Africa – the perfect inspiration

Every piece of Liri jewellery is born from inspiration found all around me, and I can honestly say I have never lived in a more inspirational place than Mauritius for enabling me to create such a wide variety of jewellery. So what is it exactly about Mauritius that inspires me how does it translate into the collections I make?
Mauritius provides such a rich and diverse source of inspiration for two reasons. Firstly it is a fantastic melting pot of a country of different people, races and religions. Secondly, its varied and contrasting environment. Mauritius is famous for its golden beaches and turquoise seas, but what about its jagged mountain ranges created by the volcanoes that formed this tiny island? It is safe to say that Mauritius gives you inspiration for anything you want to create and you want and you don’t have to look hard to find it.

Mauritius is in Africa!

Mauritius is a tiny speck in the Indian Ocean, on some maps, you can’t even see it. It’s the other side of the huge island of Madagascar, and, if you don’t know it, is part of the African continent; and boy aren’t African influences everywhere, and don’t I just love it! The biggest influence is colour. Colour is everywhere and I blame the weather, the sun is always shining, people are smiling, moods are buoyant and colour reflects that joy. As a result of this, I have become obsessed with translating this vibrancy into my jewellery designs by using as great a variety of gemstones as possible. So what gemstones best represent the vibrancy of Mauritius? Well, it depends on what aspect of Mauritius is inspiring me at the time…..

A colourful people

One of the first things I noticed upon moving to Mauritius is that Mauritians dress differently from us Brits. In the UK, we only crack open the colour during the ‘summer months’, otherwise it’s an endless sea of blacks, greys, browns, perhaps a bit of burgundy and navy. We’re a pretty drab lot most of the time. Mauritian people could not be more different. Blacks, browns and greys are in the minority and in their place is an endless sea of blues, turquoises, pinks, oranges, reads – every colour under the sun.

Colour reflects our mood and, I have to say our weather. Whereas the UK seems under a permanent cloud of drizzle, which is enough to dampen anyone’s spirits, the (almost) year-round warmth and sunshine in Mauritius lifts everybody’s mood; we feel happy, we want to enjoy life, and to the party (and boy, do Mauritians love to party!). Colour signifies joy and I hope Liri’s designs add to the joy already prevalent here.

Because of this joy, energy and vibrancy all around me, it’s only natural that my jewellery reflects this diversity and richness of colour. Across all of my current jewellery collections, there are fourteen different types of gemstones. They range from the dainty, faceted and sparkly in collections such as Regale and Dainty Delights, to the chunkier, smoother, more statement pieces in the Bolder collection. I often compare this to my previous designs whilst living in the UK, where I tended to use the more muted (but still beautiful) Labradorite (how I loved that stone), Rose Quartz and Amethyst. They’re all beautiful, and I still us they know, but as collections of jewellery, the tone of the designs was definitely understated and muted, in keeping with the British mood and weather. As a designer I am so excited by this change in influences around me – my designs have never been so vibrant!


Then there are the beaches

Mauritius deserves its reputation as a tropical paradise – the beaches are truly outstanding. From long stretches of golden, tranquil beaches in the West, to the wilder, more rugged coastlines of the South. How I love the beaches here and how lucky I am to be living only a ten-minute walk from one of the best on the island – Flic en Flac beach in the west. I have loved this beach for over three years and it never disappoints, from early morning strolls just as the day is breaking and the sand is fresh and undisturbed, to the hustle of early evenings where tourists and locals come to witness some of the most striking sunsets in the world, it is, in my opinion, one of the best beaches on the island (narrowly pipped by La Prairie further south). Whatever mood I am in, I go to Flic en Flac beach. I feel contemplative, I go to the beach to reflect; I feel stressed, I go to the beach to relax; I feel happy, I go to the beach to feel even happier. There is no mood the beach cannot reflect or cure.

The tranquillity of the cool blue mornings on the beach has reflected the designs in the Costa collection. The stronger colours of the afternoon inspired my Paradise collection. An ever-changing location that gives you exactly what you need at the right time.

I’m from Wales….mountains are in my blood

Just minutes away from the beaches are some of the most striking mountain ranges I have ever seen. Coming from Wales, it is a natural instinct for me to want to go and seek out the nearest peaks and to climb them, and again, Mauritius does not disappoint. My favourite to date is Le Pouce, which is a near-death experience at the top, but well worth it for some of the most stunning views.

Next on my list is Le Morne, the famous mountain on the south-west coast, which as a particular significance for Mauritius’ history. Again the views are second to none.

