~ My Creative Life: Abigail Percy ~


It is a pleasure to welcome my next Creative Life interviewee today as I have long admired Abigail Percy's work as a designer jeweller. Working from her studio in Glasgow she creates the most dazzlingly intricate pieces inspired by natural forms and the world around her. Her latest adventure involves textile design created with her other half, fellow jeweller Ryan (Mister) Bell – their newly launched  blog, Abigail*Ryan, will be chronicling their journey into business together. Abigail's own exquisite work can be found in her online shop and Etsy store.

Friends, please welcome the lovely Ms Percy…

SC: Could you tell us about your path into this career? Why jewellery?

AP: My path into jewellery has been fairly straight-forward. I have known I wanted to go to art school, to be an artist or designer, my whole life, and was raised in a very creative and supportive environment so there were no barriers to fulfilling my dreams and them feeling achievable. I left high school a little early so I could prepare a solid portfolio for applying to Glasgow School of Art, and chose jewellery and silversmithing out of all the design disciplines because I felt it would be the most solid 'career' move within the arts (‘people will always want jewellery’, I told myself!)  I was very torn, however, as I really love fashion and textiles (and adore ceramics), but, after four years of study I graduated and went straight into running my business at the age of 21. Four and a half years later, I am still going…

Please describe a typical day – do you have many routines?

My days vary enormously. However, I do have a few routines set in place… The first thing I do when I wake up is check my emails. Like the very sad person I am, I sleep with my laptop in the same room, so I can wake up and take a quick peek and then decide if I can turn over for a little more sleep before starting the day!

As soon as I am up I make breakfast, and then sit down to answer emails – check my bloglines and have a little browse online. I don't like to start work very early ideally (11am at the earliest) so I will talk to my mister for a while and make some plans for the day and browse online for some inspiration.

After this slow and lazy start it's usually several solid hours in the workshop, working at the bench in a rush to make it to the post office for 5pm! I really enjoy the power-walk down to my local post office and the slow stroll home. I might need to continue working when I get home so head straight back, or go to the shops en route back home for some nice groceries for dinner and call it a night at that and just get stuck in to some personal time… perhaps a bit of blogging, or just hanging out with a DVD or relaxing with Mister Bell if we are together.


I read on your blog that you rarely wear jewellery (not even your own?) – why is this?

{*Laughing*} people are always shocked when I reveal this, perhaps I should keep quiet on this one? Honestly though, I work from home, so most of the time it's just a mixture of practicality and laziness. I don't get very dressed up on a day-to-day basis. Things are quite pared down, and the workshop can be a dirty place, so the little the better – and, from a safety point of view, I don't like working with rings or necklaces on, for example. And even when I am 'out' I look at jewellery so much I am sometimes all jewelleried out. I like to put importance on each piece I wear, so would only wear one item at a time anyway. However if I am getting dressed up, or attending a work event, I will of course wear my own work!

I also have two little necklaces that are my favourite fall-backs; I love them so much I rarely wear anything else actually – simple gold chains hung with coral apple and  jade leaf charms, a bezel set opal and a opaque pink sapphire in 18ct gold that my grandparents sourced parts of when they lived in Iran, and some when my parents visited Tenerife on holiday before I was born. They have real sentimental value for me, so I think that is important when wearing jewellery too.

When starting a new piece, how do you begin to gather your ideas?

Photography, always photography! I love to get outside with my camera and photograph leaves, foliage, flowers, or collect little bits and pieces and bring them home to press. I find it really important and inspiring to start with original imagery and then draw, trace and design from there… it's my favourite part of the whole process, actually. Stumbling across and waiting to find the perfect motif is the thing that keeps me turned on to designing the most.


What’s your favourite material to work with and why?

Jewellery-wise, sheet sterling silver (1mm thick) – it's good to saw, and I use an incredibly fine blade so I can almost draw into the metal and get a hand-drawn voice into the piece as much as I can (even though most people assume I laser-cut everything!)

For drawing and designing, my favourite tools are a 0.1 black fiber tip pen and a Moleskine sketchbook. I love my Canon EOS 300D too, so I think my eye and viewfinder are truly my most favourite materials at my disposal!

Could you tell us more about your collaboration with Mister Bell?

My boyfriend Ryan Bell (of DesireLines) and I decided some time ago that we wanted to collaborate together. Over time this has evolved into starting a new business together – one that combines our shared love of textiles and pattern design. Taking drawings and illustrations, my love for styling, photography and marketing, and Mister Bell's brilliant graphic design skills and sewing talents and eye for colour combinations, we decided a home-wares label was the perfect place for us to direct our new brand.

And so Abigail*Ryan is born!

We are working incredibly hard right now to finish our first collection of pattern designs (which will be applied to all sorts of goodies from cushions to table-dressings) and screen printed tea-towels. We also have many other items, perfect for gifting, in the pipeline but think some of those may launch after Christmas, but we will debut the main items of home-ware before then! It is so exciting for us to see the drawings finally take shape as repea
t patterns, and as this has long been a dream of mine, I am especially over the top right now!

I am very lucky to be able to work with Ryan on this project. We are currently separated by this Irish sea, me residing in Glasgow (Scotland), him in Belfast (Northern Ireland), so we do lots of city-hopping, working on the new home-wares business in Belfast mainly where Ryan has his textiles studio, and both working in my jewellery studio when in Glasgow. With three businesses between us there is a lot to do, but being able to work alongside my love* is a real privilege – we always have a good time, and there is a lot of laughter and fun which helps temper any stressful times perfectly!

