Martina Hamilton and Leonie Cornelius: On Common Ground

Garden designer, author and TV presenter Leonie Cornelius is a brand ambassador for Sligo-based jewellery designer Martina Hamilton. We caught up with the two designers. 

Photo of Martina Hamilton and Leonie Cornelius: On Common Ground

On common ground:

MH: We have a lot in common living in Sligo and are both inspired by the landscape so it’s a logical connection for us.

LC: A lot of Martina‘s jewellery is based on nature and the landscape of the west of Ireland which inspires us both, so I think that’s something we really have in common.

Photo of Martina Hamilton and Leonie Cornelius: On Common Ground

On building a brand in Sligo on Ireland’s west coast:

LC: I really admire Martina and the fact that she has grown her brand in Sligo. It’s a real challenge to grow a brand in the northwest of Ireland and make a success of it.

Photo of Martina Hamilton and Leonie Cornelius: On Common Ground

On collaboration between design disciplines:

MH: There is a coming together of people in different creative spheres in Sligo in the past couple of years. We have a lot to gain from collaborating with each other.  

LC: I think there is a real shift away from creatives keeping their ideas to themselves. We all have a lot to learn from each other so why hog your ideas to yourself? I think social media has perhaps had an influence on that. 

MH: Everything is out there anyway so it’s about you and your message and how you share that message.

LC: There is a lot of idea exchange in design right now and that applies to garden design also. Even if we look at the links between Chelsea and Bloom and various design conferences, there is a lot of exchanging of ideas and people talking to each other. 

Photo of Martina Hamilton and Leonie Cornelius: On Common Ground

On doubting oneself as a designer:

MH: One of the hardest things I ever did was to put my name to the brand. I was reluctant to do that at the beginning. There was a shyness there. The idea of being a brand was beyond me but now I am more comfortable with that.

LC: I think it is a female thing too that we doubt whether we should put ourselves out there. There's that fear of people saying: “Who do you think you are?”.

Photo of Martina Hamilton and Leonie Cornelius: On Common Ground

On the process of design:

MH: When I am designing it's what I feel from the gut and how I feel about a piece. When I’m at the beach and I’m looking at the tide coming in and out I see that the pattern is irregular but that there is a definite order to it. So taking something like a shell, it’s not literal, it’s a feeling and a beautiful aesthetic that I’m bringing to the design. I do draw, but I also spend a long time percolating ideas. I photograph things in nature and then play with the aesthetic. It might also be a question of deciding that I need a square shape to add to my collection and then I become seduced by that shape.

LC: I realised that people like to dream a bit before they start getting functional when it comes to gardens, so that was the reason I called my book Dream Gardens. I wanted people to take that step back and figure out how they want to live in it and dream big and then we could start looking at the functional things like the clothes lines and compost bins. To take that step back throws you out of your immediate way of designing, so that’s always my first step.

Photo of Martina Hamilton and Leonie Cornelius: On Common Ground

On learning along the way as a designer:

MH: You have to come to a point where you believe in your own worth as a designer. 

LC: Probably the sharing aspect. Gaining the trust to share what I am going through and taking the advice of others. I think it opens up your design process.

Photo of Martina Hamilton and Leonie Cornelius: On Common Ground

Martina Hamilton will be in-store at Kilkenny, Nassau Street, Dublin this Thursday 26th of July between 11am and 3pm as part of Kilkenny's Meet the Maker programme. From today, Monday, Martina is also offering all Kilkenny customers who make a purchase to the value of €120 or above a free gift worth €48. 

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