Whilst exploring the arid Australian landscape, British jewellery designer Georgie Orme-Brown snapped a photograph of some lizard tracks delicately etched in the desert sand. The simple beauty of this image, and all that it symbolised, would prove to significantly impact her work in the years to come.
Upon her return to the UK, and after completing a degree in Jewellery Design at Central St Martins, Georgie spent several years working in the jewellery industry gaining valuable skills and experience. In 2019 she launched her jewellery brand, Orme-Brown, founded both conceptually and aesthetically on the idea of footprints.
“At the core of my jewellery practice is a commitment to tread lightly on the environment, which is also the primary design inspiration – the patterns of footprints animals have left behind. When working on special commissions, I have used animal tracks chosen by the customer – including swan, elephant and turtle footprints.”
Now based in Bath, Georgie creates unique contemporary, striking work that expounds on the theme of footprints. Her first collection, The Way, was selected for a coveted spot in Shine 2021, the Goldsmiths Centre’s yearly exhibition for new talent.
In a recent interview with the Goldsmiths’ Centre, she explained: “The Way is inspired by the patterns of bird tracks in snow. As they walk, their feet drag and create arrow-like patterns, and I’ve developed those patterns and used them to create a diverse variety of designs to make up my collection.
The smooth, polished surface of some of the pieces represents the compressed ground beneath the foot and the textured areas the surrounding still untouched ground. I’ve used these different colours and textures to emphasise and recreate the feeling of each step. I would describe my work as contemporary fine jewellery.”
Just as photographs of lizard and bird tracks proved to be a creative catalyst for Georgie’s work early in her career, going out into nature to find and record the footprints of different species remains an important part of her practice:
“My process often starts with a photograph of some animal tracks. I’ll trace over the photo, picking out the patterns and shadows. I’ll do that several times until I have the best representation of the tracks, and the perfect pattern to work with. Once I’ve got that flat image, I’ll start to carve a 3D wax model in the same pattern.”
The traces that humans leave behind through our individual ecological ‘footprints’ are as significant to Georgie’s work as the beauty of the animal tracks that inform her designs. Along with several of her fellow Shine exhibitors, she represents a new generation of makers who are putting ethics and sustainability at the forefront of their creative practice; a response to both their own principles and to consumer demands.
“Customer expectations are changing rapidly, and I think that we in the industry have to respond to that, and have the information available that consumers are rightly going to want”, she explained, “All of the metals I work with, including in this collection, are recycled or Fairmined Eco, and my stones are also recycled, or they're sourced very carefully from small, responsible suppliers.”
For an emerging maker, taking their first steps into a new career, enquiring with suppliers about issues relating to the environment and Fairtrade practices may seem an intimidating prospect. However, for Georgie it’s an important conversation to have for efficacy of a sustainable practice and she explains:
“I’m always trying to find out more about my materials, their origins and their sustainability - I’m on a journey to work back up my supply chain and find out as much as I can, so I will definitely be continuing with that with a view to putting all of this information on my website and having my supply chain be as transparent as possible for my customers.”
This consideration for the client is not atypical of the emerging maker; as the Orme-Brown brand has grown, so has the connection between Georgie and her customer-base. “I really enjoy the making - having an idea and then realising it is massively satisfying - but there’s no denying that a happy customer who loves your work is also a great part of being a maker,” she said. Georgie works closely with her customers to create treasured and personal pieces. “Delivering quality in both my service and making is an integral part of the way I work.”
The Way collection reflects Georgie’s overarching theme of journeying and celebrates the transient beauty of the tracks which inspire her work. Her jewellery pieces connect us to the natural world and help to guide us on our own journeys. For Georgie, the process of developing a collection is also a journey in itself: "As I’ve been developing my practice, I have started to recognise that everything about the way I make, and what I’m making, is all wrapped up with who I am. The more I make, the better I know myself."