For me, climbing mountains is the ultimate way to experience a sense of freedom. I feel alive, that anything is possible. Breathing in such pure, clean air awakens the senses and generates so much energy. It is these mountains that inspired the Freedom collection. The long-line necklaces evoke a free-spirited, carefree attitude and the wraparound bracelets create a ‘hippie’ vibe, each again fusing a certain attitude, popular fashion style and high-quality materials.

Africa is big, Africa is bold

Whilst living in Mauritius I have had the chance to visit South Africa. It is no underestimation for me to say that it was one of the most fantastic places I have ever visited. Going on safari and seeing the beautiful elephants at the  Addo Elephant Park in Port Elizabeth, then going on a night safari with Scotia Safaris and seeing the majestic giraffes, gazelles, buffaloes and, of course, the lions, was truly one of the best days of my life. Getting so close to nature and to animals we do not get to see regularly was a humbling, and, I’m not afraid to say it, quite a spiritual experience. I was truly awestruck and will never forget it.

As always, I wanted to convey what I had experience in a suitable piece of jewellery; and this is where the Natural Beauty and Warrior collections were born. The Natural Beauty collection screams bold colours and strength. It is the collection where the pieces were slightly less dainty than the other pieces as I wanted to create necklaces that reflected the substance and vibrancy of the African environment.

I created the Warrior collection in pay homage to the regal, strong and graceful elephants I witnessed. They are true warriors, yet elegance personified. Both pieces were created to reflect the ‘bibs’ worn by many warriors, not least those seen in Ancient Egyptian times. The pieces imply strength whilst also retaining grace and elegance.

A balance of different tastes and styles

I am blessed in that there is no shortage of inspiration around me. Everywhere I go I see something that can be transformed into a colourful and unique piece of jewellery. However, the process isn’t simple as I have to be aware of local and international styles and preferences and how my subjects of inspiration can complement different international styles.

As you’ve probably noticed, Liri specialises in dainty jewellery, so how do I translate the bold inspirations of African elephants and bright Mauritian colours into creating dainty jewellery? A literal translation of inspiration to a final piece can be achieved – I could place an elephant charm on a necklace, bracelet or earring. All are beautiful, but it’s too literal a translation for me – where is the creativity, the alternative interpretation of the visual inspiration?

For me, the reference to the inspiration is found in the style of the piece, the gemstones used and their blend with other materials such as precious metals and other natural materials.

If we consider my visit to South Africa, which inspired the Natural Beauty and Warrior collections, I translated the colour of the environment and the strength of the elephants into the Warrior pieces. Made from Sterling Silver and graduated, complimentary colours, they have succeeded in reflecting my inspiration (strength) in a dainty style that reflects Liri’s commitment to using a variety of exciting gemstones and quality materials.

The Natural Beauty collection is not too dissimilar. These pieces mirror the bright colours of Africa and Mauritius but are slightly bolder than other pieces. The gems are slightly larger, metal components are more substantial and the ‘nod’ to the natural world is made through brightly colour leather and suede. All in all, it’s the perfect marriage between inspiration, material, styles, popular fashion and, not forgetting, quality, to represent the vibrancy and boldness of Africa.

Designing jewellery is a lot like art – you can either create a literal representation of what you see, like the realist paintings of the Realist French Movement, which sought to portray a ‘truthful’ and ‘objective’ vision of life. I quite like this type of art as the talent to replicate ‘exactly’ what the naked eye sees demands huge levels of skill. But as we know, art is more than just replicating what you see, exactly ‘how you see it’. What about the Cubism of the early 20th Century and its most famous artist, Picasso, whose artistic depictions were not so ‘literal’. There is also the surrealism of Salvador Dali, whose creations were underpinned by various philosophical perspectives, which he translated into visual representations.

Basically, there are various ways of translating your inspiration into a physical creation –  a piece of art, sculpture and even jewellery. It is a matter of thinking more broadly and not literally. It truly is the most exciting part of the design process – translating inspiration in such a way that also creates the most striking piece of jewellery.

I can’t say it enough, I am truly blessed to be living in an environment that actually makes it difficult to keep up with the abundance of inspiration around me. My mind is a constant whirr of how to translate what I see into beautiful pieces that do justice to the beautiful environment in which I live.

Think of what inspires you every day, how does it impact your life and how does it make you feel? Jewellery can encapsulate it all, and when you wear it, you can feel truly special.


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