By Colette Fitzpatrick
The first time I heard of Ellis Mhairi Cameron was through a DM on Linkedin, inviting me to visit her stand at Fashion Week in London a few seasons ago. I appreciated that she had reached out to me directly so I popped along, knowing little about her. When I met the tall, incredibly cool Scot with her impressive mane of hair and very refreshingly down-to-earth personality amidst the madness and egos of LFW, I was immediately enamoured. Her work sealed the deal. Beautiful, undulating handmade gold pieces that look as though they are some magical, naturally occurring creations, all exquisitely executed and none ever exactly like another: if you’re looking for jewellery that is one-of-a-kind, made with utter love and care, tells a story, and is always ethically and sustainability conscious, then Ellis’ stuff is right up your alley.
Having covered her work for a couple of seasons, back in February (I know, I know, I’m the worst for only publishing this now) we agreed to actually take a moment and do a proper interview.
Tell me about the new pieces for 2019.
New pieces this season are definitely more bridal focused; we’ve got more conventional pieces and different coloured diamonds. We’ve got cognac shades that are more orangey, Champagne colours that are more of a browny hue, and red diamonds. They’re all natural colours; as they are now is exactly as they were when they were pulled out of the earth and they’re hand-cut. I’m having a really good response to the brighter colours and people kind of going, “Oh, so this is a diamond? It’s amazing!” Just because diamonds are a really beautiful thing to have in your jewellery collection but not everyone wants the huge, sparkly, VS quality diamond. They want something more unusual.
And how are you sourcing your diamonds?
So, I’ve a really good, small chain of different suppliers, which is great and all of the gold that I use is either recycled or fair-trade gold, mainly for commission and that tends to be for bigger purchases in 18 or 22 carat gold. And, yeah, all of the diamonds I source from a few different independent suppliers that are all based in London in Hatton Garden. It’s a really small supply network, I know the sourcing of where each of the diamonds have come from. It’s a nice little team that I work with and I think it’s really important now – especially when you work with something like diamonds and gold…you need to know where they’re coming from.
Do you find more customers are worried about that now?
Oh, definitely. It’s not the first thing they ask but they definitely do ask. And it’s important to them and nice to be able to find out because if you went into a huge department store or something like that, they wouldn’t necessarily know the origins of the stones, of the gold, that sort of thing. Whereas that’s kind of become part of my story.
This is really throwing it back but: why jewellery, of all things? Obviously, if you came to it at all, you have a creative impulse but why jewellery?
I kind of stumbled into jewellery because I always knew that I wanted to do something artistic. I was always creative and my parents were quite supportive. So, I was really lucky. I do come from a working class background but they very much pushed me to do something I was passionate about and something that I enjoyed. I studied art in school and I loved it and then I did a portfolio course at a place called Cardonald College in Glasgow where I had a really amazing tutor there called Alison Scott, and I originally thought I wanted to do painting – I really liked painting and sculpture and things that were really textural – but then she kind of explained that jewellery is just like really small scale sculpture. She could see from my drawings and the way I was 3D-modelling that it could be quite a natural progression. So, that was something that she just pushed me to explore. She was really fantastic. I can’t thank her enough for pushing me in that direction. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have gotten there eventually but when you’re seventeen and you just want to be creative, there are so many decisions you need to make and you might not always make the right ones.
Then I applied to the Glasgow School of Art to do Silversmithing and Jewellery and got in there and then the rest has all just kind of come together. It has changed a lot over the years. I used to work in much bigger conceptual pieces but then it has gotten smaller in scale, more intricate, more about bridal and weddings because it’s a really nice thing to be a part of. You get to meet a lot of amazing couples and it’s how my business is really developing.
What informs your designs?
I’m based in London now but I’m originally from the west coast of Scotland from a little village called Benderloch, which is in an area called Argyll. It’s kind of seen as the gateway to the isles as it’s right on the coast and it’s really beautiful; really stunning landscape and we’ve got a lot of old, incredible medieval castles and buildings, which are these lovely eroded structures. There’s this amazing, intricate Gothic architecture that came over from Paris in the 13 and 1400s and they’ve eroded and worn down over time. That has really inspired my work, in general, and then this most recent collection, Origins, was really inspired by the different jewellery hoards that have been found in areas all across Scotland. Even on my grandparents’ farm we found some old coins and elements of jewellery so that is what I’ve used to inspire this collection that you see in front of you now.
How would you sell your brand and work to someone – what sets it apart in your opinion?
It’s a couple of things. Quite a lot of the Scottish diaspora, those who live in the States or Canada or Australia, people who see the name Cameron and say, “I’m a Cameron too” or those who have either visited Scotland and want to get an engagement ring because of their trip or just have some nice connection to Scotland; it’s something that appeals to those people. It’s also something that appeals to people who want something handmade. I purposefully use an aesthetic that looks like it is very much made by a person, not a machine. So, it is for people who like that kind of rough, luxurious aesthetic. And also, it’s 14 carat gold and diamonds so it’s made to last, to pass down through generations. It’s not fast fashion. It’s pieces that you would want to pass on to someone in the future.
What items do you always wear? What is your personal connection to jewellery?
I have a really interesting jewellery box at home. I have rings from both my great aunt and my gran. My great aunt is no longer with us and my gran is with us but she has dementia so it’s really nice to kind of pop them on my fingers and travel them around London with me. So, they’re things I always wear. In terms of my own jewellery, I’m normally laden with rings. Rings are definitely my go-to item and I wear all of these earrings [A/N: gestures to a very beautiful “curated ear” with lots of different piercings] all the time and I know you shouldn’t sleep in them but my earrings are sleep-proof as I have tested by being too lazy to take it out. I just really like jewellery that y’know, you can sit down at the computer and keep typing, you don’t need to take the rings off. You don’t have to take the earrings off for sleeping. It’s all really wearable in that sense.
If you could own any piece of jewellery that ever existed, what would you go for?
Oh, there are some really stunning medieval rings in the V&A. When I was doing my masters [A/N: at Central Saint Martins], I went to the archives and they were really kind. They let me play in there for a good hour and a half. But, yeah, anything in the V&A archives. I’m not fussy, I’ll take anything!
Same, Ellis, but with your pieces! Check out her incredible work here and fall in love with this wonderful, ethical jewellery brand, made to be worn for generations to come and informed by pieces that have survived and remained beautiful for centuries!
For more sustainable fashion articles, check out our coverage of 31 Chapel Lane’s A/W Lookbook and our piece on the amazing Space Out Sister, one of the coolest vintage stores in Dublin.