Founded in 2005, and based in the picturesque Cornish seaside town of St Ives, Jan Allison Jewellery is a partnership between Janet Stevens and Alison Carter. Janet and Allison have been the closest of friends since childhood. Their unique, hand-crafted pieces of jewellery reflect the vibrant, colourful watercolours of our latest exhibition Georgiana Houghton: Spirit Drawings . They are available for purchase at The Courtauld Gallery Shop and online . Jan Allison Jewellery is exhibited in galleries across the UK and has been purchased by clients from all over the world.
We met up with Allison to find out a little bit more:
Q: Allison, you and Janet have been the closest of friends since childhood, do you have a favourite childhood memory you’d like to share with us?
We were bridesmaids together when our siblings got married. It was my sister and her brother. We were teenagers at the time and the relationship may not have survived but our friendship certainly did.
Q: Is there anything else from your long-standing friendship that you’d like to share?
In school, we were on the same hockey team and netball team. Janet was absolutely brilliant at sewing and embroidery, whereas I went to Art College at Birmingham Polytechnic and did fabric and textiles. Years later, I actually had my own business where I decorated glass wear. I did that for quite some time. Then when I started working at the jeweller’s, that’s when I started making my jewellery.
Q: Allison, throughout your worldwide travels as an air stewardess, was there a place or event that made you realise you wanted to create colourful, unique pieces of jewellery?
It has to be Sri Lanka. It was my favourite place. There were so many colours and so much beauty. My idea of paradise. I actually purchased my first natural stones on a market stall. Janet actually went to Sri Lanka herself years later and she enjoyed it just as much as me.
Q: Janet, was there something specific that prompted you to enrol in your jewellery course at Penzance College?
The love of jewellery inspired me. My intention was to create personal pieces of jewellery for my friends and family. At that stage, a business was far from my mind, we just sort of fell into it.
Q: How did you start the business?
We were working together in a jewellery gallery, Pebbles Jewellery Gallery in St.Ives. It has recently closed. I worked there for twenty years out of the thirty-four years they were in business. The owner of the business and I had been going to trade shows. While she was buying jewellery to supply the shop, she was picking up necklaces and I was saying ‘I could make that.’ I had said it so many times that she ended up buying some stones and giving them to me, telling me to give it a try.
Our first batch of jewellery was sold through the owner of the business. We probably made about twenty. Now we’ve probably made thousands. We are still making every piece ourselves. We don’t make every day at the moment. We normally make stuff very regularly. We probably work a few hours a week now. When we start a new collection that’s when we spend a lot of time together.
Q: Does the natural semi-precious stone hold a special meaning for you?
Semi-precious stones have great healing properties that appeal to both. We both love colour and mix different colours together because we like the combinations.
Q: We noticed that you use very colourful stones; does something inspire the choice in design and colour of your work?
Not really. We both have different ideas which when we put together seem to work. We like asymmetric patterns and our work often portrays that.
Q: Is there an art period, style or movement that has majorly influenced your work?
I am a big lover of Art Deco and Art Nouveau.
Q: How long does it take to create one piece?
I cannot commit to how long it takes to design one piece, because each piece is very different. Each strand of stones is laid out and sort of played around with until we get the look that we want. Then, the silver components are added before we start the threading.
Q: We know that lapis, sodalite and Andean opal are among the semi-precious stones used in your designs, how do you source the stones?
We’ve been making jewellery for over 11 years, over that time we have sourced many different stones. We’ve become great friends with our suppliers. One of which actually mines the stones himself in South America, an amazing man and his wife. They bought a mine in South America. My sister lives in Egypt and gets our lapis lazuli from there.
Q: You live in a beautiful place, does it inspire you?
Oh yes, sometimes it inspires us a great deal. The natural light here has made it one of the UK’s major art havens. We are surrounded by a wealth of incredibly talented artists, sculptors and potters. Many of which are friends of ours so we’ve grown up with amazing creativity around us.
Q: Finally, looking forward, what are your plans for your next collection?
We will probably start sourcing for our next collection in September. We’re thinking of turquoise, carnelian, and lapis lazuli. We’re thinking to go with gold-plated accents. A bit of an Egyptian influence will be present.
Q: Do you know what the future holds for Jan Allison Jewellery?
Who knows what the future holds for anyone. We can be assured ours will include lots of colour, creativity, and laughter.
The Courtauld Gallery Shop
London WC2R 0RN
10am – 6pm