Meet jewellery designer maker Oorla Morgan. Her beautiful collection – Oorla Jewellery (listed in the FBWL directory here)- is hand crafted, contemporary and wonderfully wearable. She works from a studio at The Medicine Garden in Surrey which looks to be a real find. We asked Oorla to tell us more – and to share a few of her latest loves and inspirations.
Please describe what you do and a little bit about your journey
I am a jewellery designer/maker based near Hampton Court. I have always been a bit of a magpie. When I was finally allowed to get my ears pierced at 13 I was introduced to the delights of the bead shop, ‘Creativity’ in Bristol (still there) Hours and hours were spent selecting the most beautiful beads and charms and creating jewellery from them. I was hooked!
After a completing an art degree at Oxford Brookes University I went into teaching, continuing to make things for friends and family in my spare time.
I realised there was a gap in the market for affordable but unique wedding jewellery and made tiaras and bridesmaid gifts for a few years until leaving my teaching career after starting a family. I felt that this was my opportunity to change course and set up Oorla Jewellery in 2010 to focus on my passion for making jewellery full time. Shortly after, a friend of a friend was looking for tutors for her new craft workshop business at The Medicine Garden and asked me to teach jewellery making. That was a pivotal point for me.
When the Medicine Garden set up an Art Gallery and offered me a space I was delighted! I honestly believe that everything I have experienced and learned through my teaching career and interests have lead me to this point in my life.
Tell us a little about what you make and your ethos
I make contemporary gemstone jewellery with an organic feel. I am inspired by the natural world particularly colour, texture and pattern. I am also very drawn to ancient jewellery where you can see the hand of the maker in the piece. I’m very attached to my hammer! In nature there are tiny variations which make every pattern, colour and texture unique. Nothing is uniform or absolutely perfect and this for me is what makes it interesting.
I want my work to be the opposite of machine made. Perfectly imperfect. I use sterling silver, Thai Hilltribe silver for it’s handmade aesthetic and the fact that it supports the artisans of Northern Thailand whose skills have been passed down through generations.
I also use gold filled wherever possible. This is a layer of solid gold, heat and pressure bonded either side of a base layer of brass. The resulting metal sheet and wire has a layer of gold more than 100 times thicker than gold plate and is considered a life time product second only in quality to solid gold.
Its durability enables me to make jewellery that will not tarnish, peel or flake. Colour and sparkle is added with gorgeous gemstones from Jaipur.
I’ve recently been extending my quartz druzy range. These stones have gorgeous texture and sparkle because of their crystalline surface created over thousands of years by water dripping through porous rock. Each one is unique and skilfully hand cut by artisans.
They are some of my most popular pieces and epitomise my style.
Can you tell us a little about the Medicine Garden and why you chose to work there?
The Medicine Garden is a Victorian walled garden in Cobham, Surrey. It was the kitchen garden for Cobham Park House owned by the Combe family (famous for their Brewery) The garden was known for growing exotic fruits all around the walls. Between the wars the road was built which cuts the house off from the garden and the garden fell into disrepair.
Landscape gardener Paul Studholme took over the lease and renovated the garden and its buildings, creating a courtyard community of independent small businesses.
It’s a fantastic antidote to the uniformity of the High street with a range of locally made gifts and products and locally sourced quality food and drink. The garden is a gorgeous spot to relax and unwind with a coffee and cake on a sunny day whilst the children play safely in the little play area. Alternatively the Fig tree terrace is a perfect sun trap to enjoy a glass of wine and nibbles with friends and is next to the newly re opened restaurant – The Hothouse eatery.
The Art Shed is our little gallery where 15 local artists and makers exhibit our work. Great care is taken in selecting artists to join the gallery to ensure an interesting variety of media. We have photography, fused and stained glass, jewellery, painting, sculpture and a broad range of ceramic work. At least one of us is at the gallery every day. We have a new exhibition every 3 months and host open evenings for our customers at least twice a year with music from local musicians, free drinks and nibbles and all our artists on hand to chat about our work. For the more energetic there are plenty of classes from yoga, pilates and Tai Chi to boot camp. If you feel like learning a new skill or polishing up an old one there are also regular workshops on site from calligraphy to photography and flower arranging. Check out the website for details.
The garden has a very special atmosphere which you notice as soon as you enter the gate. It really is a place to slow down and relax and I absolutely love working there. We have such interesting customers and it’s fantastic to speak to them about any of the 15 local artists who exhibit in the Art Shed. Thanks to their continued support we won best gallery in Surrey for the last two years (Muddy Stilettos blog) which is something we are extremely proud of especially as we were up against some real heavy weight galleries like the Lightbox in Woking. It’s very rewarding to know that our customers value what we do.
What’s your favourite way to start the day & when do you start work?
I really love to start the day with a hot water and lemon juice in the garden followed by a walk with my camera. When I can I cycle up to the park for sunrise. There’s something so special about being there at dawn watching the wildlife wake up before the hoards descend! The beauty of working for myself is the flexibility so I can change my days around to suit the weather or whatever work I have on and around the children. My only fixed day is at the Medicine Garden about once a week.
Describe your typical working day to us
My working day starts properly at about 8.30 when I check emails and messages and then start work on orders and commissions. I try and get up and move around every 40 minutes or so as my eyes and neck need a break! If I’ve finished a commission I photograph it before packaging and sending it off. I like to include a hand written calligraphy card with each order. I work until the kids get home doing the odd bit of housework in between and I drink a LOT of tea! The evenings are usually spent editing photos, creating posts for social media, and updating the website and my accounts before a final check of emails. I do admit to getting side tracked by all the fabulous images on Instagram.
I must be more disciplined with my time! It’s so easy to fritter away the hours on social media!
