After emigrating to the UK from Russia fifteen years ago, and raising a family in Staffordshire, Ellina Pollitt couldn’t shake the feeling that she “wanted more” than her current circumstances offered. She had an innate need to explore an untapped artistic side of herself.
“I had a passion for design in particular, but I didn’t know where to start,” Ellina said.
It was at an open day at leading arts and design institution, Staffordshire University, that Ellina would finally discover an outlet for her creativity, and take the first of many steps on a path into a creative industry. She signed up for a foundation year at the leading arts institution, followed by a Bachelor's Degree in 3D Design, which she completed in 2019.
“I found I love working with different types of metal from aluminium to precious metals - I find it so amazing to start from a flat piece of metal, and finish with something bold and creative.”
Image credit: Parametric Silver Bracelet by Ellina Pollitt (c) The Goldsmiths' Craft & Design Council, Photographer Richard Valencia
Ellina is now studying for a Master’s Degree at Birmingham School of Jewellery, and in the five short years that have elapsed since she embarked on her new profession, she has already garnered a number of coveted industry accolades.
In 2021, she earned a Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Award in the laser category, and secured a spot on Shine 2021, the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s annual exhibition for emerging talent.
“I feel very satisfied with what I’ve achieved so far,” she enthused. “I would never have predicted this, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future, just that I wanted an education, but with such wonderful people around me, I was able to understand which path to follow.”
Key to Ellina’s success at such an early stage in her career has been a belief in the importance of both innovation and collaboration. During her second year at Staffordshire University, Ellina brokered a relationship with KMF Precision Metals, a leading sheet metal manufacturer, which has been instrumental in the formation of her signature and ground-breaking approach to design.
“I’ve been very lucky to have the right people around me at the right time,” she says. Working in conjunction with KMF, Ellina has realised her jewellery designs by applying industrial-scale laser cutting machinery to metal. “I draw the designs, and make samples in aluminium. Then I send the files to KMF for the next stage.”
Whilst popular brand Tatty Devine, a source of inspiration for Ellina, is well-known for its laser-cut acrylic jewellery, the use of this technology on precious metal jewellery is almost unheard of, especially using such large scale machinery. “When we first tried the laser cutters on silver, we didn’t know the outcome. KMF were very worried that they would ruin my design - but that didn’t happen. I’ve never heard of anyone using the technology in this way - I believe that I’ve found a gap in the market, and this is my unique selling point.”
The result of this novel integration of design and technology is Bold, a collection of laser-cut jewellery in aluminium and silver that lives up to its name. Powder coated in eye-catching colours, the collection features large bodily adornments with sweeping lines and sudden curves that are evocative of Zaha Hadid’s architecture, another of Ellina’s creative influences. The emerging maker hopes it will be the first of many collections, and a springboard for the creation of her own highly distinctive fashion jewellery brand.
“I would say my visual style is big and bold, utilising repeated organic lines for scale and impact. With each new collection, my aim is to create something completely different - new coatings, new structures, new colours, new collaborative projects.”
Ellina began work on the collection in January 2021, during the UK’s third lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “It was a very challenging time for all of us, and it was very difficult to produce the collection, but with the help of my course leader at Birmingham School of Jewellery, and through my relationships within the industry, I was able to create an innovative and professional collection.”
Among the pieces included in Bold, the Parametric Design Silver Bracelet is a particular source of pride to Ellina, although she professes to have no favourite piece, describing them all as her “babies”.
“Within the collection I have my favourite colours and favourite structures, but I’m particularly proud of my silver bracelet because it won Gold at the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design awards this year. We never know what’s going to happen when we use these massive laser cutting machines on pieces of silver, and there is a lot of preparation beforehand, but it has been very successful.”
Ellina also counts the work of fashion designers Iris Van Herpen and Gareth Pue as sources of inspiration for her jewellery. Both operate within a similar aesthetic as the jeweller, creating show-stopping, futuristic clothing that make use of repetitive kaleidoscope-esque shapes and lines.
Fashion is a passion of Ellina’s in general, and in addition to establishing a popular jewellery brand, working for well-known designers represents the pinnacle of her creative ambitions; “My dream is to collaborate with fashion designers in the future, and design something for them."
Ellina has already proven she has a talent for integrating closely connected industries, as the bridges she has built between the world of design and manufacturing have already yielded such successful results. “I find that working with different industries is beneficial as it allows you to see from other perspectives. My aim is always to contribute to the field of collaborative work between jeweller and manufacturer.”
It is abundantly clear the extent to which Ellina values her partnership with KMF Precision Metals, and how crucial she considers their partnership to the creation of Bold - in addition to future collections.
“I hope to continue utilising my laser design skills and working with the company - I think we will be very successful together. I think this work is challenging for them as well, but also interesting, because they’ve never done it before."
The buzz Ellina has been able to generate around her work in just five short years is impressive. Most importantly however, she has found a means to express her creativity and a vocation, quieting the voice in her head that once sent her on the search for "more".
"Applying this technology to jewellery has allowed me such a great sense of freedom as an artist,” Ellina concludes.