On the Nature of Things

Elisabeth discusses her early memories of being by the sea, objects as tangible memories and bringing a new life to our co-founder Ambra’s personal collection of shells, stones and trinkets.

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From its beginnings as a child’s shell collection, Elisabeth's brand On the Nature of Things sees her transform over fifteen years of collecting into jewellery and objects that capture her most favoured landscapes and environments. From the wonkiest shells she can find on the shorelines, to what she calls the “miniature worlds” found in Ocean Jasper and Boulder Opals, Elisabeth’s pieces celebrate the unique qualities of these natural treasures.

Often finding herself on the receiving end of boxes filled with stones collected by friends and family on walks, holidays and at estate sales – in this tradition, Elisabeth has developed a limited series of necklaces adapting Ambra’s personal collection of trinkets. ‘What I find distinctive about Elisabeth’s sensibility is how she interrupts a simple string of beads with the unexpected, producing pieces that are so incredibly refined,’ Ambra says. ‘It is great to see pieces I have loved find new contexts.’

Crossing the waters to the island of Rathlin.

AMO: What are your first memories of being by the sea?

EM: No matter where you are in Ireland you are within driving distance of the sea. After school, we would do our homework on the beach of Helen’s Bay. However, my obsession with shells began on an island called Saipan in the Pacific Ocean – where my dad was living. When the tide went out you could walk to tiny little uninhabited islands on the edge. We were always filling our pockets with stuff. When my dad visited, he would always bring beautiful objects and quite often they were shells.

AMO: I love the idea of these found objects as tangible memories

EM: The whole reason I started making the jewellery was because of my collection of shells. I had so much on a shelf, it was almost looking like a little grotto. I would carry certain ones in my pockets and travel with them, so turning them into jewellery became a way for me to be able to keep these objects close to me.

AMO: The most successful pieces are ones that emerge from necessity – fulfilling a need or solving a problem. I mean, that's always where things begin

EM: Yes, it was a practical solution to a sentimental problem.

AMO: With each piece being completely unique, where does the process begin?

EM: It tends to always begin with the shell: the shape of it, how it feels in the hand and do I want it to be paired with a regular or wonky pearl? With gemstones, on the other hand, it is like looking at miniature landscapes and taking glimpses into tiny little worlds. These will often inspire a new colour palette. For me, it is about letting the materials guide the style.

AMO: Let’s talk about collecting – because your pieces are the realisation of a long standing dedication to discovering a particular group of objects

EM: What I love about the collection process is that it differs for everyone. The majority of my shells and stones are collected on the shorelines. I am fascinated by materials having been shaped by the water and by the land, so the wonkier the better. I travel quite regularly and am always looking for those outlets. Even if I go to a city, I want to find the rivers or seek out places where people find natural trinkets. I am also lucky in that I’m often sent pieces by my friends and family. I was recently gifted a Tasmanian shell collection that a friend acquired from an estate sale. The previous owner had obviously held onto them for sentimental reasons, as he had scribbled the names of the beaches where he had collected them from – which appeared to be holidays taken throughout the 1970’s.

AMO: Objects have an amazing ability to create an exchange and dialogue between people, particularly when thinking about turning a stranger’s memories into pieces for someone else. The necklaces you have created for AMO are very much an iteration of this

EM: So much joyful conversation stemmed from the mutual appreciation Ambra and I share for natural materials, and our love of accumulating trinkets. I think there is something particularly special about the dialogue that emerged as a result of diving into Ambra’s collection of treasures, selecting the pieces that most spoke to me and re-working them into necklaces to be worn and loved by others. It is lovely to be a small part of these objects' life-span.  

Explore the collection.

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