An Irish jewellery collection inspired by a Pirate Queen

Photo of An Irish jewellery collection inspired by a Pirate Queen

Jewellery designer Jennifer Kinnear has just launched a new range of jewellery inspired by the story of Irish Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley or Granuaile, in a collection that unites the designer’s passion for sailing and love of the sea with her appreciation for history and the stories of her native Ireland.

Photo of An Irish jewellery collection inspired by a Pirate Queen

The jewellery designer describes her latest collection as “wearable history” and says her designs have provided an opportunity for her to tell the story of Granuaile to a new generation of women.

“I love sailing and adventure and was recently inspired by an old pirate story from the west of Ireland,” says Jennifer. “As I looked into the story of Grace O’Malley in greater detail, I was so taken with her story that I felt compelled to design a collection with her in mind. She was an Irish female clan leader and pirate who was taught to sail aged 14 and showed extreme courage and defiance against the English in the 1500s - a time of great turbulence in Irish history.”

Photo of An Irish jewellery collection inspired by a Pirate Queen

A jewellery designer, sailor and kite surfer, Jennifer Kinnear is often inspired by the world around her. “I find inspiration from everything I do. If I´m on the beach I pick up the things I find - for example my crab claw collection originated from rock pool fishing with my son. I love the octopus, so I wanted to try to capture the details of the tentacles in one of my new earring designs.”

Photo of An Irish jewellery collection inspired by a Pirate Queen

Jennifer describes her jewellery as “contemporary”, “elegant” and “a little edgy”. She works in high quality materials and likes her pieces to have substance and weight to them. “I like to make show pieces which are quite large and then I also make them in smaller versions for the more conservative jewellery wearer,” she explains of her work.

“The textures and finishes are very detailed. The styles are easy to wear - comfortable and eye-catching. I encourage my customers to layer their necklaces. How you choose to layer or wear the piece can bring variety to the overall look.”

Photo of An Irish jewellery collection inspired by a Pirate Queen

The process, from idea and inspiration to a wearable piece of jewellery, is often an experimental one for her and it can take some time to tweak the design in order to get to a final product that she is happy with.

“From finding an organic item such as a sea urchin shell, to conceiving of designs on paper or making a model in wax or metal, can take time - getting it right, having the piece cast and then tweaking that cast to get the final design exactly how I want it,” she says.

Her new Octopus earrings involved a great deal of “trial and error” she says: “I had to dry the tentacles and form the loops in the way I wanted them. I wasn’t sure if the cast would come out and it took a few tries before getting it right. But this process excites me and when another jewellery maker wonders how I made the piece - that’s like hitting the jackpot for me.”

Running a small independent business requires you to be a 'Jack of all trades'. Not only do you have to be extremely creative but you also need a good understanding of business and of how to get your product to market through all the different channels. Keeping my jewellery Irish made is also very important to me - that’s why every piece is still cast, finished and hallmarked in Dublin

The wider ecosystem within the jewellery industry is of interest to her and she says that she has great admiration for her peers within the Irish jewellery design sector.

“I’m very friendly with most of the other Irish jewellery designers and often recommend them if I can’t help a client with what they want. I always look at how well they are doing as a challenge to better myself and to be the very best that I can be in terms of my own business. Healthy competition is the best motivator.”

She also cites international designers such as Shaun Leane long-term collaborator with Alexander McQueen, Stephen Webster and American fine jewellery designer Polly Wales as those she admires.

Photo of An Irish jewellery collection inspired by a Pirate Queen

Jennifer says that what she loves most about her job is the creative process and developing new collections as well as the fact that she is constantly learning something new about the jewellery making process and evolving her skills as a designer and maker.

An experienced business owner, Jennifer says that she also enjoys the accounting side of the business and working on cash flow projections - something which no doubt adds to her ability to run a creative business whilst also working on all aspects of it from styling photoshoots to writing blog posts and running her website and social media accounts.

Photo of An Irish jewellery collection inspired by a Pirate Queen

“I run my website, write blog posts, pack the orders and do all social media posts myself. It is interesting learning about new ways to market through online marketing as it’s ever-changing and evolving. When I started making jewellery there was no such thing as Facebook or Instagram. So over the years there has been immense learning with every aspect of the business and the making process and this is what I love.”

“Running a small independent business requires you to be a 'Jack of all trades'. Not only do you have to be extremely creative but you also need a good understanding of business and of how to get your product to market through all the different channels. Keeping my jewellery Irish made is also very important to me - that’s why every piece is still cast, finished and hallmarked in Dublin.”

Jennifer says that if budgets were no object she would create many more collections each year as well as spectacular show pieces and high-end jewellery featuring precious gemstones and pure gold. In the meantime her favourite piece in her current collection is the medallion necklace which depicts Grace O’Malley meeting Queen Elizabeth I in that fabled meeting of two powerful female leaders - which, while taking place centuries ago, still resonates today.

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