is important? What do you think the carers who take part in Create’s workshops get from creativity? As discussed, there is definitely as sense of escapism when making and creating and it can allow the carers to transport themselves into a world beyond their daily lives. I can also give carers a way of expressing how they are feeling and give them ownership of something that is unique to them.
Do you think accessibility to the arts is an issue? What barriers make it difficult for adult carers to access the arts? Many people find it hard to ask for help and may feel guilty for taking part in activities that take them away from caring. That is why carer organisations are vital local resources that can connect them to arts projects that they may not have been able to access.
How do you approach your creative:release workshops? How do you get the most out of the participants? I try to teach the participants jewellery making skills that they can use to create “professional”, well finished pieces. This gives them a sense of achievement and pride as well as giving them a skill that they can inexpensively continue to use at home, either as a hobby or as a way of generating a little extra income for themselves or their communities.
Do you have memories of Create projects that particularly stand out for you? Having had the pleasure of being involved in many projects with carers, I love seeing how their enthusiasm grows as they realise just what they can achieve. This has particularly been the case with the Newham adult carers who have been so responsive and came back for a second follow up project. I also saw a particularly good response when working with a group of mostly teenage boys, which is unusual as boys can be hard to reach. Whilst the group responded well to having access to metal working tools and copper, one participant evolved from a shy, quiet guy to the most chatty and enthusiastic maker in the space of a few hours. On the feedback form, he commented that we had got him to talk. That is the true power of creative expression.
What is it about working with Create that appeals to you? You have a fantastic and organised team of project planners who are endlessly enthusiastic about all the groups and communities that you work with. You are also great at encouraging development and communication between the artists by running interactive sharing workshops that are always informative and fun. I have worked with Create for many years and hope to do so for many more.
Could you talk about any upcoming Create projects and what you’re most looking forward to? Although we are yet to finalise plans for this project, I am particularly looking forward to working with carers in Kingston on designing and making fascinators and textiles jewellery pieces. I expect a riot of colour.