* he is laughing and calling me a soppy wench right now ;)


What books/music/artists/blogs etc do you love? Could you share some recommendations?

Music-wise at the moment I am loving: Camera Obscura, Bat for Lashes, Florence and the Machine and I have not grown tired of Adele's album, 19, which I have been listening to again and again for over a year and a half now.

Blogs I am finding especially enjoyable right now are: 3191, Nordljus, Post Secret, Le Love and Book by It's Cover.

A favourite artist of mine is Valerie Hammond, and I love the paintings by Elizabeth Schuppe – I would adore to own a piece by her one day.

Book-wise, I can't think of any novels to recommend right now, but I am about to embark on reading a beautiful leather bound collection of Jane Austen works, so I am looking forward to those. I also recently bought Sophie Dahl's new cookery book, which I loved, and Bill Granger's Feed Me Now! is fantastic too.

Which of your pieces are your favourites?

I recently made a brooch based on a beautiful Japanese threadleaf maple leaf I found last Christmas in California and pressed – it was a real challenge to pierce, and because it was so fine as a structure, it was a tough soldering job as all the thin areas could have easily melted. I was really pleased with the finished piece.

All the patterns we are working for for Abigail*Ryan are ranking pretty highly in my favourites stakes – I have wanted to branch into pattern design for a very long time, so am enjoying this, and working with Ryan, hugely.


Being self-employed can often mean you’re working 24/7 – how do you maintain a good work/life balance?

I'm not sure that I do! I've always said that I think one of the problems with being a creative person is that as soon as your eyes are open, that's it, you're working!

There are certainly parts of my year when I work far too much, like Christmas, for example. But this does balance out with quieter times. But when the work is there, sometimes there is not much balance to be found and you just have to get on with it.

I think family, friends and the mister are all good things to have in my life; they make sure you stop, even when you don't seem to have time to, and focus on the simpler things in life – cooking, eating, travelling, wee days out, cups of tea, good films – which, incidentally, are the best things too!

How has being online helped your business?

Being online had hugely helped my business. The exposure and domino effect of being involved in the blogging community has helped with the exposure of my work – and it's been a truly fantastic way for me to meet designers in my field and make great friends to boot!

The point at which I started selling almost exclusively direct, and online, was the turning point for my business becoming financially viable – so I am extremely glad I made the leap and did something a little out of the ordinary for the time, and for my field in the UK.


Where do you see yourself in five years time – personally and/or professionally?

Ooh, this is a hard one! Hopefully, I will still be working in the creative field and for myself – and I would love for Abigail*Ryan to be doing very well and in some major stores around the world.

Personally, I would like to be in the position to finally own my own home (I would love to renovate a property, for example) and be a little more solvent! I hope to still be happy and in love, and healthy too.

You're having a dinner party and can invite six famous people from the past or present – who would you choose and why?

I'm actually a little bit shy, so the idea of a dinner party with complete strangers is a little bit terrifying! However, I think the following would be lovely to spend some time with and would make easy company… Mister Bell helped me compile my list as I got a little stuck, so these would be the six people we would enjoy cooking some nice food for…

Kirstie Allsopp – Mister Bell and I loved her recent TV series, Kirstie's Homemade Home – she is so passionate about handmade goods from the UK and wears the loveliest dresses ever!

Nigella Lawson – I think she would make very witty conversation, and if nothing else would be a treat to look at!

Robert Winston – I think he would be a hugely entertaining guest, and a very interesting person to meet.

Rolf Harris – I love him with all my heart – pure and simple.

Felicity Kendal – circa The Good Life.

Ben Fogle – he's brilli

…and we think this would make the most bizarre, UK-centric dinner party ever! But in truth, these are just the people we want to be.

* * * * *

Thank you so much for giving us a peek into your world today, Abigail. Please set a place for me at the table, I'll be gate-crashing your dinner party!

13 responses
  1. Katarína

    I’ve been waiting for this one :) Been an admirer of Abigail’s work for quite some time now, and hopefully one day I’ll own at least one piece of her wonderful creations!
    p.s. I didn’t make it on time for the Unravelling registering.. and came home just about 2 hours after the start!
    Wow..but congratulations, it seems to be quite successful, which makes me look forward to the next one even more :)

  2. charlane

    gorgeous work

  3. bella

    I really enjoyed reading this one! She is such a creative soul. Now, must go visit her site! xo
    (did your course sell out in 2 hours? ~ girl that is amazing!) (I’m off Twitter, so I just read that in your comments!)

  4. chez danisse

    I love getting glimpses into the lives of creative minds. Thank you.

  5. Amisha

    Very inspiring! Thanks Abigail and Susannah!

  6. Roxanne

    I love this! Love getting this chic and clever little glimpses into the lives of creative women whom I might not otherwise discovered.

  7. Mel (geordiegirl)

    Beautifully inspiring, thank you. I am in awe of textile/surface design and pattern. So complex and so simple at the one time.

  8. Paris Parfait

    Such beautiful work! Am off to visit her site. xo

  9. Silvermoss

    Such beautiful work – and I totally get it about not wearing jewellery even when you make it!
    Thansk for a great interview, lots to ponder over, and well done on your course again!

  10. Dottie

    I love these profiles. It’s so interesting to hear about the daily lives of people with creative professions (as opposed to my boring life as a lawyer).
    Beautiful jewelery!

  11. maggie may

    Her work is exceptionally delicate and lovely.

  12. fresh365

    Gorgeous work! I love seeing how she works from her photography.

  13. Marta Sanchez

    Great article!! I love Abigail jewellery!! ;-)

Comments are closed.