What keeps you going through the day?
Tea!! And lots of it!
Top tips for enabling creativity?
I always feel inspired when I walk around Bushy Park or by the river with my camera. I am fascinated by detail and macro photography enables me to capture the close up textures and patterns and properly examine how natural objects such as flowers are constructed. I have recently taken up sketching again. I haven’t kept a sketchbook for years and once I discovered pinterest I didn’t really see the need as I could collect all the inspiring images I wanted on my many boards. But recently my work is taking on a different direction and I want to be focusing in on the shapes and patterns that appeal to me from my own photographs and from pinterest images that could translate well into jewellery. When I’m struggling I head off to the park or other times to the V & A or the Tate to get the creative juices flowing again.
Just getting outside always makes me feel happy. Watching the changes in nature in all conditions is so calming and there is always, always something new to observe. I also love to visit Kempton antiques fair when it’s on. Loads of inspiration there together with fabulous Items for my displays at the Art Shed.
Your approach to achieving your goals?
I have a business plan which I review every January. I admit that I find it hard so I enlisted the help of Clare Yarwood-White for some business mentoring to support me with all the parts of running my own business that I tend to avoid like, planning, accounting, record keeping etc. She helped me so much with working out what I want to achieve with my business, what my brand stands for and creating a strategy and timetable to work towards my goals. She also encouraged me to review my achievements each year. It’s a really positive thing to look back and evaluate what has worked and why and possibly even more importantly what hasn’t worked and how to tweak things accordingly. I would highly recommend her.
Best place to watch the world go by?
I am lucky enough to live near the river and some great independent cafes. Thyme by the river at Molesey Boat Club has a fantastic roof terrace overlooking the Thames. A stunning spot for sitting with a coffee or a glass of wine and watching the boats, the rowers and the ducks!
I love Liberty because of the vast array of gorgeous design you can find there. It’s a must visit every time I get up to London.
Most treasured possession?
It has to be my camera. It is only an entry level digital SLR but I have a couple of prime macro lenses and it’s fairly light so easy to carry out on walks and I love capturing the beauty of our local area. I would be lost without it.
Woodland Gardens in Bushy park particularly at this time of year. It’s like stepping into a fairy tale with meandering streams, stunning planting, and a variety of wildlife. I fell in love with it when my daughter was a baby. It was so magical: we shared our picnics with a tame fox, and the ducks and watched the tiny details of the changing seasons.
What are you passionate about right now?
I’m passionate about supporting local small businesses. Obviously I have one myself and so do many of my friends. How much better is it to support individuality, originality and your local economy than lining the pockets of big corporations? I also think it’s a wonderful feeling knowing you are enabling someone to keep being creative and forming a relationship with the maker. There is too much uniformity on most High Streets. I’d love to see lots more co-operative ventures for local independent micro businesses.
Best local find for lovers of design?
I would say Belle Epoque in East Molesey. Owned by lovely husband and wife team Matt and Tammy Court, It is a treasure trove of beautiful antique furniture and vintage finds all skilfully restored by Matt and selected and exquisitely displayed by Tammy. The shop is constantly changing and is always really beautiful. I could spend hours in there lusting after the antique chandeliers. They are a huge support to local makers too and host fabulous community events throughout the year with locally made food and products and lots of prosecco. if you love unique and quirky, stylish pieces. If you are looking for something in particular, Tammy will seek it out for you.
Best local place for rummaging antique finds?
Kempton Market. It’s huge and I love getting up before dawn in the winter and looking at everything with my torch, it feels as if you are going on a treasure hunt! You never quite know what you will find! . You can get a great bacon bap whilst you’re there too! But sadly I hear the racecourse has been sold for housing so it’s days are numbered.
What inspires you?
My reason for making is my belief that jewellery should be stylish and long lasting and should bring the wearer joy. I am inspired by the beauty of nature in its perfect imperfection and I try to capture some of the most beautiful colour combinations, patterns and textures that I see around me.
Favourite UK makers?
I love the intricacy, craftsmanship and sheer beauty of Alex Monroe’s jewellery.
My friend Carrie of Fairplay clothing buys hand woven textiles, empowering communities of artisans around the world and also recycles old clothes into new children’s clothes which is so important in our throw away society.
I also love Claire Hardwick-Wilson’s beautiful acrylic paintings with their gorgeous textures and calming colours.
Best piece of advice you could share based on your experiences so far?
Keep persevering! I can honestly say that I have learnt something from every experience I’ve had along the way. Often the best way to learn is from your mistakes and look for the benefits in every situation. You may not make lots of money at a fair for example but you will network and make contacts that can benefit your business in other ways. It’s not always about the short term gain. And accept that you can’t be good at all aspects of running your own business. So don’t be afraid to seek out help with areas that you find challenging.
What are you listening to, reading. Watching right now?
I’m just finishing Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – a brilliant book, really funny and touching.
I’ve recently been binge watching Marcella – very dark but so well done.
I love listening to jazz funk and acid jazz with a bit of Ed Sheeran too whilst I work I can often be heard caterwauling along!
Secret to being happy?
I think a good balance of work and play is very important. I consider myself supremely lucky to be able to do what I love and so my work never feels like work. I don’t think money brings happiness (luckily!!) I am fortunate to be able to earn enough to keep doing what I love. Environment is very important to me. Being able to get out into nature and see beauty. I also couldn’t survive without my friends and family. Spending time with the people I love makes me very happy.
Goals for the future?
I’d like to increase my list of stockists so next year I need to do a trade show.
Long term it would be amazing to have a collection at Liberty!
Oorla Jewellery is listed in the From Britain with Love directory here >>
Find all the information you need to browse and shop from Oorla’s website or to connect with her on social media.
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